A Labourer Deserves His Wages Except In Methodist Church Nigeria

Share

“But neither the MCN Trustees nor the current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Samuel Sunday Obeka have shown any remorse. In doling out 38 First Class and 159 Second Class Upper Degrees out of 348 degrees in 2023, Obeka, a Bishop, claimed that these court-certified cases are not only mischievous but also spurious”.

BY OWEI LAKEMFA

WAGES is oxygen to the worker. In the main Holy Books, they are sacred. Leviticus 19:13 says: “…The wages of a hired servant shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.”

First Timothy 5:18 admonishes that: “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Deuteronomy 24:15 specifies a periodicity for wage payment: “You shall give him his wages on the day that he earns them before the sun sets—for he is poor and is counting on it—so that he does not cry out to the Lord against you, and it becomes a sin for you.”

The Holy Koran in 11:15, says: “To them, we shall pay the price of their works and they will not be paid diminishingly.” The Hadith narrates that The Prophet (SAW) said: “You should pay the laborer his wages before his sweat dries” -Sunan Ibn Mâjah, 2443.

So, ordinarily, it should be unthinkable that a religious institution like the Methodist Church Nigeria, MCN, would owe its staff, not just one, two, or three months salaries, but as much as 29 months!

This is the story of the registered Trustees of the MCN and how they knowingly and willfully, violate the tenets of the Holy Bible.

There is the follow up issue: how does a body like the MCN collect taxes from workers’ salaries but does not remit them to state authorities? Didn’t the Bible say in Mark 12:17: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”? Does the collection of taxes from workers’ salaries and not remitting them, not amount to theft?

There is also the corollary issue of the MCN deducting pension contributions from workers and not remitting them contrary to Section 11:6 of the 2004 Pension Act.

This story of how the registered Trustees of the MCN continue to degrade the Church began on May 14, 2008 when they established the Wesley University, Ondo. Many professors, lecturers, senior staff and non-academic staff left their jobs to join the new university. A few years down the line, they were to regret their actions as they had their careers ruined and found themselves neck-deep in debts as their salaries were not paid, some, for years!

To be sure, the Trustees put on a religious visage by claiming the university’s mission is: “Fostering moral values and driving sustainable development”. They added: “We nurture minds and build tomorrow futures, today.” Then they imposed fees most of their members cannot afford. For instance, the nine-month pre-degree tuition and examination fees with textbooks is N245,000.

Despite this, and raising funds, the MCN Trustees and their cabal began paying staff one month salary every quarter. It got so bad that between 2014 and 2019, the MCN was owing some staff of the university a cumulative 29-month salary.

After their appeals to the university and the MCN failed, the staff took their case to the National Universities Commission, NUC. The NUC in its July 19, 2018 letter to the Vice-Chancellor, said it was compelled, by its findings, to threaten the constitution of a visitation panel to determine the viability of the university on the ground of its failure to pay staff salaries.

In August 2020, the former Acting Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor William Olu-Aderounmu, and 88 former staff took their case to the public by addressing a press conference in Ibadan. Olu-Aderounmu revealed that at a time, the university took a N500 million loan and spent it without paying outstanding salaries. But rather than these softening the hearts of the MCN Trustees and their servants in the university, their hearts became hardened like those of the Biblical Pharaoh in Exodus 19:12. So the staff dragged the Wesley University and the incorporated Trustees of the MCN before His Lordship Hon Justice Kiyersohot D. Damulak of the National Industrial Court, NIC.

The staff engaged the services of noted human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Aborishade, while the university and the MCN, hired Professor O.J. Jejelola and Chief Adeboye Olatunde.

However, the facts of the case were self-evident; so, the justice that rolled down like waters, to paraphrase Amos 5:24, were consent judgements. For instance, the MCN and the university agreed to pay a former staff, Mr Ogungbe Akinboye Oluyombo, N14,243,71, unpaid wages; 10 per cent annual interest for the unpaid wages; N2,405,535.15 as tax remittance deducted from his salaries but not remitted, and N1, 094, 872.29 pension deduction which was not remitted to his Pension Fund Administrator.

In the case of the immediate past Vice Chancellor, Professor Olu-Aderounmu, the defendants were ordered to pay him N7,603, 690.82 unpaid salaries at 10 per cent annual interest rate and refund $1,200 to him as amount he “incurred on behalf of the defendants” during his 2017 visit to the United States. The defendants were also ordered to remit N1,748,193.90 deducted as taxes from his salaries. The court ordered the defendants to pay the sums within 60 days or pay an additional 10 per cent interest annually.

A soul-stirring case was that of Professor Emmanuel Abiodun Fayose, a geologist. Although his salaries were unpaid, he had to settle the case of a young lecturer who was about to commit suicide because the university where he was pursuing a doctoral programme wanted to deny him graduation as he could not pay his debts. After that, the elderly Professor simply resigned.

The court ordered the defendants to pay his N7,249,213.29 unpaid salaries. It also ordered that he be paid N1 million each in the months of March and April, 2022 and N500,000 subsequently until the amount is liquidated.

A very painful case is that of Professor Adebowale Biodun Areo, former Dean, College of Social and Management Sciences who had mobilised the staff to fight for their rights. Unfortunately, he passed away before his case could be heard. It is now left for his family to fight for him.

But neither the MCN Trustees nor the current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Samuel Sunday Obeka have shown any remorse. In doling out 38 First Class and 159 Second Class Upper Degrees out of 348 degrees in 2023, Obeka, a Bishop, claimed that these court-certified cases are not only mischievous but also spurious.

He claimed the issue had to do with “part-time lecturers who were engaged on semester basis”. He added: “It is very unfortunate that some of the part-time lecturers are treading the path of blackmailing the university.” True? That his predecessor and Deans were part-time lecturers “blackmailing the university” by asking for their earned salaries?

I pray that the Prelate and his disciples in the MCN hierarchy take advantage of this season of sacrifice and resurrection to pray for forgiveness and change their ways.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply