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SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY SEPTEMBER – OCTOBER 2013 EDITION


7 September 2013

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IAR&T IBADAN: Director Sacked After 10 Months Of Workers Struggle!

(By Abbey Trotsky)

On the 20th May, 2013, Prof B A Ogunbodede, the Director of the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, an affiliate institution of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, was sacked following the over ten (10) months protracted struggle of the entire workers of the institute who exposed the corrupt practices of the Director, and the Chief Accountant, Mr Zacheaus K Tejumola.

The Industrial struggle in IAR&T was actually started on the June 11th, 2012 when workers stumbled on some document showing the claim of the IAR&T management to have paid the huge sum of N177, 571,609.50 as Hazard Allowance to staff of the institute on 27th December, 2010, whereas not a single staff of the institute was paid any amount.

Other findings were: claim of expenditure of the sum of 15million on harvesting of crop produced by the institute against the N800,000.00 the institute actually spent on crop production activities during the year 2010; claim of disbursement of fund for transactions without reference to the Audit section for prior verification with post-auditing; non-compliance by the director with the Federal Government policy and OAU Governing Council's decision on regularization (staffing) of casual workers; Non-payment of approved allowance to staff which include first 28 days allowance to transferred staff and newly appointed staff among others.

Given the continuous agitations of NASU members, members of other unions like: the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU); National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) in the institute later joined the struggle. They were organized under the platform of Joint Action Committee (JAC). At this stage, Prof. B A Ogunbodede-led management in response to the growing support the struggle was gaining among the workers started to unleash of series of coercive; divisive and deceitful attacks aimed at beheading the struggle.

However, when all attempts by the management to weaken the collective strength and aspiration of the aggrieved workers proved incapable, the Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University,(OAU), Ile-Ife, Professor Tale Omole and the Executive Director of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Prof. B.Y Abubakar who initially pretended not to be aware of the entire industrial dispute hurriedly set up two independent panels as the administrative and financial supervisory agencies of the institutes respectively to investigate workers' allegations against the IAR&T management.

The both reports of the Vice-Chancellor's and the ARCN's panels indicted the Director, Prof. B.A Ogunbodede, the Chief Accountant, Mr Z.K Tejumla and Accountant 1, Mr O.O Adenose of fraud, financial impropriety and misappropriation of the IAR&T's fund. The report revealed that the sum of N177,571,609.50 fraudulently posted into the institute's cash book as payment of Hazard allowance, but was actually transferred to the IAR&T staff club account, non-statutory account as staff deduction and never paid to staff, and the sum of N15million allegedly spent on crop harvesting.

The panels recommended among other things that the affected officers be made to appear before the disciplinary panel and ordered to proceed on leave pending the decision of the Disciplinary panel; and that the disciplinary panel should ensure that the entire institute's fund misappropriated are refunded!

The refusal to immediately and expressly implement the recommendation of these reports by the VC OAU, Ile-Ife who is administratively empowered to appoint and discipline the Director of the Institute, even months after the reports were separately released clearly gave credence to the suspicion that the panels were actually set up in the first instance not to bring about justice in the entire imbroglio but to complement all failed attempts and strategies of Prof. Ogunbodede to douse the growing anger among workers in the institute!

Good enough, IAR&T workers were not for a moment distracted or weakened! As a matter of fact, they became stronger, determined and more energetic in their demand for immediate and unconditional implementation of recommendations of the panel. This was the stage members of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), Oyo State Chapter started to intervene in the struggle. Undoubtedly, DSM intervention was quite timely as this drastically helped to change the tempo of the struggle. Such that, the daily mass meeting of workers which were usually held within the premises of the institute between 10am and 3pm began to have activities like talk shows, symposia, press briefing and dancing and chanting of anti-oppression songs. To further give the struggle a wide spread publicity, thousands of materials like leaflets stating issue that are involved and demands of workers were also produced and massively circulated and distributed among the people of the community, workers in other sub-stations of the institute situated at: Ile-Ife in Osun State, Orin-Ekiti in Ekiti State, Ikene in Ogun State, Ilora in Oyo State and OAU community during one of the Governing Council meeting.

Given the far-reaching effects of these organized activities, Ogunbodede became uncomfortable and thus resorted to open attacks not only on the JAC leadership but also on some workers who were playing active roles in the struggle. 15 workers including twelve (12) JAC leadership and three (3) members were arrested, detained and charged to court by Nigeria Police all in attempt to intimidate them.

At a time, attendance register for staffs that were willing to resume work was opened and placed at the Iyaganku Police Station when it was obvious that workers had taken full possession of the entire institute. The opening of this register was based on a calculation that many workers would sign so as to use that to indict and prosecute the leadership of the struggle of a false accusation that they forcefully prevent workers who were willing to resume from coming to work. This plan also failed as less than 20 people out of workforce of 4,000 people signed the register!

Given the consistent and sustained nature of the various organized activities of the striking IAR&T workers, it thus became so difficult and embarrassing for the VC, OAU Ile-Ife, Executive Director of ARCN, Minister of Agriculture and other authorities to continue to shield Prof. Ogunbodede from justice. It was the pressure mounted by workers through mass struggle that forced them to eventually remove Prof. B.A Ogunbodede as the Director of the institute shortly after he was arrested and released by the EFCC.

However the Chief Accountant, Mr Zacheaus K Tejumola, Accountant 1, Mr O.O Adenose are still retained in their respective positions. Also despite the sack of Prof. B. A. Ogunbodede and subsequent resumption of Prof. James Alabi Adediran as the new Director of the institute, there has been criminal silence on the issue of misappropriation of the Hazard allowance N177, 571,609.50.

Having Mr Zacheaus K Tejumola,and Mr O.O. Adenose continue to occupy the positions of the Chief Accountant and Accountant 1 without any one of them (including the sacked director Prof B.A. Ogunbodede) mandated to either face disciplinary panel for their role in the acts of impropriety and misappropriation of the institute's fund or adequately refund the entire institute's fund misappropriated as stipulated in the panel's recommendations clearly shows that the entire game was stage-managed only just to douse the anger of IAR&T workers. This is with a view to perfectly keep intact the corrupt and bureaucratic apparatus that is at the head of administration of the Institute just as every other Nigeria publicly owned institution.

In light of the above, we hereby call on the JAC leadership, while commending the heroic roles the entire IRA&T workers played during the struggle, to prioritize the urgent need to organize a public symposium to x-ray the gains and pains incurred during the struggle with the view to further re-affirm their earlier demand for the full implementation of the panel recommendation towards the immediate payment of the lingering hazard allowance. Most important too is the need to raise the demand for an end to the bureaucratic management of IAR&T which itself enables corruption to thrive. As long as the IAR&T continues to be run bureaucratically, there is no guarantee that the newly appointed Director of the institute will not also sooner or later be found guilty of one corrupt/sharp practices or the other.Therefore, JAC and entire workers should demand and fight for the democratic running of the institution by elected committees comprising representatives of workers.