DESPITE the Federal Governmentâ€™s plea to chairmen of Governing Councils of Federal polytechnics to prevail on striking polytechnic staff to accept governmentâ€™s offer to pay the outstanding CONTISS 15 arrears in two installments for the immediate resolution of the ongoing strike, students in the over 20 federal polytechnics and several other state polytechnics would have to remain at home a little longer as the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, has remained resolute, saying it would not call off the strike till its demands are met.
Recall that during a recent meeting with the chairmen of Governing Councils of Federal Polytechnics in Abuja, the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, said government is committed to paying CONTISS 15 in two installments in March and November 2014 which stands at over N40 billion.
â€œAt our exhaustive meeting with ASUP, we agreed on the two installmental payment of the CONTISS 15. We have since raised a memo to the President to this effect. I took the risk of committing government because we are deeply worried over the prolonged strike.
â€œThereafter, ASUP wrote to inform us that they have rejected this offer. Please, as chairmen of Polytechnic Governing Councils, we ask that you communicate our commitment to adhering to the schedule of payment. All the processes are on and we are committed to resolving the strike action.â€
Giving reasons for their rejection of governmentâ€™s offer, the Chairman, ASUP, Mr. Chibuzor Asomugha, said government reneged on an earlier agreement by both parties.
â€œOf the 13 issues we raised, government selected four which it promised to treat as urgent. The four issues include release of the White paper on Visitation to Federal Polytechnics; the completion of the constitution of the Governing Councils for federal polytechnics; the migration of the lower cadre on CONTISS 15 salary scale; and the commencement of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian polytechnics.
â€œWe suspended the strike and gave government one month to resolve these issues, but it was not until we resumed strike again in January that government commenced the Needs Assessment and completed the constitution of the Governing Councils for federal polytechnics.
â€œOn the CONTISS 15 salary scale, we agreed with government for it to be paid in two installments in the months of March and September, but government reneged on our agreement and changed the date to November without consulting us.
â€œWe convened an emergency NEC meeting and members agreed we reject the offer because the Minister is trying to reduce our demands to just one issue without considering the fact that we had tabled these issues before government since February 2012.
â€œIt is so unfair that government has settled universities but has neglected polytechnics which I attribute to governmentâ€™s general disregard for polytechnics. We were supposed to have open discussions with government on the remaining issues since July 2013 but government is not bringing that up.â€
Meanwhile, ASUP has directed its different chapters to start mass protests in their different locations so as to press home their demands.
Pressing home ASUPâ€™s demands
The root of the strike is an agreement ASUP had with the Federal Government in 2001, which was reviewed in 2009 with an agreement that it should be re-negotiated after three years.
In December 2012, as a result of governmentâ€™s failure to address any of the demands, ASUP issued government a 30-day ultimatum which expired on January 31, 2013.
Though ASUP had reasons to embark on strike in view of governmentâ€™s repeated failure to address its demands, it decided to give government more time to respond; a response that never came. This compelled the union to issue another 21-day ultimatum on March 25, 2013 which expired on April 22, 2013 and was followed by the declaration of a one-week warning strike which dovetailed into an indefinite strike beginning Monday, April, 29, 2013.