Workers drag AAU to court over non-payment of 27 months’ salary

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By Owen Eresoyen, Benin

The debilitating crisis of non-payment of salary at the Edo State-owned Ambrose Ali University (AAU), Ekpoma has taken a worse dimension as the University is being dragged before the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in the Benin Judicial Division for owing salaries of some staff for 27 months.

Angered by non-payment of their salaries for more than two years, Prof. Fredrick Ikechukwu Esumeh, Prof. Monday Lewis Igbafen and Dr. Zebedee Udo Mamudu of the Departments of Microbiology, Philosophy and Economics, respectively, have approached the Court, through Kingsley Obamogie, SAN, to seek amongst others, “A declaration that the failure and/or neglect of the Defendant (Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma) to pay the Claimant’s salaries and allowances since the 1st of January, 2022 till date is wrongful, inhuman and a breach of the subsisting contract of service between the parties.”

They prayed the Court to grant an Order directing the Defendant to restore payment of their salaries and “to pay all their outstanding salaries and allowances from the 1st day of January, 2022 till date of judgment” in their respective lawsuits.

These were contained in separate SUIT NOs: NICN/BEN/15/2024; NICN/BEN/16/2024; and NICN/BEN/17/2024, wherein Prof. Fredrick Ikechukwu Esumeh, Dr. Zebedee Udo Mamudu and Prof. Monday Lewis Igbafen are Claimants in the respective SUIT NOs and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, as Defendant.

In their separate suits, they are also demanding for the payment of “The sum of N10, 000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira) general damages for the grave pain, inconvenience and hardship suffered by them (the Claimants) as a result of the refusal and/or failure of Defendant to discharge its contractual duty to Claimant.”

No date has been fixed for hearing of the suits pending before Hon. Justice A.A. Adewemimo of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria sitting at No.4, Okada Avenue, Old Edo Hotel, Benin City, Edo State.

It would be recalled that non-payment of salary is a major source of the crises facing the University for more than two years. At a time, it was alleged that no fewer than 350 staff of the University had their salaries stopped on the arbitrary order or directive of the University’s Special Intervention Team (SIT) without any form of query or existing disciplinary action against the affected staff.

Commenting on the court case, Prof. Monday Lewis Igbafen said “Government is deploying weapons of hunger to repress union leaders in AAU, Ekpoma. We have been denied our legitimate salaries for 27 months running”, he lamented.