ASUP strike: FG warns staff unions against interference in appointments

THE Federal Government has warned the staff unions of its institutions against unnecessary fuss and “so much interest” in the appointment of principal officials sometimes to the point of prolonged internal crises in the affected institutions.

This is coming on the heels of resumption of sitting of the Rapid Response Team (RRT) put together by the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu in 2017 for mediation and resolution of conflicts in federal polytechnics across the country.

Permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Arc. Sonny Echono, who is the chairman of the team comprising all directors of the ministry, said the team has reopened conversation with ASUP leadership in line with the commitment of the minister of education at a pre-emptive meeting with ASUP on April 6, before the commencement of the ongoing strike action by the polytechnic lecturers.

President of ASUP, Comrade Anderson Ezeibe, had during the meeting, raised the issue of appointment of unqualified persons as rectors of polytechnics, citing an instance of a retired staff member who was appointed rector of a federal polytechnic.

Ezeibe said: “In our polytechnics today, unqualified persons are still being appointed as chief executives. The rector of polytechnic is the chief administrative and academic officer of the polytechnic and with that it is unexpected that someone who is not at the apex of academics in that particular institution or someone who is not even at all in academics should be appointed into that position.

“But we see this happening currently in state polytechnics where a junior lecturer is appointed as the chief academic officer of the institution. This is currently causing a lot of problems in a particular federal polytechnic where a retired staff is appointed the rector of the polytechnic. A retired staff is no longer in academics and cannot be appointed as chief academic officer of an institution,” he said.

But Echono, permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, who spoke with Nigerian Tribune shortly after the inauguration of visitation panels to federal colleges of education and polytechnics, revealed that the rapid response team had commenced meeting with the ASUP on how to resolve some of the issues and demands of the lecturers.

He, however, advised staff unions in the federal tertiary institutions to focus on the welfare of their members rather than taking so much interest in the appointment of the principal officers of their institutions.

He said: “When unions begin to take so much interest in who gets appointed there will be problems. Yes, they make recommendations for who they want and also there is an enabling Act that specifies the conditions, and the government will always comply with that.

“But like I always say, we don’t want to get to a situation where students too will be the ones to decide who sets examinations for them, marks their papers or when they want to have their examinations. They may decide to go on strike if we don’t comply with their terms.

“The issue of personal preference should not arise. If I’m a professor of Technology, for example, the fact that I’m in a university system teaching in a University of Technology should not disqualify me from being able to move to a polytechnic. It is the same thing, as polytechnic lecturers usually aspire to move from polytechnics to universities. People should rather focus on what they can bring into the system than focusing on who gets what appointment,” he said.

Some of the demands of the polytechnics lecturers leading to the ongoing strike, according to the ASUP president include non-implementation of NEEDS Assessment report of 2014 in the sector or release of any revitalisation fund to the sector despite assurances since 2017.

“The non-reconstitution of governing councils in the federal polytechnics and many state-owned institutions, leading to the disruption of governance and administrative processes in the institutions since May, 2020.

“This has also undermined the renegotiation of the union’s 2010 agreement with the government as such was unilaterally suspended by the government for over two years now. Our union has continued to demand for the deployment of developed capacity from the sector over the years in this process and need to reconstitute the councils in line with the amendments in the polytechnics Act.

“The non-release of the 10 months arrears of minimum wage owed our members in federal polytechnics and non-implementation of the same in several state-owned institutions. This is despite the presidential directive for the payment of these arrears since December 2019.

“Non-payment of salaries in some state-owned institutions as our members are owed their legitimate emoluments ranging from five to 24 months in Abia, Ogun, Osun, Edo, Benue, Plateau among others.

“Continued victimisation of officials of our union as seen in Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, Federal Polytechnic Mubi as well as Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo. This situation has degenerated to the clamping down and brazen illegal seizure of the properties of our union by the rector of Federal Polytechnic, Nassarawa.

“Non-establishment of a commission for the sector to bridge gaps in regulatory activities, as well as match the expansion of the sector while positioning the institutions towards fulfilment of their mandate to the country. Non implementation of the approved 65 years retirement age in the sector by some state governments notably, Kano, as well as the continued appointment of unqualified persons as rectors of Polytechnics in some states.

“Offensive claims of purported tax liabilities in 19 federal polytechnics by the accountant general of the federation and plans to illegally invade the legitimate emoluments of our members in the same guise and to the tune of over N20bn.”

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