‘We’re Treated Like Slaves’—Nigerians Teaching At Ugandan Varsity Cry Out
About 100 Nigerians lecturing in Kampala International University, KIU, Uganda have raised the alarm over an alleged poor working condition, ranging from non-payment of salaries, marginalisation, among others.
KIU is one of the popular private universities in Uganda, which was founded by a business magnet, Basajja Ballabba Hassan, who doubles as the university’s Managing Director.
Daily Nigerian gathered that the institution had become a destination of choice for Nigerians pursuing university education in the country.
However, some Nigerians, who are mostly academic staff of the university, have claimed that the school founder had subjected them to untold hardship and poor working conditions.
One of the affected workers, Isa Yunusa, in a WhatsApp audio message sent to the Centre for Awareness on Justice and Accountability, CAJA, a Civil Society Organization in Kano State, revealed that the MD had refused to process work permits for all Nigerians working at the university.
In the audio clip, obtained by Daily Nigerian, Mr Yunusa alleged that in sheer violation of terms of the contract, as required by the law of the country, none of the Nigerian workers in the institution, including those that had been employed for over 15 years, had been offered work permits.
He lamented that the affected staff had been in fear of arrest and deportation as they are living illegally in the country without a work permit.
According to Mr Yunusa, the managing-director would promise to process the work permit but end up breaching all the terms and conditions stated in their appointment letters.
“I have sent this audio to let the Nigerian government know about our ordeal at Kampala International University, KIU. We are in a sorry situation after being subjected to poor working conditions.
“We have about 100 staff here. We are about 99% of academic staff but have not been issued a work permit. Some have been working in this university for over 15 years but don’t have a legal working permit.
“In the terms and conditions of the employment contract, there is provision for a work permit, and the managing director of the institution had promised to process the work permit for us, but up till now, it has not been issued to us. This means we are living illegally in Uganda.
“We are enslaved here. We are like victims of human trafficking. We are working for nothing. All the entitlements contained in the contract agreement have not been granted to us. We need help,” he said.
He also revealed that the university’s management had not paid their monthly salary, amounting to $614,040 since April this year.
Yunusa added that they had never been paid their National Social Security Fund, NSSF since joining the institution as staff.
According to him, when one of their colleagues, a female Nigerian, died of breast cancer ten days ago, the university’s management did not even send condolences to the association of Nigerians living in the country, let alone pay her entitlements.
He alleged that she died as a result of “social and financial stress that aggravated her condition, as the MD failed to provide free medical and healthcare as promised during the employment.”
He said they wrote a letter to the management of the university, requesting the payment of the deceased’s entitlement to process the return of her son to Nigeria for the continuation of his study but the authorities had not responded to the request.
Yunusa lamented that only Nigerian staff suffer in the university, as their colleagues from Cuba, Korea and Pakistan are treated well, describing the scenario as a breach of the diplomatic tie with Nigeria, which spends billions of naira to sponsor TAC beneficiaries in the country.
“This is a breach of the bilateral relationship with Nigeria. The Federal Government of Nigeria is spending a huge amount of money on the sponsorship of TAC in Uganda. And this university, KIU is the major beneficiary, but it is oppressing the Nigerian workers.
“What baffles us is that our colleagues from other countries like Pakistan, Cuba, Korea and other countries are treated well. Their salaries and other entitlements are duly paid. They had been issued a work permit, but why us?” he asked rhetorically.
He, therefore, called on the Nigerian government to listen to their plea and save them from maltreatment in the hand of the Managing-Director of the KIU.
Yunusa also lamented that all the letters of complaint written to the management of the university by a diaspora association of Nigerians in the country, Nigerian Community Uganda, NCU, had not been replied to.
In a copy of a letter, obtained by Daily Nigerian, written by the leadership of the NCU on October 27, the association expressed displeasure over the bad working condition of its members at the KIU.
The letter, signed by the association’s chairman, Elias Edu, said they had endorsed the university to the Federal Government of Nigeria and had since benefited a lot from the government, but was dismayed by the alleged maltreatment of Nigerian staff in the institution.
Parts of the letter read thus: “We write to bring to your attention, issues affecting the welfare of our members, who are academic staff of KIU. These issues threaten to seriously undermine the peaceful relationship between the Nigerian government and your institution.
“You will recall that KIU has been the destination of choice for many Nigerians interested in pursuing university education in Uganda.
“As an association, we have had to endorse KIU to our governments at home; national, state and local levels as a credible institution where beneficiaries of government scholarship could be sent,” the letter said.
“We have always supported our government’s action in sending TAC volunteers to KIU. Among the universities in Uganda, KIU has always enjoyed the lion’s share of skilled manpower sent to Uganda by our government under the Technical Aid Corp, TAC programme.
“We, therefore, are concerned that, after a long-established history of the relationship between Nigeria and your institution, the management of KIU has chosen the path of hostility towards not only our nationals but our association and country.
“We are dismayed by several reports from our nationals, complaining about the poor treatment given to them by the KIU.
“These include non-observance of contract terms on payment of salaries, KIU’s refusal to process work permit as required by law, and host of other issues.”
The letter, addressed to the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the KIU, further stated that when the association received the information, it had to prevail on the affected staff to maintain the status quo for an amicable resolution.
The association, however, lamented that all efforts to reach the institution’s management, through the Vice-Chancellor, did not yield fruit as he ignored all correspondences made by the association.
“We, therefore, in the interest of the relationship between our country and your institution, wish to request you to intervene with the management of the KIU to resolve the matter.
“We will like to meet you at your earliest convenience for a conversation on how to resolve the issues,” the letter added.
In the letter, the association warned that it would not further prevent any escalation if another request for a meeting failed to be granted.
The university’s management has yet to reply to our correspondent’s email inquiry sent to them.
SaharaReporters, New York