ASUP Strike: Nigerian lecturers threaten ‘mass protest’ next week
Striking polytechnic lecturers would embark on a ‘massive protest’ in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, next week, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, Chibuzor Asomugha, has said.
Mr. Asomugha, who spoke on Political Platform, a radio program on Ray Power FM, on Friday morning, expressed his union’s frustration at the federal government’s handling of the six-month-old strike.
The union president said the last meeting between the government and the striking lecturers was held on March 26 in Abuja. He said the government team was led by the Labour Minister, Emeka Nwogu, while the president of the Nigeria Labour President, Abdulwaheed Omar, also attended.
ASUP had earlier rejected the mediation of the Acting Education Minister, Emeka Wogu, accusing him of frustrating the negotiation process.
Mr. Asomugha said ASUP made “further concessions” at the last meeting including agreeing to a two-installment payment of the agreed salaries and allowances; and the setting up of an inter-ministerial committee to review the other contentious issues.
The meeting agreed that the government delegation would brief President Goodluck Jonathan and come up with a “Memorandum of Understanding” that will be signed by both parties “this week”, the apparently frustrated polytechnic lecturer said.
He said ASUP was concerned that since the March 26 meeting, the government had not gotten back to the lecturers.
“It is almost three weeks now,” he said.
Mr. Asomugha said the planned protest would involve market women, students, lecturers and labour unions who are all concerned with how the federal government was treating polytechnic education in Nigeria. He did not state the day of the protest.
He, however, said the union was still seeking an amicable solution to the strike and had written to the Senate President, David Mark, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to intervene in the strike. He added that the Senate President had replied saying he would intervene after conclusion of work on the 2014 budget. The budget was passed by the Senate on Wednesday and by the House on Thursday.
It is not clear why the strike persists as ASUP’s agreement to the two-installment payment of the agreed allowances tallies with an earlier federal government proposal.
The Education Minister, Emeka Wogu, had told PREMIUM TIMES that the federal government and ASUP had agreed on other issues; with the installment payment being the non-resolved one.
Mr. Wogu, speaking through his spokesperson, Simeon Nwakaudu, told PREMIUM TIMES on March 27 that the lecturers had refused the two-installment proposal the government had made; something the lecturers said they have now agreed to with the first installments to be paid in April.
“What is left is payment of arrears, which the government, during one of its meeting with ASUP, offered to pay in two installments,” Mr. Nwakaudu said.
He explained that if ASUP had accepted the offer of two installments, the first payment would have been made in March, while the second would be in November. He disclosed that the arrears for both ASUP and COEASU were over N40 billion.
“Such an amount cannot be paid at once. That’s why we offered it in two installments to the unions, but they insisted on getting it in one go. However, the economy shows that the funds are not there. Too many issues are being tackled: basic education, tertiary education and all sub sectors of education are also involved.”
No Work, No Pay
The ASUP President also said his members are not moved by the government’s no work no pay policy.
“Our salaries have not been paid since March,” he said, adding that the lecturers were not perturbed by that.
PREIUM TIMES learnt that on March 21, a government circular directed the stoppage of the salaries of the polytechnic lecturers.
Corroborating the president’s stance, the ASUP National Publicity secretary, Clement Chirman, told PREMIUM TIMES that the union is not bothered about the policy and would continue the strike until outstanding issues are resolved.
“We have not been paid March salary so definitely that of April will not be paid. ASUP is not moved about this, and if the government does not resolve issues then the strike continues,’ he said.
ASUP has been on strike since October 3, 2013 with an initial 13 demands that was negotiated to four.
“The issue of picking four out of the 13 demands was done with the National Assembly Education committee, both Senate and House of Representatives. We all sat together, including ASUP, and picked out the four key issues. These were the immediate issues that needed to be attended to,” Mr. Nwakaudu said.
The four key issues were the need for a constitution of the Governing Councils of Federal Polytechnics, the migration of the lower cadres on the CONTISS 15 salary scale, the release of the White Paper on the Visitations to Federal Polytechnics, and the need for the commencement of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Polytechnics.
Mr. Nwakaudu said that out of the four issues the federal government had done everything possible to attend to three of them with only the salary issues unresolved.