By Gabriel Dike, Laide Raheem, Abeokuta, Gyang Bere, Jos, Tony John, Port Harcourt and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
It is no longer news that the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) fixed April 6, 2021, for a nationwide industrial action to press home the implementation of their demands, with the implication that academic activities will be disrupted.
Already, students are expressing fears over the impending strike. When students and alumni of polytechnics spoke with The Education Report across the nation, they acknowledged the possible effects of the strike and tasked the Federal Government to do the needful to avert it.
Higher National Diploma students expected to graduate in the next few months prayed and hoped government and the union would resolve their differences.
Kunle Oluwatobi, HND II student of Federal Polytechnic, Ede, Osun State, hoped polytechnic students would not spend months at home like their university counterparts.
He appealed to government to take advantage of the intervening time to engage the leadership of ASUP in dialogue and find solutions to the lecturers’ demands to avert the strike.
President, Students’ Union Government (SUG), Plateau State Polytechnic (PLAPOLY), Barkin-Ladi, Moses William, said the strike would be a major setback to academic activities. He appealed to government to look into the demands of the lecturers. He expressed dissatisfaction with “the manner polytechnic lecturers are being maltreated by government when it comes to their entitlement.”
President, Public Administration Students Association, PLAPOLY, a HND II student, Peter Bisat, called on critical stakeholders to intervene in the interest of the students: “Students are yet to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 lockdown that suspended academic activities. We are yet to settle but we are hearing of another strike. This will have negative impacts on the academic activities of students.
“Most of the students are praying to graduate and go home because most of them are tired of the whole situation. Some students paid rent but could not enjoy it, yet they are compelled to renew it.”
President, 1995 set of Mass Communication, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), Abeokuta, Ogun State, Mr. Ayo Makanju, urged government and relevant stakeholders to ensure the proposed ASUP strike is shelved: “If the strike takes place, it will have adverse effects on the education sector.
“Students affected by the prolonged lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic will not be able to graduate in record time. The country cannot afford to be thrown into another academic strike after a long one by Academic Staff Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).”
He advised government to dialogue with ASUP leadership, “so that the future of Nigerian students is not mortgaged in the name of industrial action. Apart from the strike having adverse effects on the students, parents and the society, lecturers who don’t teach regularly won’t be able to engage in necessary research and enhance their capacity.”
Students of Kenule Saro-Wiwa Polytechnics (KENPOLY), Bori, Rivers State, begged government and ASUP not to frustrate their lives. The students, mostly final year, HND II, urged government to engage ASUP in dialogue for a lasting solution.
Five HND II Mass Communication students of the institution, Theophilus Igalu, Sunny Olukanwi, John Audu, Blessing Dickson and Umoh Edet, spoke with our correspondent. Igalu, Speaker, National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS), KENPOLY chapter, said: “After we have survived being out of school for several months due to COVID-19 pandemic, to be out of school again because of strike by ASUP will affect our future negatively.
“Federal Government should engage ASUP leaders in a dialogue. If there is anything students’ leadership can do to stop ASUP members embarking on strike, we will do it. Federal Government should address their demands.”
Olukanwi, Chief Whip, said: “We are already suffering the setbacks of the COVID-19 lockdown. If lecturers proceed on nationwide strike as planned, it will prolong our stay in school. Federal Government should, please, address the lingering issues. If the welfare of lecturers is not taken care of, they will not give their best to students.”
Audu urged government and ASUP to realise that “there are students who fend and train themselves.” He begged them to sheathe their swords and come to terms with a view to creating a healthy learning environment for students and lecturers.
Chinelo Akunesi, HND I student, Mass Communication Department, Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, Imo State, blamed COVID-19 pandemic as a setback to their academic calendar: “Having to contain with another strike will be devastating. She urged government to do everything it could to avert the strike:
“I can’t afford to lose another academic year. We are yet to get over the COVID-19 compulsory lockdown and they are talking of another nationwide strike. They should not allow that to happen. The strike will even affect the new entrants if allowed.”
Silvia Ujuaku, HND II student, Accountancy Department, feared her plans would be ruined. She hopes to get married as soon as she finishes her studies: “That plan is being threatened by the impending ASUP strike. That dream may take more time to actualise.”
ASUP’s nine demands
ASUP president, Mr. Anderson Ezeibe, said: “The strike is meant to draw the attention of government to the nine demands of the union.” They include the release of 10 months’ arrears of the new minimum wage owed members in federal polytechnics and the implementation of same in the several states yet to implement the new minimum wage.
Others are implementation of the Needs Assessment Report of 2014 in public polytechnics; reconstitute governing councils in federal polytechnics and in state-owned polytechnics, release owed staff salaries in Abia, Ogun, Osun, Benue, Plateau, Edo, and Cross River states and implement full salary payments in Sokoto, Kaduna, Adamawa states; release of promotion arrears in federal polytechnics and payment of same as well as annual increments in Adamawa, Plateau and other states with similar cases.”
The union is also demanding the withdrawal of the letter containing spurious, incoherent and unsubstantiated claims of PAYE tax liabilities in 19 federal polytechnics; full implementation of the provisions of the Federal Polytechnics Act as well as its domestication in Adamawa, Kano, Sokoto, Abia, Niger and other states affected; stop forcing ASUP members in colleges of agriculture out of the union and implementation of 65 years retirement age for academic staff in Kano, Kaduna and other state institutions.
Ezeibe said: “By this resolution, members are requested to prepare for a full-scale showdown until their demands are met and this culture of neglect of the sector reversed.”