Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
Baring any sudden change in plan, academic activities in the Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwana, Ebonyi State would in the next two weeks or more, suffer very serious setback.
This is following the resolution of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics [ASUP] in the institution to embark on daily protests within the campus to compel the management to implement certain agreement it reached with the Federal Government in 2009/2010.
The federal government had approved some allowances for polytechnic lecturers in the signed agreement which the management of polytechnics in the country were to implement.
In the list of the approved allowances was Peculiar Academic Allowance (PAA) wherein the federal government agreed to pay 7 per cent of their basic salary. The three items are: teaching practice/SEWES, 3 per cent project supervision, 3 per cent and field trip, 1 per cent which totaled 7 per cent.
The management of the institution, ASUP alleged, abruptly stopped payment of the money in January 2016 without formal circular from the federal government. This, according to the members of the academic staff lingered on for 13 months; a situation which they found unacceptable.
Angered by the situation, ASUP convened an emergency congress on Monday, February 5, at the Engineering Hall of the school and resolved to take some drastic actions to drive home their demands. Top on the agenda of the meeting was the issue of the 13 months arrears on PAA owed them by the institution’s management.
They also discussed the outcome of the meeting the leadership of the union had with the management on their pension and reports emanating thereto.
Summarily, a two-pronged resolution was reached — to proceed on peaceful protest march round the campus and sustain same everyday until their demands were met no matter how long it would take.
To formalize the resolution, a motion for the protest was moved and 139 members voted in favour while four members were against the move.
With the majority decision, the lecturers trouped into the internal roads in the campus singing solidarity songs. They marched from the Engineering Hall, and headed straight to the Administrative Block where they were addressed by the Rector, Venerable Ogbonnia Ibe-Enwo.
Baring any sudden change in plan, the angry lecturers vowed to continue to disrupt academic activities in the polytechnic until their allowances were paid just as they have resolved and voted for.
Over 200 of the lecturers carried placards with protest inscriptions to register their grievances.
Speaking to The Education Report on the matter, the immediate past chairman of ASUP, Mr. Marcellus Okonkwo Eze explained that “there was an agreement between ASUP and government in 2009/2010.”
“This agreement is on three items which are teaching practice/SEWES, project supervision, and field trip which carry 3 per cent, 3 per cent and 1 per cent of basic salary respectively or total of 7 per cent.
“And there is a government circular on it. In January 2016 the rector stopped paying us on the basis that government had withdrawn the allowances. As the chairman of ASUP then, I asked him, where is the circular backing his claim because government does not operate in the air?
“We demanded for the document, up till today, he has not given us the document. In one of our meetings last year, he claimed that the government didn’t give any document.
“And this year, because of the struggle we had last year, he started paying us. What he was doing was after paying salaries, he would pay it. Towards the end of last year, he started paying it together with the salaries. But January this year, they withdrew it again. What is the basis for the withdrawal,” Eze queried.
“Already our pension deduction which is about 7.5 per cent is still being discussed. Our salary is going down every day. If I bring my pay slip of 2015 and 2016, you will feel sorry for me. Am I supposed to be going down instead of rising?” he asked.
Other lecturers who spoke with The Education Report including the ASUP chairman, Mr. Carl Nduka Nworu; Dr. John Ama Ibiam among others corroborated the former chairman.
Addressing the protesting lecturers in front of his office, the rector said that he was taken aback to see the lecturers with placards having reached an agreement with their leadership on the way forward. He explained that he had already begun processes to resolve their problems.
“I must say that I am taken aback; taken aback in the sense that just last Thursday the council with the leadership of the union had a fruitful meeting that going forward, council in its wisdom set up a committee to look into some of your agitations.
“The registrar will communicate to ASUP to nominate three members that will represent the union in that committee to resolve the issues. However, during that meeting, I started by apologizing to ASUP through its chairman. Maybe, that apology was either not conveyed or not properly conveyed.
“Let me now use this opportunity to tell us that there was nothing deliberate. It was on Monday morning that I got a call from the bursar about the status of our warrant for payment. Of course, it should be common knowledge that we only pay when we receive the grant from the federal government.
“And he did advise that the amount was not enough for us to continue to pay what we used to pay with the salary and that is, it usually comes in the form of salary arrears or whatever. But we know that it is because of Peculiar Allowance.
“And I did apologize and said there was a communication gap. We are supposed to inform you because it is your money. If it is short by a penny, it will be painful.
But despite the rector’s pleas and explanations, the protesting lecturers vowed to continue the protest every day until their demands were met.