The leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has criticised the Federal Government for allegedly paying lip service to their demands.
According to the union, this is why it decided to embark on a nationwide industrial action on December 12.
ASUP National President, Usman Dutse, gave the explanation on Saturday while giving an update on the press conference in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
He noted that the government has failed to implement any of the agreements reached since 2010, even though the lecturers have suspended their strike at different stages of agitation.
The ASUP President said, “It has become pertinent to once more bring to the fore the issues in contention while tracing a recent history of our engagement with government.
“A recap of this includes a recap of the2010 Federal Government-ASUP agreement, 2014 Memorandum of Settlement, and 2017 Memorandum of Action.”
“All these documents and agreement signing with government, none of them has been implemented by the government,” he stated.
Mr Dutse vowed that the ongoing industrial action would be followed to a logical conclusion.
He, however, called for understanding on the part of students and parents who have children in polytechnics, saying the decision was to improve the system.
The ASUP President also asked Nigerians to prevail on the government to address the issues raised by the union and save the polytechnic sector from collapse.
He urged members of the union to remain steadfast in their pursuit to ensure that their demands were met by the government.
The polytechnic lecturers had embarked on a nationwide industrial action on Wednesday to protest among other things, the non-payment of members’ salaries in some states, as well as discrimination against members and graduates from polytechnics.
The Student Union Government Presidents of two Lagos based polytechnics, YABATECH and LASPOTECH, Babajide Salvado and Abdulkareem Yusuf, have explained why the students are in support of the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP).
The student leaders were guests on Channels Television youth programme, Rubbin’ Minds, where they explained that majority of the points for which their lecturers are agitating affect the students directly.
Mr Salvado of Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) decried the imbalance in the manner in which the Nigerian Government and the media gave more attention to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) during their 5-month strike in 2013, failing to give same to the Polytechnic lecturers since their struggles started in January 2014.
He also laid emphasis on the bureaucratic bottlenecks that had bedevilled the growth and development of polytechnic education for many years.
He noted that the students belief that the Polytechnic lecturers’ demands were genuine. Although he admitted that emphasis had been laid on the lecturers’ monetary demands as it concerns the payment of their arrears.
The dichotomy between the Polytechnics and the universities also came to the fore as the students insisted that there should be no reason for graduates from polytechnics and colleges of education to be treated as inferior to their counterparts from the universities.
There had been arguments in many quarters that the entry requirements of students into the universities have always been higher than what obtains in the other institutions with lower cut-off marks and as such their products could not be at par.
The student leaders unanimously condemned the view. Yusuf claimed that many Polytechnic students scored as high as the university cut-off marks and still were not offered admission into a university due to factors beyond them. Citing his school, the Lagos State Polytechnic as example, he noted that Nigerian polytechnics can boast of many intelligent products who would comfortably compete with university graduates.
Salvado also added that the students were ready to have the cut-off mark for all tertiary institutions set at parity if the discrepancies would be the basis for considering polytechnics as inferior to universities, as he was also sure that they had the technical edge in their competencies.
The Student Union Government President of the Federal College of Education, Akoka, Olusola Ogunnowo, whose lecturers under the aegis of Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union, COEASU, have also been part of the industrial action, added that the reforms in the education sector have shown that being a teacher would no more be seen as an alternative career.
He revealed that many of his colleagues were in school not as a way out of having failed to make it into other institutions but as a form of fulfilment of their dreams to be teachers. He added that there were graduates of universities who were back in their schools in order to get certification for their dream to become lecturers, a process he claimed showed the seriousness and importance of the Colleges of Education.
The over 6 months old strike had been experiencing challenges with some schools in different parts of the country pulling out; a development that the student leaders condemned. They claimed that the disunity among the ASUP and COEASU was a product of selfishness and pursuit of personal interests.
Salvado also had tough words for the national leadership of the National Association Nigerian Students (NANS) for having failed to make a statement in solidarity with the plight of the students and their lecturers in the polytechnics and colleges of education.
He noted that the President of the NANS had been at the National Conference supposedly to represent the youth and there has been no mention of how to develop Nigerian education since the conference started.
They called on the Nigerian Government to change its attitude towards education, especially the polytechnics and colleges of education.
There appears to be no end in sight for students of polytechnics and colleges of education to return to school as the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) announced plans to embark on a peaceful protest in Abuja on Tuesday.
At a joint news conference in Abuja on Sunday, the National President of the ASUP, Dr Chibuzor Asomugha and the Abuja chapter chairman of COEASU, Dr Ahymed Lawal, criticised the Federal Government’s refusal to implement agreements reached with the unions in order to suspend the indefinite strike.
The unions appealed to well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the Federal Government to among other demands, address issues of funding, infrastructural development, dichotomy between polytechnic and university graduates and the harmonisation of working conditions for all lecturers in tertiary institutions.
They have been pushing this demands since April last year.
The Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, had in a meeting in February with the union, accused it of thwarting government’s efforts at resolving the strike.
The government later set up another committee, headed by the Minister of Labour, Mr Emeka Wogu, and was yet to convince the striking lecturers.
ASUP had in April 22, 2013 embarked on a seven-day warning strike to push their demands and since then, they have refused to call-off the strike until pending issues had been resolved.
Striking polytechnic lecturers in Nigeria say they will embark on a ‘massive protest’ in the capital city of Abuja next week.
On a radio program, Political Platform, on Ray Power FM on Friday, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) Chibuzor Asomugha, expressed his union’s frustration at the Federal Government’s handling of the six-month-old strike.
The union president said the the government had not acted on the decision reached at the last meeting between the government and the striking lecturers held on March 26 in Abuja and attended by the Labour Minister, Emeka Nwogu and the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar.
ASUP had rejected the mediation of the Acting Education Minister, Emeka Wogu, accusing him of frustrating the negotiation process.
“We made further concessions at the last meeting. We agreed to a two-instalment payment of the agreed salaries and allowances and the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee to review the other contentious issues,” Mr Asomugha said.
According to him, the meeting agreed that the government delegation would brief President Goodluck Jonathan and come up with a Memorandum of Understanding that will be signed by both parties this week.
The proposed mass protest is hinged on the fact that since the March 26 meeting, the government had not acted on the decision or gotten back to the lecturers.
“The planned protest will involve market women, students, lecturers and labour unions who are all concerned with how the Federal Government is treating polytechnic education in Nigeria,” Mr Asomugha said, without mentioning the day of the week the protest would begin.
He, however, said the union was still seeking an amicable solution to the strike and had written to the Senate President, David Mark and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to intervene in the strike.
He said that the Senate President had replied, saying he would intervene after conclusion of work on the 2014 budget, which was passed by the Senate on Wednesday and by the House on Thursday.
ASUP has been on strike since October 3, 2013 with an initial 13 demands that was negotiated to four.
The four key issues are; the need for a constitution of the Governing Councils of Federal Polytechnics, the migration of the lower cadres on the CONTISS 15 salary scale, the release of the White Paper on the Visitations to Federal Polytechnics, and the need for the commencement of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Polytechnics.
The President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Mr. Chibuzor Asomugha on Wednesday confirmed the union’s resolve to embark on a strike two months after suspending one.
The decision to embark on the strike by Friday 4th October, according to Asomugha, was reached at the 75th National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the union.
He threatened that the union will go on strike due to the fact that “government has not done anything to address the issues” two months after suspending the strike.
He said the union gave the federal government a two-month grace to enable them negotiate and settle the issues at hand but noted that “none of these issues have been wholesomely addressed”.
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast flagship programme, Sunrise Daily, Asomugha further said that “nothing has been done” to address the issues at hand.
He noted that the federal government hasn’t fulfilled its bargain in the 2009 FG/ASUP agreement, that was supposed tobe re-negotiated in 2012 adding that the review of the Federal Polytechnic Act, which was last done in 2004, should have been carried out to ensure efficient running of polytechnics in Nigeria.
Asomugha also faulted the federal government’s decision not to constitute governing councils for 6 federal polytechnics adding that the release of the white paper on the visitation to the polytechnics also forms part of their grievances.
The union had earlier released a statement notifying the federal government of its decision to close down institutions by the end of the week if government does not honour the agreements reached.
The statement added that union will not renege on the planned strike except these issues are addressed by the government and called on the National Assembly to expedite action on the review of the Polytechnic Act.
It also noted the anti-labour stance of the National Assembly as exemplified by the recently proposed removal of minimum wage from the exclusive legislative list of the constitution to the concurrent list; as well as the proposed legislation against declaration of Industrial Strike by unions in the tertiary sector.
The union also noted that “the CONTISS 15 Migration for Lower cadres, Needs Assessment of Polytechnics, release of whitepaper of visitation to Federal polytechnics, discrimination between polytechnics and university graduates in job placement and career progression and the constitution of Governing Councils to Federal polytechnics earlier omitted, were among the issues it brought before the Federal Government in their last negotiation, but added that government has failed to address any of them since it suspended its strike in July”
There seems to be no respite in sight for students of public polytechnics in the country as the lingering disagreement between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has now entered its third month. A member of the National Executive Committee of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP), Gani Akinleye has blamed the current industrial action in Nigerian tertiary institutions on the insecurity of the government in keeping agreements.
ASUP embarked on an indefinite strike on April 29 to demand the implementation of the new salary structure and the release of the White Paper on the visitation to federal polytechnics more than a year after the exercise, among other demands. Presently, there are no negotiations or talks going on between the two parties as the last meeting held on June 14 ended in a deadlock.
This has led the union to accuse the federal government of indifference to the nationwide strike with a lack of political will to resolve the issues raised by the union.
Also, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had on Monday resumed the strike it suspended in January 2011 following the federal government’s failure to implement the agreement it reached with the lecturers.
Reacting to the incessant strike in Nigerian tertiary institution during a Channels Television Live programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Akinleye, displaying a purported agreement his union signed with the government, said though committees were set up to implement the content of the deal, not up to 50 percent of what was agreed have been done.
“Sincerely speaking, Nigerians should hold the government responsible for what has happened in the last few months, two and a half months to be precise, in the Polytechnics sector” he said.
The unionist said this dishonourable action of the government was what pushed both the academics and non-academics staff in the polytechnics nationwide to down tools because “that’s the only language they understand.
“We have spoken the language of compromise, the language of negotiation which the government has failed to realize.”
He said the government had met the Polytechnic teachers just once since the strike began two and a half months ago.
According to Mr Akinleye, the Minister of Education, Ruqayyatu Rufa’I had said she was not aware that ASUP and SSANIP were on strike and that “She doesn’t even know who SSANIP is.”
He described the Minister’s comment was unfortunate.
He said, “If you set up a committee and invited members of these unions to be part of that committee how come you now turn around to say you don’t know them?”
Mr Akinleye said apart from the implementation of the agreement, other issues raised by the union included the failure of government to commence a Needs Assessment of Polytechnics and refusal to establish a National Polytechnics Commission, the dismal condition of state-owned polytechnics and the refusal of some state governments to implement the statutory 65-year retirement age for academic staff in their polytechnics.
He described as discriminatory, the disparity between the career progression of polytechnic graduates and their counterparts from the Universities.
He said, “You are quite aware that there are some banks in this country that says if you are an HND graduate, don’t apply. In Nigeria today even at the federal ministries there is a level you can get to with your HND. That is enough.
“Look at even the admission criteria; when you are admitted to a university, people see it as yes, you are on top of the world, they’ll say aaaah you’re going to a polytechnics. It is because of the psychology the Nigerian government has inputted into the mind of the people.”