Lecturers and members non-academic staff union of Abia State Polytechnic on Monday staged a peaceful protest over nonpayment of their salary for the past 11 months by the management of the institution.
The protesters, who were joined by their students, blocked the main entrance of the school, thereby causing a heavy traffic gridlock along Aba-Owerri expressway.
Speaking to journalists on the protest, President of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics ( SSANIP ), Abia State Chapter, Comrade Nwachukwu accused the management of the institution of punishing the lecturers and their families by allegedly using the subventions released to the school by the state government for workers’ salaries to pay contractors.
“This morning, we are kick-starting our industrial actions to drive home our demand for the payment of our unpaid 11 months’ salary. We were last paid in April 2017.
“Since April 2017, no worker in Abia Poly has received any money as salary. Our union dues for 14 months that was deducted from source was not remitted to the union. The management converted it into private use.
“Also, cooperative dues which were also deducted from members’ salaries were also converted by the same management into their own use.
“The most annoying part of all these issues is that the Abia State government graciously gave 2months subventions of the Paris Refund to the management of this institution, but instead of them to use it to pay suffering workers, they resulted to be using the money to pay contractors handling projects within the school. Money meant for our salary was converted by this present management into what they want to use to pay contractors simply because they want their cut out of it.
“We have been patient enough. After sending notice to the management, instead of them to respond to the issue they resulted to the use of violence and intimidation. They used the money that could have been used as part of salaries to invite the army. Will the Army drive the hunger in our stomachs? Will they bring back our children who are out of school back to school? Their landlords have ejected most of us out of their houses.
“We can’t pay our medical bills and yet we work every day in this Polytechnic. We are saying no. It’s either they pay us or, or we stop working. We are using this opportunity to call the state government to do something serious.
“One is to release more money to clear off more backlogs of our salaries; two is to prove this present management to ascertain how they have been managing this school since 2017 that they were appointed.”
Also speaking, Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP ), Comrade Umah Godswill said that the management of the school has refused to pay them even after it received its part of the third tranche of Paris Refund by the federal government.
He said: “The worst part of it is that we notified them that we are going on industrial action this morning instead of them to respond in a good way, they brought Hilux of Soldiers to cover the entire school. Tell me, what are soldiers doing in this academic environment? They want to use that to molest and intimidate us. This action has made us angry. I took the Rector to House of Assembly and over there; he openly said that the government is doing good, that they have released all the subventions to the institution to the tune of January this year. So, why are we been owed? We are here on the streets to let the public know that we are fade up. We are frustrated. We are not going to work again.”
While speaking in solidarity with their lecturers, the students called on the state government to intervene and ensure that the lecturers are paid.
“This is 11 months and our lecturers have not been paid. We have paid our schools fees, our departmental fees and every other necessary bill they demanded from us yet, they cannot pay our lecturers. This is very unfair. Almost All the students have paid their fees and still, they’ve not been paid. They’ve been teaching us since this semester,” a final year student said.
He lamented that the protest by the lecturers will affect their examinations.