Unless the Federal Government moves swiftly to avert the impending strike by polytechnic workers, students may be heading back home soon as Members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) have resolved to proceed on an indefinite strike from Wednesday February 25, when the 14-day ultimatum earlier issued to the Federal Government elapses.
The ASUP decision to proceed on strike was taken after a fruitless meeting with the Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau, in Abuja last week.
ASUP and the Federal Government had been at daggers drawn since 2009 over issues relating to the implementation of the white paper emanating from the NEEDS assessment visitation panels dispatched to the polytechnics sector.
The union has also been clamouring for the establishment of National Polytechnic Commission to cater for the peculiar needs of the technical education sector, especially the existing dichotomy between Higher National Diploma (HND) and Bachelors Degree bolders.
Report also has it that the Minister of Education has directed the special salary scale to be discontinued without reasonable explanations.
ASUP, before its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja on Saturday, said its attention was drawn to a circular “FME/S/66/C.2/11/270”, dated January 26, 2015 emanating from the office of the Minister of Education, “purportedly suspending the implementation of CONTISS 15” in polytechnics without recourse to the “spirit and letters of agreement” with the unions in the sector.
ASUP president, Chibuzor Asomugha, in an interactive forum with journalists after the NEC meeting, chided the Federal Government over its lack of political will to implement the union’s demands which, according to him, was capable of revamping the technical education sector.
He said it was unfortunate that government and its officials only shiver when members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) go on strike because of the direct implication that their wards may be involved, noting that advanced countries of the world thrive because they have taken full advantage of polytechnic system of education.
“You will recall that in 2012 our union placed a 13-point demand portfolio before government for negotiation and subsequent implementation.
“Most of these demands were carry over from the 2009 Agreement between the Federal Government and the union.
“Some of these demand includes the continued discrimination against polytechnic graduates in public service and in the labour market in Nigeria, non-release of the white paper on the visitation to federal polytechnics.
“The non-implementation of CONTISS 15 Migration for the lower cadres and its arrears as from 2009 when the salary structure was approved, non-establishment of a National Polytechnics Commission (NPC) and the wrongful continued recognition of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) as the regulatory body for polytechnics.
“The failure of government to attend to these demands led to series of strike actions we had embarked upon between 2013 and 2014. “The polytechnic sector is still undergoing a frenzied recovery from the scars of that engagement.
“As we have always stated, the sordid experience our sector went through in recent times was avoidable if government had deployed proactive measures in addressing the issues in disputes.
“In view of these developments and also in view of the failure of government to honour agreement with our union, we hereby resolved as follows: That at the expiration of the two weeks ultimatum our union has issued to government beginning from February 11, 2015 on the pending issues, ASUP shall embark on an indefinite strike action until all the ongoing anomalies in our polytechnics are addressed and the 13-point demand pending before government implemented,” Asomugha stated.
It would be recalled that the technical education sector was grounded for a better part of last year, following an indefinite strike called by ASUP and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) over government’s lackadaisical stance to honour a number of agreements and demands allegedly signed with the unions in 2009.