The Nigeria Labour Congress wishes to call on the government to end further suffering of students by urgently bringing to an end the protracted strike actions by the members the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU).
The Polytechnic lecturers have been on strike since October 2013, while their counterparts in Colleges of Education have also been on similar industrial action since December 2013.
The recent breakdown of talks between the Minister of Education and the leadership of ASUP over the full implementation of the 2009 Agreement it signed with the Federal Government, is at best irresponsible on the part of the Minister who took a hardline positions and refused to move any inch in the negotiations to allow for mutual consensus.
Among the demands of ASUP are: the non-release of a White Paper on the Visitation Panel to Federal Polytechnics; non release of funds for the implementation of CONTISS 15 migration and its arrears; the continued discrimination against polytechnic graduates in public service and during job search; the non-establishment of National Polytechnics Commission and continued recognition of the National Board for Technical Education as a regulatory body for Nigerian Polytechnics; the slow speed in the review of the Polytechnics Act by the National Assembly; the underfunding of Nigerian Polytechnics as well as the lopsided disbursement of TETFund grants and other financial interventions in the education sector, which has been to the disadvantage of the polytechnics; the worrisome state of State owned Polytechnics; and the continued appointment of unqualified persons as Rectors and Provosts of Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Technology by some state governments;
ASUP demands also include; the refusal of most state governments to implement the approved salary package (CONPCASS) and 65 year retirement age for state owned Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Technology; the insistence by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation to single out the polytechnics for the implementation of the IPPIS module against the unions’ position, and the non-commencement of the re-negotiation of the FGN/ASUP agreement as contained in the signed agreement.
The same arrogance and insensitivity has also characterized the Minister’s negotiations with COEASU whose demands are also based on not honouring Agreement by the Federal Government. Some of these include, the non-integration and payment of peculiar/earned allowances, non-implementation of life insurance policy for families of deceased members; non-implementation of retirement age of 65, poor infrastructural development in Colleges if Education nation-wide, poor funding of teacher-education, non-accreditation of NCE programmes, non-release of White Paper on visitation panel reports and the imposition of the Personnel Payroll Information System.
Congress is concerned that the prolonged strike action has led to the disruption of the academic calendar, truancy and vices among students as well as threatened the health of education in the sub-sector. These negativities are seldom good for the quality of our education or the image of the country.
Government’s serial breach of agreements with the unions, especially in the education sector has had a telling effect on the well-being of the economy generally and education in particular.
It is saddening that government is fast acquiring for itself a reputation of a partner that cannot be trusted to keep agreements it voluntarily entered into.
Yet, government cannot afford an image which inspires no confidence in the citizenry or the unions.
Government’s dispute with COEASU, in our view, presents it with an ample opportunity to restore it’s damaged image during its prolonged disagreement with ASUU and not to further soil it.
All normal societies are governed by sets of laws and agreements and Nigeria should not be an exception. Impunity breeds counter impunity and is certainly a roller coaster to anarchy.
In the light of the above, government should get its priority right by speedily responding to the demands of COEASU and ASUP for the sake of our children, our parents, our teachers, education system and the nation at large.