Cover Story

Top RCCN Cleric Dies of Snakebite in Taraba

A Former  General Secretary Reformed Christian Church of Nations RCCN and the current Provost of Veenstra Reformed Theological Seminary Lupw...

How Taraba Varsity Staff Unpaid Salaries Sparked Students Riot In Jalingo



Students of Taraba State University, Jalingo, took to the streets on Monday, January 9, 2023, sparking tension in the state capital. They blocked major roads and burnt countless tyres. The riot resulted in few cases of injured persons and forced a sizable population of residents to scamper for safety.

 

Trouble began after learning that their examination will not hold, the students started a protest blocking major roads across the state capital Jalingo.

 

Their examination halls were under locks and keys. None of their lecturers were on ground to conduct the examinations earlier scheduled to hold that Monday.

 

Investigations indicated that both the academic and non-academic staff resolved at a meeting held during at the weekend, to abandon the conduct of the examination. The resolution followed the failure of the state government to pay their 10-month outstanding salaries and other allowances.

 

The students were angry and disappointed at the development. They started gathering in small groups. By midday, they broke out into a protest. It was mild initially, but became disorderly and violent as the students matched on. They started burning tyres and obstructing traffic. They marched to the Government House with placards singing solidarity song songs.

 

They insisted the governor must see them and clear the outstanding salaries of the staff.  They threatened that if he failed to do the needful to pave the way for them to sit for their examinations, there would be no elections in the state.

The students allegedly destroyed some billboards carrying the posters of the state Governor Darius Ishaku

A 400-Level student of Community Health Sciences, who pleaded anonymity, lamented: "By 2021 ending, I was already a 400 level student. Early last year, the nationwide strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) caught up with us. We ended up wasting most part of the year at home. We resumed eventually to prepare for the examinations, only for it to be suspended again.

"This is 2023. Three years in the same semester on the same level. That is too bad. That means three years of paying our house rent without using it. One is not getting any younger.

 

"One would have expected the governor to tackle the issue with the university staff bearing in mind our plight as students. We are the victims of these reoccurring confrontations. It seems the governor doesn't have the interest of the ordinary people at heart."

 

Observers believed the protest was avoidable as the authorities saw it coming but took the situation for granted.  The university staff last week staged a peaceful protest over the non-payment of their salaries.

 

They threatened to abandon the examinations, should the government failed to pay them. Many felt that would have been the time to act.

Solomon Ishaya Audu, NASU chairman and Bitrus Joseph Ajibauka, SSANU chairman, presented a letter to the Vice Chancellor Prof Sunday Bako.

 

They demanded: "Payment of the outstanding salary balance of March and June 2022; payment of the outstanding responsibility and hazard allowances for September 2021; payment of the 75 per cent outstanding third party deductions of October 2021; payment of the outstanding full salaries of July to December 2022; payment of the outstanding promotion arrears of the non-academic staff; payment of the Earned Administrative Allowances (EAA) for non-teaching staff on a ratio of 50:50 with the academic staff and the review of the usurpation of headship that are meant for the non-academic staff by the academic staff of (1) University Farm Manager, (ll) University Admission Officer (lll) Director CBT (iV) Directorf ICT (V) Director of Sport."

 

Bako assured them that the university management and the government were working to meet their demands. His conciliatory tone was sharply different from that of Governor Darius Ishaku. He recently affirmed that he would not pay the lecturers for the months they participated in the nationwide ASUU strike. He insisted that state owned-university staff had no business joining an industrial action called by the national academic and non-academic unions.

 

Although calm has returned, Joseph Nathaniel Rishante, Students Union Government president, said their reaction was purely spontaneous. He insisted that the university unions did not instigate their protest.

 

ASUU's chairman of the university, Dr Samuel Shiikaa, said: "It is very sad that this situation was allowed to degenerate to this point.

 

Of course, you can't help but understand the anger and frustrations of the students. They should be calm and not conduct themselves in a manner that would create room for hoodlums to hijack their peaceful protest and complicate situation.

 

"In as much as I understand the plights of their parents, I think it is also very important that they begin to speak out against the illegalities going on in the system.

 

"This is a university, not a primary school. The university was established by an Act of Parliament. There are specific provisions on how it should be run. Going against these provisions at the detriment of our members and other workers in the university as well the general good of the institution is wrong and should be roundly condemned by all.

 

"How do you expect a hungry lecturer to go and administer examinations to the students? Where will he even get the transport money to come to school? "

 

Daniel Nbashi, said: "I have three kids in that university. Each year, you pay for house rent, buy food items and provision for them to resume university only for the school to come up with one flimsy excuse or the other to shut down the university.

 

"If the state government was not ready to run the university, then why set it up at all? It will be better if they had handed it over to a competent private sector interest to run it."

Following a protest by students of the university, the Registrar of the Taraba State University Jalingo, Joseph Bibinu, said the first Semester examination for the 2021/2022 Academic Session has been extended to 30 January 2023.

 

The registrar said this in a circular dated 10 January, said: "all the staff and students, as well as the University community, should know that the first Semester examination for 2021/2022 had been shifted to January 30th, 2023.

Mr Bibinu further explained that the change of the date affects all students because the examination will be conducted for all students from 100 to 500 levels accordingly.

 

He also said that all the revisions for lectures will continue for the course content of all during the period.

 

The federal lawmaker representing Ibi and Wukari federal constituency of Taraba State, Hon. Danjuma Shiddi (Danji SS), while reacting to the protest has asked governor Darius Ishaku to be guided by the spirit of the oath of office he took and the rule of law, pay all the ten months' outstanding salaries of staff of the university and every other civil servant owed salaries for several months across the State to avoid further embarrassing protest from students and redeem the image of the state.

 

 The lawmaker also condemned the use of unwarranted force by some suspected thugs and miscreants on some peaceful protesters and also condemn in its entirety, the wave of intimidation and harassment currently going on in Taraba State which is at variance with the rule of law in a democratic state.

 

The statement reads "we witnessed another shameful but evitable incident which started from the state-owned university and spread across major routes in Jalingo metropolis. This is evitable if leadership at the state level had listened to the staff and students, and done the needful. I watched with deep concern clips, video footages and pictures of the protest by students of the Taraba State University, on non-payment of salaries of academic and non-academic staff of the institution which stalled their examination initially billed to commence on Monday, January 9, 2023. It is noteworthy that what started peacefully with genuine demands but unfortunately turned sour in some instances and resulted into the use of unwarranted force by some suspected thugs and miscreants on some of the student protesters. The aftermath of the use of brute force on the protesters has unfortunately sent waves of intimidation and harassment of defenseless and unarmed students.

"The security agencies must also act swiftly in guaranteeing the safety of protesters now and in the future, and at the same time I must appeal to other highly provoked staff and students of the Taraba State University to eschew violence and remain civil in pressing home their demands and be assured that as a stakeholder in the State and the National Assembly, I remain committed to ensuring their entitlements are given to them and rights are well protected."

No comments