By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Hundreds of lecturers and Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU, of the Lagos State Polytechnic, LASPOTECH, on Thursday stormed the State House of Assembly to protest 87 months of unpaid arrears and other injuctices, demanding the immediate sack of the rector of the institution, Samuel Sogunro.
The protesters said the State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode has been doing a lot to reposition the institution, including increasing subvention for the school, but lamented that the management of the crisis-torn institution is scuttling the governor’s effort to make the school worthwhile.
The protesters were armed with placards, some of which read: “Militarisation and infiltration of arms on campus by the management,” “Reversal of the removal of 4% pension and annuity,” “TETFUND: Denial of scholarship conference/books publishing and research grant to staff members,” among others.
Spokesperson of the protesters and Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic, ASUP, LASPOTECH branch, Akinrinlola Ibotoye said the indefinite industrial action being embarked upon by the lecturers and others was the end result of the rector’s misadministration and insensitivity to the issues that affect the welfare of staff in the polytechnic community.
“We would like to place on record that the on-going industrial action is avoidable. It is as a result of the administration of the polytechnic reneging on the previous tripartite agreement reached on March 7, 2017 by the administration, Council, officials of Ministry of Education and the Staff Unions of the Polytechnic, to commence on the payment of CONTISS 15 migration arrears before the 25th convocation ceremony of the Polytechnic held on March 9, 2017.
“The Unions further reached an agreement with the Council on 25th May, 2017, giving 21 days window for the payment of CONTISS 15 Migration arrears and the resolution of other issues of which the polytechnic administration and the Governing Council reneged upon.
“Furthermore, at the congress held on April 20, 2017, the Deputy Rector(Academic) who represented the Rector at the meeting, said that ‘ the administration had saved N343,000,000 only as at April, 2017 and are only waiting for the approval of the government to commence implementation.’ This amount could pay 16 months arrears at the first instance,” he said.
Ibitoye added that the union was, however, aware that the approval of the Council was enough for the payment of the arrears since it could be paid from the funds within the coffers of the Polytechnic, lamenting that the union was at a loss on why the officials of the Ministry who were party to the tripartite agreement on March 7, 2017 were now singing a different tune.
“The Union is also disappointed that officers of the Ministry which we hold in the high esteem and respect cannot keep to an agreement mutually agreed to by the three (3) parties. The unilateral decision of the officials of the Ministry to pay only six months of arrears is against the earlier agreement,” he said.
Ibitoye stated that the polytechnic, being administered by the officials of the Ministry and the Rector by-passing the Council and reporting directly to the officials of the Ministry was against the Law of the Polytechnic and an aberration, warning that this abnormality should be stopped immediately.
“Implementing a new senior staff condition of service without the input from the staff unions is unacceptable. Failure of the administration to divulge to the Council the true financial position of the Polytechnic is not proper,” he said.
Ibitoye said staff of the school observed with dismay that the polytechnic administration recently procured arms and ammunition to the tune of over N10 million and also hired within the institution armed soldiers numbering over 50 and member of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) numbering over 20 with charms and amulets, after the industrial unrest of October, 2016.
“We believe that the State Security is unaware of such development which to say the least, could lead to breakdown of law and order, loss of life and properties. Despite the militarisation of the school, life and properties are still not safe,” he said.
He added that the staff wanted the security forces within the campus to be withdrawn from ]immediately, adding that on Wednesday, the union was set aback by the move made by the polytechnic management led Sogunro to incite student against the staff unions, “the effect we considered as barbaric and undemocratic.
“An executive member of the Union- Comr. Adewunmi Alfred Olorunfemi was badly injured, his wife beaten to stupor by Sogunro’s soldiers and the union bus was vandalised.”
“We demand the immediate commencement of the payment of the arrears of CONTISS 15 migration. We demand the immediate payments of 16 months arrears based on the availability of N343 million only from the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the Polytechnic as announced by the Rector and corroborated by the Deputy Rector (Acad.) While the outstanding of 71 months will be paid within a maximum period of two (2) years,” he added.
Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mudasiru Obasa, condemned the military attack on the workers and assured the protesters that the House would commence investigation into the allegations against the institution.
“Our institution is not meant for military. Tertiary institutions in Lagos are expected to be manned by security personnel and not officers of the Nigerian army. And we expect that whenever there is any crisis, the police is in the best position to address it not soldiers. We will work swiftly on the issue to ensure that the crisis rocking LASPOTECH is quickly resolved,” Obasa added.
He warned that anyone that must lead any institution within the state must abide by the rules of engagement.