The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) decided to suspend its 11-Months old strike on Saturday, 12th July.
This is a cleared indication that the new minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, in his first major assignment as a substantive minister scored high.
Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau
The over 10 months ASUP strike was suspended on Saturday.
The truce meeting, which led to the suspension of the strike, took place on Thursday, barely few hours after Shekarau assumed duty as Minister of Education. It will be recalled that public polytechnics in the country have been closed, cumulatively for a period of eleven months since April, 2013.
Aware of the ASUP strike, Shekarau immediately waded into the crisis by inviting the union’s executive members and those of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) to a meeting in his office.
At the meeting, ASUP’s President, Chibuzo Asomugha, who spoke on behalf of both unions, raised issues of polytechnics’ visitation white paper, which was yet to be released by the Federal Government.
He also said both unions were aggrieved by the non-constitution of governing councils of six federal polytechnics, including the report of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian polytechnics, which are yet to be implemented since 2012.
Asomugha equally bemoaned delay in amending the Polytechnic Act, adding that the last time such amendment took place was in 2004.
While advocating an end to dichotomy between degree programmes and Higher National Diploma (HND), he said setting up an independent commission, the National Polytechnic Commission, would greatly reduce unrest in the sector.
Shekarau, after carefully listening to the briefs, had pleaded with the union to end the strike while the contending issues are re-examined by his office. At the intervention meeting, Shekarau had reminded the striking lecturers of the implication of their action, which he said was not in the best interest of the nation.
Sources at the meeting disclosed that the minister had pleaded with the lecturers to give him the singular honour by returning to the classrooms, as that would be the basis for him to push for their demands to be met with minimal rejection.
He said: “I want to appeal to the unions to prevail on their lecturers to go back to classroom while we come together and re-examine these grievances that has been raised.”
Assuring the lecturers further, Shekarau said, “As a minister and with my pedigree as a teacher, I can assure you that government is committed to resolving these issues.
“Now that I have been briefed on some of the challenges, I will table the issues before the appropriate quarter, where more holistic view will be given to them”.
Asomugha had expressed optimism on the Presidential Committees on Needs Assessment of Polytechnics and College of Education reports submitted last week, that government will expedite action on it and come up with a white paper that will guide the application of the fund put at about N600 billion.
As far back as February 2012, the union had brought to the attention of government a list of 13 critical demands aimed at re positioning the polytechnic sector in line with global best practices.
These issues include; discrimination against Polytechnic graduates in the Public Service and in the labour market in Nigeria, non-release of the White Paper on the Visitations to Federal Polytechnics, refusal of government to fund the implementation of CONTISS 15 migration for the lower cadres and its arrears as from 2009 and the non-establishment of a National Polytechnics Commission (NPC).
Other are; snail pace of the review of the Polytechnic Act by the National Assembly, gross under funding of the Polytechnic sub-sector, lopsidedness in the disbursements of TETfund grants and other interventions clearly designed to the disadvantage of the polytechnic sector and non-commencement of the re-negotiation of the FGN/ASUP agreement as contained in the signed agreement among others.
All Polytechnics have been directed to resume work on Tuesday, 15th July, 2014