ASUP, COEASU not willing to call off strike, says minister
Eleven months after, the polytechnics and Colleges of Education teachers’ strike continues.
Minister of Education Nyesom Wike blamed it all on the teachers, saying they were delaying the strike’s end.
Speaking at the public presentation on the education sector’s transformation under President Goodluck Jonathan, Wike said the N40 billon demanded by the teachers (N20billion for polytechnics and N20 billion for Colleges of education) would be paid in phases, but the two unions Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) disagreed.
He said the government could not raise the money at once, hence the plan to pay installmentally.
Wike said: “Government is not the one holding on to the strike. An agreed proposal to pay CONTISS-15 arrears of salaries to ASUP members in phases is facing complications. Strike is not something you resolve easily.
“As of February when the arrears were computed, both ASUP and COEASU made a demand of N20billion each, amounting to a total of N40billion. It is not possible for government to raise N40bn. It was later agreed that the money be paid in two phases of N20bn apiece.”
It was gathered that the government, ASUP and COEASU agreed that N20billion would be paid in April and N20bn in September or October.
The source said: “The minister later informed a committee he chaired at a meeting that the two unions wrote to him after he had communicated the agreement to President Goodluck Jonathan to say that they were no longer accepting the phased payment proposal.”
But the National President of ASUP, Dr Chibuzor Asomugha, faulted the minister’s claim.
Asomugha denied the union’s rejection of the proposal, saying that it was disappointing that the minister would be making such comments when efforts at resolving the crisis were going.
Asomugha said last night: “We did not reject the proposal; I think we have gone beyond that part. The question is: “Did the minister plan to pay that money at all? Did he put it in the budget?”
“First he (Wike) told us it (N20 billion) was in the budget; later, he said it was not in the budget.
“Why did he bring the Salaries and Wages Commission to begin to raise objections about the payment, if actually he wanted to pay?
“ASUP did not reject anything. We ever proposed installmental payment and we rolled out a plan on how it would be paid, which the minister rejected but tried to impose his own on us, which we also rejected.
“Later, we arrived at a plan on the installment payment on the order of President with the Ministry of Labour. If the minister was ready to pay any kind of installment and the time was up, is it our refusal that will now stop him from paying?. Or is it our refusal that stopped him from attending three meetings with the Senate Committee on Education conveyed to resolve the matter?’” he said.
On Jonathan’s score card, Wike said that part of the challenges facing the government is that about 10 million children are out of school adding that government had confronted the problem by building 120 Almajiri schools in the North.
Wike expressed disappointment that despite Federal Government’s efforts in assisting state governments towards improving quality of basic education, about N53 billion Federal Government and Universal Basic Education (FG/UBE) is still unaccessed.
The government, he disclosed, has approved nine more Federal universities to improve access across the country.
“High impact grant to institutions by TETFund, supporting institutions in developing critical infrastructure. Each university received N3 billion, polytechnic N1 billion and College of Education N1 billion each. The Federal Government funding of Federal universities and inter-University centres from 2010 to 2013 is N229, 631, 170, 175. Laboratory in 51 Federal and state polytechnics upgraded at the cost of N15 billion.”