By Kuni Tyessi
The Minister of State for Education, Dr. Chikwuemeka Nwajiuba, and executive members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) met yesterday in Abuja in a fresh bid to avert a planned nationwide strike.
Recall that ASUP had issued a 15-day ultimatum to the federal government to meet some demands dating back few years, some of which bothered on non-implementation of the polytechnics NEEDS assessment; shoddy implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll and 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 existing even before the emergence of COVID-19.
He told 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.
The ASUP boss said beyond the sentiments of announcing that all institutions should resume, the polytechnics lacked support to enforce resumption protocols, to which Nwajiuba appealed to public-spirited individuals in communities where these schools are located to come to their aid.
According to Ezeibe, ASUP members are deeply regretting why they heeded to the enrollment for the IPPIS, noting that the policy had been characterised with omission of bonafide staff names, non-remittance of check off dues, including closing the windows to effect corrections where necessary.
Regarding the NEEDS Assessment carried out in all public polytechnics, Ezeibe said till date, no single institution had benefitted from the exercise.
He also lamented the victimisation of their members over their participation in previous industrial actions, saying five staff members of the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) in Enugu, including two staff of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, Niger State, have been dismissed without tangible reasons.
Also tabled before the minister was the 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 15-day ultimatum and some pertinent demands before the COVID-19 outbreak, and 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 ranges from non-implementation of the polytechnics NEED Assessment since 2014, which no single polytechnic has benefitted from these exercise; we feel the aim of embarking on the exercise will be defeated if none 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, and there are no indications that it will be released soon,” he stated.