Workers at polytechnics in Otefe-Oghara, Ogwashi-Uku and Ozoro, Delta State have embarked on an indefinite strike over what they termed Governor Ifeanyi Okowa's highhandedness, anti-education policies, and his refusal to honor the memorandum of understanding (MoU) entered into with the institutions.
The academic and non-academic staff unions of the three institutions began striking on Monday, paralyzing academic activities in the affected polytechnics.
Speaking with SaharaReporters, a rector at one of the polytechnics who pleaded anonymity said the unions decided to go on strike in order to press home their demands.
According to him, three months ago, Mr. Okowa, through the head of the service, Mr. Bayoko, entered into a MoU with the Academic Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Polytechnics (SSANIP) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), but the governor has yet to honor the deal.
“Certain benefits put in place by former Governor Uduaghan's administration to enjoy by the three unions - ASUP, NASU, and SSANIP - have been stopped indefinitely. Before Uduaghan left office, he signed for the unions the new scheme of service, but immediately after Okowa came into office, he revoked that, among other things. The unions are tired of Okowa's highhandedness and anti-education policies,” the rector said.
“He has vehemently refused to honor the MoU entered into with the institutions. Can you imagine that since Monday, when the institutions went on strike, the governor has not deemed fit to reach out to these unions? Instead, he traveled to Abuja for PDP meetings. Governor Okowa is killing education in Delta State,” he lamented.
Speaking to SaharaReporters, some members of ASUP, SSANIP and NASU vowed that until Mr. Okowa reaches out to the unions, the polytechnics would remain closed.
“Because of the strike, the exam activities that were supposed to start at Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku have been disrupted. Across the three polytechnics, there are no lectures and all staff have stayed away in obedience to the call to down tools till further notice. The situation remains the same everywhere,” a union member said.
The chairman of the joint unions, Thomas Ojuye, told SaharaReporters that the state government has failed to revisit the understanding reached at the meeting the unions held with the Commissioner for Higher Education, Mr. Jude Sinebe, earlier this year and lamented its refusal to begin full implementation of the new revised scheme of services for polytechnics and other similar tertiary institutions in Nigeria.
According to Mr. Ojuye, the issues that need to be addressed include “stoppage of promotion from the Consolidated Tertiary Institution Salary Scheme (CONTISS) 11 to 13, non-implementation of migration of technologists, executive and technical officers, instructors and confidential secretaries cadre on CONTISS 12 and above, migration of CONTISS 11 and below, stoppage of payment of promotion arrears, withdrawal of 65 years retirement policy, and the dismissal of the chairmen of ASUP and NASU in Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku.
“In the light of the above lingering issues since 2014 and the state government’s indiscreet disposition to the demands of staff of the respective polytechnics after the unions had reached an understanding in the meeting previously held with the Commissioner for Higher Education, the chairmen of the Governing Council, rectors and joint union executives of the state-owned Polytechnics, the unions took the strike action, on Monday.” Mr. Ojuye said.
While strongly urging the striking workers to remain steadfast and united as they prepare for a long battle to address the challenges facing the unions, Mr. Ojuye assured members that there would be light at the end of the tunnel.