Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
As the visit by some staff of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike to Senator Orji Uzor Kalu continues to raise dust, a group known as Concerned Abia North Patriots (CANP), has urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to blacklist MOUAU staff from election work in 2023.
The group which condemned the visit alleged that the gesture was an attempt to compromise the affected staff ahead of the 2023 polls.
According to the Abia North group, the invitation of over 100 staff of the only federal university in the state to the country home of the senator was “a veiled attempt to recruit them for a predetermined action.”
The group in a press statement jointly signed by its President, Okechukwu Okorie; and Secretary, Aladdin Ukoha; queried the motive behind the hosting of over 100 staff of a federal university by an interested party in an election where the same staff will be used as ad-hoc staff.
According to the statement, the donation of 100 bags of rice and N2 million to the affected university staff under the guise of palliatives due to the hardship occasioned by the on-going strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, “is nothing but a smart way of achieving a selfish interest.”
The group argued that if the gesture were not without any ulterior motives, “the Senator should have started with the staff of the state-owned Abia State University before going to a federal institution.”
The statement read in part: “If the Senator is truly sincere, why didn’t he begin his charity work at home with the state owned university that is also on strike? Why must he choose MOUAU from where INEC picks ad-hoc staff for elections?
“Abia North is yet to recover from the mess of 2019 where one of the lecturers declared a contestant winner in an election where the total number of canceled votes was far more than the margin of win, a clear violation of INEC guidelines. Till today, no punishment has been meted to such unpatriotic element.
“We, therefore, demand that INEC should not use any staff of MOUAU as ad-hoc staff in any election in Abia North in 2023 because we have lost confidence in them. People who are used as electoral umpires should not be hobnobbing with politicians.
“We will mobilise Abia North youths against any attempt by INEC to deploy any staff of MOUAU for any election work in Abia North in 2023. Once beaten, twice shy!”
The group also called on the Management of the institution to, as a matter of urgency, “probe all those involved in the embarrassing visit and apply appropriate sanctions.”
“It is true that ASUU has threatened to sanction any of its members involved in the shameful outing but we also want the university Management to use the big stick.”
“As a principal officer of the Senate, what efforts has our senator made to resolve the ASUU face-off with the Federal Government? Instead of using his privileged position to work towards ending the strike, our senator is rather trying to take undue advantage of it to achieve a selfish political interest.”
MOUAU ASUU, had last week disowned its members involved in the said visit which it said it never authorized nor was privy to.
ASUU Chairman, Professor Michael Ugwuene; and Secretary, Comrade Paul Nwiyi, in a press statement, vowed to probe the said visit and discipline those found culpable.