Strike grounds polys, tech colleges
Polytechnics and Colleges of Technology nationwide have been on forced recess in the past three weeks.
Although students are on campus, they are not being taught. They are however, registering for their courses and carrying out related chores since the non-academic members of staff are working. The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) embarked on the strike on April 29 over what it called the Federal Government?s failure to address its grievances. Teachers in the colleges of education with similar grievance may soon join the strike too, if the government does not act fast.
The Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) has given the government up till May 31 to meet its demands or face a strike.
In a communiqu? issued after an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja on April 18, ASUP?s National Publicity Secretary, Comrade Clement Chirman, listed the union?s demands as: non re-constitution of the governing councils of Polytechnics, Monotechnics, and Colleges of Technology; non release of government white paper of the visitation panels to the federal polytechnics; and non commencement of the NEED Assessments of the Nigerian Polytechnics.
Others are the worrisome state of state-owned polytechnics, monotechnics, and colleges of technology; the continued appointment of unqualified persons as rectors and provosts of some state polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of technology; and the failure of most state governments to implement the approved salary package (CONPCASS) and 65-year retirement age.
The union also complained about the continued appointment of principal officers in acting capacity in some institutions beyond the approved periods; the insistence of the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation on the implementation of the IPPIS (Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System) module in the polytechnic; the continued delay in the amendment of the Polytechnics? Act; the review of the Polytechnics? scheme of service; and the non- commencement of the re-negotiation of the Federal Government/ASUP Agreement.
The country may be in for an impending strike as this time around, ASUP is resolute about not backing down until its demands are met. The Nation?s checks revealed that the strike is in effect in state and federal-owned polytechnics.
When contacted, Mr Adimike George of the Public Relations Department, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, said there had been no academic activities at the institution since the strike began. He said that the Senior Staff Association Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) of the polytechnic is also on strike. There have also been no classes at the Bauchi State Polytechnic, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, Federal Polytechnic, Offa, Lagos State Polytechnic, Yaba College of Technology, Abeokuta and many others.
Speaking on the union?s stance last week in Abuja, National ASUP President, Chibuzor Asomugha, accused the government of ?promoting dissection? in the education sub-sector by earmarking the lion?s share of the yearly education budget to universities at the expense of polytechnics and colleges of education. This imbalanced disbursement of funds, Asomugha argued, will continue to frustrate attempts at upgrading facilities in polytechnics, while creating a frightening gulf between universities and polytechnics/college of education graduates, resulting in inferiority complex of the latter.
He said all tiers of government have refused to upgrade facilities at the polytechnics, while also ignoring the need to set up new ones in the face of technological gaps.
?Regrettably, no sustained plan has been put in place to upgrade facilities in the existing polytechnics even when the need for setting up of new ones has not been considered as necessary for the technology development of Nigeria. In state-owned polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of technologies, the picture is much more dismal, with minimal prospects for improvement as most authorities at that level have continued to gamble with the future of the youths of this country who have chosen to pursue careers in the technical sector,? he added.
Of all the union?s demands Comrade Kadiri Kamoru Oluwatoyin, ASUP Chairman, FEDPOFFA and the Southwest Publicity Secretary, told The Nation that only one, the re-constitution of the governing council, has been met, and that, partially.
?The strike is effective nationwide and it is biting harder on the government. There are 12 demands and only one out of the 12 has been partially met. When you look at the personalities on the governing council, they are 24/7 politicians. Some of them cannot even read or write; they require interpreters. But we demanded that academics should be among the governing council members before we went on the warning strike on April 22. The government has only reconstituted the council but done nothing about the members,? he said.
Kamoru also wondered why the government is insisting on enforcing the IPPIS with polytechnic workers when it has been rejected by their university counterparts. If enforced, it would mean that the workers would be paid directly by the Accountant-General of the Federation rather than by their institutions.
?University workers have rejected the IPPIS. We do not want it. We want the status quo to remain. If they implement it, it will not capture all our allowances. For instance, some entitled to hazard allowance, excess load allowance, will not get it. Also, those that go on Sabatical will not benefit from payment by the two institutions. We are happy with the way our salaries are being paid,? he said.
ASUP National Vice President, Usman Yusuf Dutse told The Nation on Tuesday that the Federal Government has met with the union, promising to meet its demands that do not require legislation in three weeks.
?Sometime last week, the Council of National Officers of ASUP had a meeting at the instance of the Minster of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu, as an intervention. They have arrived at some level of commitment on the part of government. Government requested for three weeks to implement most of the issues. He said all the issues we raised that do not require legislation will be taken care of.
The promise notwithstanding, Dutse said the strike would continue if its leaders are not convinced about the government?s sincerity.
?The National Executive Committee (NEC) will deliberate on whether the commitment is strong enough before we take a decision to suspend the strike,? he said.
Like ASUP, COEASU is accusing the federal and state governments of neglecting colleges of education which are saddled with the training of teachers for the primary and junior secondary education levels.
At the Extended National Executive Council (ENEC) of the union at the Federal College of Education (Technical), Akoka, Yaba, Lagos last week, its National President Asagha Emmanuel Nkoro, berated government appointees many whom he said travel abroad but fail to replicate at home, what they see overseas.
He warned that unless government changes its ways, kidnappings, robbery, insecurity and ritual killings, among others, will continue to dog the nation.
?We want to also use this opportunity to warn the government. Their neglect of the sector particularly the so called less-privileged sector of the tertiary, secondary and primary education in the country is part of the strange situation and security challenges we are contending with which government has not been able to address, even after spending billions of naira,? he said.
He lamented that the government naturally appears indifferent until the union is pressed to mount pressures on it.
He said state-owned colleges in Osun, Kwara and Bauchi have not complied with the 65-year retirement age agreement. The schools, he added, also suffer infrastructural development particularly in Kwara.
Asagha said the union would stop at nothing to compel states that are defaulting in developing their colleges of education.
Their demands, some of which are similar to ASUP?s include: Forceful implementation of IPPIS; refusal of federal and state governments at all levels to implement terms of agreements regarding institutional structure and management and the conditions of service, appropriate salary structure and 65-year retirement age, especially by the governments of Kwara, Osun, and Plateau states; non-systemic approach in constituting the governing council; commencing a needs assessment exercise, amendments of the colleges system Act etc.