It’s been long overdrew. Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) have slammed the Coordinating Minister of Education, Nyelsom Wike, for spreading falsehood about the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by the bodies, saying his lies were aimed at turning Nigerians against the unions.
The two unions, who spoke on their plights at a joint conference in Abuja on Sunday, maintained that the minister was insensitive. Polytechnic lecturers across the country embarked on strike in October 2013 while lecturers in the Colleges of Education began theirs in December 2013.
Since then, the groups have been trading blames with the government. In one instance, Wike said the government had met some of the unions’ demands but that they had refused to go back to the classrooms. The government also threatened them with its ‘no work no pay’ policy, but the unions have said they are not deterred by the threat as the strike continues.
According to the unions, Wike had engaged in blackmail since then instead of meeting the demands of the lecturers. They said they listed the removal of dichotomy between university degrees and the degrees of the polytechnics as one of their demands. While they trade blames, several bodies have called on the government to meet the lecturers’ demands. Some others, including the students of the polytechnics, have called for Wike’s resignation.
Represented by the ASUP President, Mr. Chibuzor Asomugha and the Abuja Chairman of COEASU, Dr. Ahmed Lawal, and the unions said on Sunday that the strike was not all about money as the government was making it look. According to Asomugha, the struggle leading to the strike action began on 22nd April 2013 with a seven day warning strike by ASUP.
To draw the attention of Nigerians to the neglect of the polytechnics and colleges of education in the country this time, ASUP and COEASU are embarking on a joint national protest with members of civil societies on Tuesday. He said even if the Federal Government paid the whole money being owed members today, the strike continues because it is not about money.
“The strike was suspended based on promise from the government. Unfortunately the government did not do anything about the issues it promised to tackle,” Asomugha said.
Rather than tackle the issues head-on, the unions said, the government had been paying lip-service by just commissioning the governing councils of six out of the polytechnics that were omitted in the first schedule and establishing the Needs Assessment Committee but failing to pay the CONTISS 15 arrears.
ASUP further accused the government of failing to release the white paper on the visitation panel to the polytechnics. The ASUP Chairman of the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro, Comrade Olowofila Margaret, had at a recent rally, expressed the union’s wish to educate the masses on the real basis of its agitation.
“ASUP agitation is not money, there are other issues like the Consolidated Tertiary Institution Salary Structure (CONTISS 15) which is the demand for the payment of salaries that have being underpaid to the lower cadre, we want a creation of polytechnic commission, and the discrimination of polytechnic graduates should be stopped,” Olowofila had said.