The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has warned against the plan by some state governments to reopen schools, saying that any attempt at reopening schools at any level within this period is premature.
According to the union, schools in Nigeria were not prepared for the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic; and any attempt at reopening the schools now will endanger the lives of both students and staff.
ASUP gave this position while calling for the renewal of the union’s engagement with the government. It also renewed its demands as contained in its 97th NEC resolutions of March, 2020.
The union had in March, 2020 issued a 15-day ultimatum to the government to resolve issues relating to the sanctity of the polytechnic sector, being one of the tripods of tertiary education in Nigeria; and the wellbeing of its members nationwide.
The President of ASUP, Comrade Anderson Ezeibe, who spoke on the critical issues affecting the union’s members and other national issues at a briefing in Abuja, frowned at the Sexual Harassment Bill 2020 for isolating the educational institutions. He also condemned the planned increase in electricity tariff as well as the increase in the pump price of fuel.
Comrade Ezeibe said: “Our union views the bill as narrow in content and a poor attempt at distracting the public from the many challenges undermining the fulfillment of the mandate of tertiary institutions in the country. While joining in the condemnation of such reported incidents, it is our view that the occurrences are no different from the ones that occur in other places of work and business both in the formal and informal sectors and as such, isolating the educational institutions as demonstrated by the bill may not be helpful.
“The recent efforts by the government to increase electricity tariffs in the country is condemnable. The government continued to shy away from admitting the failures of the privatization exercise in this all important sector while shifting the burden of such failures to hapless citizens. The overall impact of such upward review will be seen in higher cost of production and doing business and yet without any guarantee of steady supply of electricity.”
On the increase in pump price of petrol, he said: “Our union views this as insensitive at this time, considering the plight of Nigerians in this challenging period. The impact will certainly be felt in negative terms by an already pauperized citizenry.”
He stated that the union will align with organised labour in the country in its position on the issues of hike in fuel pump price, electricity tariff hike and other issues of national interest.
The union decried the lethargic disposition of the government in protecting the sanctity of the sector; and regretted that the sector is still replete with stories of owed salaries in many state owned institutions like Abia, Imo, Benue, Osun, Ogun,and Edo states.
According to Comrade Ezeibe: “This has been made manifest in the lack of respect for provisions of the Polytechnic Act as amended; the non-release of the amended scheme of service and conditions of service for the sector; non-implementation of the 2014 NEEDS Assessment report, nor the release of the approved revitalization fund for the sector, thereby deepening the rot in infrastructure; poor funding and governance practices in the sector particularly in many state owned institutions; continued discrimination against the sector and its products and the continued contraction of the space for expression as seen in the continued victimization of our union leaders in some institutions.”
He added: “Obsolete salary regimes are still in force in states like Zamfara, Jigawa, Borno, while arbitrary salary cuts are evident in Kaduna. Allowances are owed in institutions in virtually all the states as well as in Federal Polytechnics and Monotechnics.
The union, therefore, demanded rectification of all anomalies associated with and reported on IPPIS; and the release of the arrears of minimum wage consequential adjustments to its members in federal institutions and implementation of the law in states.
Comrade Ezeibe called for release of withheld salaries in some states of the federation where governments have withheld their members salaries and implementation of the appropriate salary regime in the states affected.
While the union demanded for the recall of victimized union officials in some affected institutions and cessation of further acts of victimisation in the sector; it also called for the release of all promotion arrears owed members
It called for the reconstitution of the dissolved governing councils without delay and setting up of visitation panels for the institutions.
While calling for the release of the reviewed Scheme of Service and Conditions of Service; the union also called for immediate resumption of the ASUP/FGN 2010 agreement renegotiation.
It demanded for the revitalization fund as approved for the sector and implementation of the NEEDS Assessment report as well as cessation and reversal of all infractions in the implementation of the Polytechnics Act.
“It is equally our hope that the government will seize this opportunity to avert an industrial crisis post-pandemic in our institutions by diligently responding to the issues raised,” the ASUP President said.