The Kogi State Government has reacted to the seven day ultimatum given to the governor, Yahaya Bello, by the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, to reopen the state university at Anyigba or face protests on the streets of Lokoja, the state capital.
The government, in a statement issued on Sunday by Kingsley Fanwo, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, described as ridiculous insinuations that Governor Yahaya Bello was not sensitive to the plight of students at the state-owned university.
In the statement titled: Re-Kogi on Auto Reverse: How NANS was dragged into an uninformed battle, Fanwo stated:
The attention of the Kogi State Government has been drawn to an uninformed publication purportedly attributed to the national leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students, placing a brush of insensitivity to the plight of students on the administration of Governor Yahaya Bello.
In line with our communication commitment to the public, we wish to set the record straight and disinfect the minds of the unsuspecting public, who may not understand the secret reasons behind the unjustified attack on the Government of Kogi State by an association which is still sorting out its leadership splinters.
It is incredulously ridiculous to insinuate that Governor Yahaya Bello is not sensitive to the plight of the students at the state-owned university, which has been on strike for months.
Immediately after his inauguration, authorities of the various higher institutions in the State were the first to be invited for briefing by the Governor. He assured them of his determination to reposition tertiary education in the State, saying his New Direction agenda was built on the platform of education.
The Academic Staff Union of University told the whole world that they were going on strike because of unpaid salary arrears owed by the previous government. But, out of commitment to the need to prioritise education, Governor Yahaya Bello has paid six months salaries to the university staff since assuming office on January 27, 2016; the latest being the four months salaries paid even as he awaited the final report of the staff verification exercise.
The State Government negotiating team has continued to engage ASUU on the need to resolve the industrial dispute and reopen the university.
If for any reason, it is expected that the students body would have directed its angst at the lecturers, who have not reciprocated the good gesture of government. Directing tirades at the government, despite its efforts, is the height of irresponsible activism and misplaced intervention.
“NANS should have been properly informed about the real reasons why salaries were delayed. Hundreds of millions of Kogi State resources had been going into ghost pockets. In a bid to block the corruption by a fiefdom, the Governor took the bull by the horn by directing a scientific and holistic staff verification exercise.
“Reports of the exercise have been mind-boggling. We expect the student body to commend the government for blocking the leakages, which have been depriving the students their bursary and improved facilities on campuses. Choosing to satisfy the destabilization intent of their sponsors instead of the interest of the students they represent is unfortunate, appalling and a clear aberration of the ideals of the founding fathers of the body.
“Since the completion of the staff verification exercise, salary payments have been ongoing as over 80% of the workforce have received their salaries.
“The present administration has restored credibility to the civil service, overseeing the ongoing Lokoja Township road project, ensured a cleaner environment through proactive measures and set the State on the path of progress.
“As a matter of emphasis, education remains the number one priority of government. It is the bulwark of our economic re-engineering and social reconstruction as well as the cultivation of minds that are ready to take on the world.
“Government is working hard to make state-owned tertiary institutions world class citadels of learning.
“We urge the National Association of Nigerian Students to imbibe the spirit of knowing the facts before accepting the merchandise of fallacies.
“The Governor Yahaya Bello administration will continue to work with men and women of goodwill to create a better, prosperous and respected Kogi State”.