New Telegraph

Respite for poly students

ASUP to resume strike, if govt defaults –President


˜ Union: We’ll continue to fight for polytechnic development

˜ Students: Govt should address outstanding issues to prevent strike


After over two months of long lull and disruption to academic activities in the nation’s polytechnic education sector, following the indefinite nationwide strike declared by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the students can now heave a sigh of relief.


This is as the 65 days old protracted strike, which had paralysed academic activities in the institutions, was suspended last week for normalcy to return to the system.


The polytechnic lecturers, under the umbrella union, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics had over the years been involved in a protracted face-off with the Federal Government over what the union described as the poor state of the nation’s polytechnic sector, and the urgent need to rescue the system from imminent collapse.


Pique by the appalling state and level of rot in the system, among other challenges confronting polytechnic education generally, and the attitude of the government to address the decay,


ASUP had on April 6, 2021, declared a nationwide indefinite strike that not only paralysed activities in the system, but also undermined the nation’s technological development.


While declaring the strike in fulfillment of the resolutions of the 99th Meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union held in Katsina, the President said: “We were clear in pointing at the following as the premise for our union’s decision: the sorry state of public polytechnics, monotechnics as well as the entire sub-sector; the failure of the government to respond appropriately to the series of letters written on the subject; and the expiration of the union’s ultimatum issued since March 2020, as well as the development of new issues of concern in the sector due to the negligence of the government.


While the strike has continued to take its tolls on the sector, students and their parents who had been counting their losses, expressed anxiety over the lingering face-off, and appealed to the Federal Government to address the union’s demands in order to avert prolonged strike that could the future of the student in jeopardy.


Some Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH) students, who spoke with New Telegraph, however, condemned the strike and appealed to the government and other meaningful stakeholders to intervene in the crisis before it would degenerate beyond redemption.


The students, who expressed dismay over the continued strike and its attendant implications on their education and future, wondered that they had since 2019 remained in one class, saying: “We have been in HND I since 2019 due to COVID-19 pandemic, and now all expectation to cover the lost grounds and commence the semester examinations, earlier scheduled for May, had been thwarted by the strike.


“We are worried about how many years we are going to spend in HND I due firstly to Coronavirus and now lecturers’ strike, and when we were even happy that normalcy had finally returned to the institution after several months of closure by the Federal Government to contain the spread of the virus.”


But respite, however, came the way of the students on Wednesday, June 9, when ASUP in a statement announced the suspension of the strike with effect from Thursday, June 10, 2021.


Though, the strike, according to    ASUP, was not without a caveat, it said in a statement tagged: “Suspension of the 65 days old national industrial action of the union,” issued to members of the unions across the federation on June 9, and signed by the Secretary General of the union, Shammah Kpanja that: “Following the successful conclusion of the nationwide chapter congresses and collation of the outcomes of these congresses as directed by the emergency meeting of the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Union.


“I am directed to communicate the suspension of the union’s national industrial action effective Thursday, 10th of June, 2021.


The suspension is for a period of three months within which it is expected that the government would have fulfilled all the items contained in the signed Memorandum of Action. The union’s NEC shall therefore review this decision thereafter.

“This decision is supported by 74 per cent vote of chapter congresses currently observing the strike. I am further directed to convey the appreciation of the union’s leadership to the chapters and members who kept faith with the strike action throughout its duration and to reassure members of the union’s commitment at ensuring that the items in the signed Memorandum of Action is faithfully implemented by the government. Chapters in violation of the strike at any time shall be subjected to the provisions of the union’s constitution.


“Members, therefore, are directed to resume duties from Thursday, 10th of June, 2021.” Meanwhile, the National President of the union, Anderson Ezeibe, told New Telegraph on phone on Sunday that the suspension was to acknowledge that some aspects of the union’s demands as contained in the MoA such as the constitution of governing council for federal polytechnics and visitation panels had been resolved.


Ezeibe said: “For the three months, the union realised that there are some aspects of the MoA such as release of funds which processes must be put in place before it could be implemented.


Again, the issues of CONTISS 15 Migration, Scheme of Service for Polytechnic Workers and the release of funds for revitalization funds for polytechnic have been resolved. With this the union saw the need to suspend the two-month-old strike.”


But, on the next line of action, should the Federal Government default in the implementation of the agreement, the ASUP President noted that the union, which had already set up another Committee to review the success or otherwise of the agreement, will continue to hold meetings with the government to see how far it has going in the implementation of the MoA.


“We held a meeting last Wednesday on this, and we are holding another meeting this week. This is to look at the success reached so far.


We have set up another committee to look at the implementation process and at the end of the three months, if nothing is done by the government in those areas, in terms of implementation of the MoA, the union will hold a congress to review the situation and take necessary action on what to do.”


According to the union, the suspension was only for a period of three months to enable the Federal Government to complete the execution of the items contained in a Memorandum of Action (MoA) the government signed with the union on April 27, 2021.


ASUP in the statement said: “As part of the efforts communicated by the Federal Ministry of Education, certain items have been fulfilled like the reconstitution and inauguration of governing councils and visitation panels in federal polytechnics, while we are led to believe that the release of funds for infrastructure revitalisation and minimum wage arrears is currently being processed.


“Other items include the ongoing efforts on the review of the Scheme of Service and Conditions of Service for Polytechnics, as well as the commencement of work towards resolution of the issues around CONTISS 15 Migration arrears for staff in the lower cadre.

We also acknowledge the recent passage of the Bill for removal of the dichotomy against Higher National Diploma (HND) holders in the country.” Earlier, the Minister of State for Education, Chukuemeka Nwajiuba had said that everything that had to do with ASUP had been resolved, while he insisted also that the onus was with the union to be fair on the students by calling off the strike.

“Every one of us is pained by what is going on in the polytechnic sector of our education, many of us spoke with ASUP at the time of their warning strike that we are not running an ad-hoc government,” he had said.

The Minister recalled that when ASUP wanted to declare the strike, they wrote the lecturers that everything the union requested had been agreed upon, and that “we do not have one area of disagreement.”


Nwajiuba noted that “on May 23, we communicated to ASUP and that we gave them a catalogue of everything that they said we should do that the government have complied with.” But, ASUP National Publicity Secretary, Abdullahi Yalwa, in a statement issued in Abuja suspending the strike for the next three months,


pointed out that the decision by the union to temporarily suspend the industrial action was premise on series of appeals from the Federal Government, revered traditional rulers across the country, members of the National Assembly,


Chairmen of Governing Councils of federal polytechnics, well-meaning members of the public and other stakeholders, who showed varied interests and concerns in the matter.


The statement reads in part: “Following an appraisal of the report indicating the gradual implementation of the items contained in the Memorandum of Action signed between our union and the Federal Government, the union has resolved to suspend its 65 days old industrial action with effect from 10th June, 2021.


“The suspension is for a period of three months to enable the government to complete the execution of the various items contained in the Memorandum of Action signed with the union from 27th April 2021.


Though, some of the items listed in the MoA were gradually being implemented by the Federal Government.” While reacting to the suspension of the industrial action, some students described the move as a welcome development, saying that it would allow them to return to school and continue their studies, despite the long period already wasted.


A HND 1 Business Administration and Management student in one of the polytechnics, Oladunni Moratinyo, however, expressed her delight and of her friends over the suspension of the strike, saying: “That means that I will go back to school on Tuesday (today). Indeed, if not because of the Democracy Day on Monday (yesterday), I will return to campus on Monday.


We are tired of staying at home. You can see that we have lost a lot of time since 2020 to COVID-19 pandemic and to the ASUP strike.”


The students, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to resolve the crisis with the union once and for all by addressing all the outstanding demands in order to restore normalcy to the system.


They added: “We are also happy that the government has removed the dichotomy against holders of HND in the country. But, we still plead with the government to do the needful to bolster the development of the polytechnic sector, as a key player in the nation’s technological emancipation.


“The government has it as responsibility to provide the enabling and conducive environment in schools or campuses for quality teaching and learning to take place. This takes us to the issue of insecurity in schools in view of what is going on in the country; the government should provide adequate security to protect students from abduction.”


Over the years, ASUP had been at loggerheads with the Federal Government over non-implementation of the 2014 NEEDS Report and non-release of revitalisation funds to the sector despite assurances since 2017.


The list of ASUP’s contending issues with the Federal Government that necessitated the strike, according to the union, include the refusal of the Federal Government to release or pay 10-month arrears of New Minimum Wage; refusal to constitute Governing Councils for federal polytechnics since the last Councils were dissolved in May of 2020; attempts by the AGF to divert N19 billion from federal polytechnic staff salaries to pay unverified and un-reconciled taxes that staff have long paid; refusal of state governments to fully implement the Federal Polytechnic Act 2019 (amended) and the 65 years retirement age for polytechnic lecturers in line with the Polytechnic Act.

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