The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University (NDU) has commenced a sit-at-home protest following the inability of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led administration to pay lecturers of the university five-month salary arrears.
Investigations revealed that ASUU at the weekend directed its members to vacate the campus and to suspend all academic activities till further notice.
When our correspondent visited the school on Friday, no lecturer reported to work and classrooms were found empty.
Ongoing examinations were suspended and students were seen leaving the campus and the university community for their various homes.
The ASUU Chairman in NDU, Stanley Ogoun, confirmed the development and said lecturers could no longer be discharging their duties without money to run their daily expenses.
He said: “We have started the sit-at-home action and this means suspension of all academic activities relating to teaching and examination of students”.
But the Bayelsa State Government appealed to ASUU and other workers in the state not to despair over the economic crisis facing the state insisting that clearing their backlog of salaries remained the first-line charge of Dickson.
The government in a statement co-signed by the two political advisers to the governor, Mr. Fyneman Wilson and Mr. Steven Diver, said the governor and his team were going through sleepless nights to pay the workers.
The statement said the governor had already set up a Financial Management Committee chaired by the deputy Governor, Mr. John Jonah, to review monthly financial obligations and satisfy the basic ones.
“To this effect, paying workers’ salaries always come first before other financial obligations. Steps are already being taken to ensure the payment of salaries within the shortest possible time.
“We are appealing to workers to exercise some patience because they will soon receive their pay. We also appreciate Bayelsans for displaying sense of maturity and understanding despite the difficult time they are going through,” the statement said.
The statement also highlighted the economic difficulties faced by the state adding that it was painful for a state which used to collect an average of N16bn monthly to settle for N2.9bn in January and N1.6bn in March.
According to the statement allocations of three months were not enough to pay over N4bn monthly salaries of the workers.
It said the verification committee set up by the government to clean the payrolls of public servants would ensure that genuine, honest and hard-working workers received their entitlements.
The statement said: “The Dickson’s administration is the one that values all workers in the state and committed to improving the welfare of workers including paying gratuities and pensions of retired workers.
“The governor has also taken steps to strengthen the Internally-Generated Revenue (IGR). He should be commended for looking inwards”.
It also clarified that the government received N1.285bn bailout fund for the eight local government areas instead of N12.85bn wrongly reported in the media.
“The Dickson-led administration in Bayelsa is focused. When this economic crisis started in the country, Bayelsa managed to stay afloat because of the governor’s prudence in the management of scarce resources.
“Following the submission of verification reports from the local government areas, the government will soon direct the various councils to start paying salaries of their workers,” the statement said.