The Federal Government in a last-ditch effort to avert a planned nationwide strike met on Tuesday with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP).
Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba at the meeting with the Executive members of ASUP, led by its President, Anderson Ezeibe, appealed to the lecturers to shelve the proposed strike.
He pledged to look at the areas identified by the union with the hope of giving adequate attention to them within a week, saying going to strike was unnecessary.
“We will not want to reply verbally because a lot of them bother on the issue of laws and rules. We appeal that you shelve the strike. We want to ensure that our schools are safe which is key in understanding how we want to approach all our discussions,” the Minister said.
ASUP had issued a 15-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to meet some demands Union including non-implementation of the Polytechnics NEEDS assessment, shoddy implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), non-remittance of check-off dues, delays in paying the recently assented National Minimum Wage among other grievances.
ASUP delegation was led by its President, Anderson Ezeibe, who took out time to explain to the Minister their long-standing grievances, even before the emergence of COVID-19.
He told the Minister of State, Nwajiuba that polytechnics in the country were not ready to resume normal academic activities as most of the protocols outlined by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 were not in place.
He lamented that the Polytechnics lacked support to enforce resumption protocols, to which Nwajiuba appealed to public-spirited individuals in communities where these instructions are located to come to their aid.
Ezeibe, expressed regrets for allowing his members enrol for IPPIS, noting that the policy had been characterized with the omission of bonafide staff names, non-remittance of check-off dues, including closing the windows to effect corrections where necessary.
He listed 10-point items threatening the harmony of the sector, saying the timely intervention of the minister would save the sector from avoidable strike actions.
While recounting the pains the sector had gone through, Ezeibe called on to the leadership of the ministry to address the content of the needs assessment study of polytechnics since 2014.
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According to him, with the gradual reopening, it is pertinent we bring forth these issues to be addressed to forestall chaos in the sector.
Regarding the NEEDS Assessment carried out in all public Polytechnics, Ezeibe said till date not a single institution had benefitted from the exercise.
He also lamented the victimization of members over their participation in previous industrial actions, saying five staff of Institute of Management Technology (IMT) Enugu, including two staff of Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State have been dismissed without tangible reasons.
Also tabled before the Minister was non-sitting of the re-negotiation committee, stagnation of CONTISS migration parley, and a new trend of imposing a non-administrative staff to serve as Rector of Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State.
“Recall that we had issued 15days ultimatum and some pertinent demands before the Covid19 outbreak, being Nigerians, we had to encourage our members to endure, be that as it may, with the gradual reopening of economic activities, it is pertinent we bring up these issues again.
“This meeting is timely because at the moment all our members have been holding their congresses to embark on strike from next week.
“Our demands range from non-implementation of the Polytechnics NEED Assessment since 2014, no single Polytechnic has benefitted from these exercises, we feel the aim of embarking on the exercise will be defeated if non of our institutions benefit from it.
“President Muhammadu Buhari has signed the new minimum wage into law but some Polytechnics are owed 10 months arrears, there are no indications that it will be released soon. Only Kano and Jigawa states are implementing, about 34 states are sitting on the fence doing nothing about it.
“Regarding IPPIS, our members enrolled in November 2019, as we speak we have lots of omissions, non-remittance of check-off dues and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation closed the window for correction on salaries and other entitlements,” Ezeibe lamented.
Nwajiuba in his response said their demands would be subjected to further scrutiny with a view to putting forward constraints on the part of government that may also be delaying implementation.
Nwajuiba urged the union not to lose focus but encouraged them to continue to contribute their quota to the development of Polytechnic education in the country.
He appealed to community members to own the development of institutions within their vicinity as a means of bridging the gaps where necessary.