Aside the issue of admission is that of administration. Mr Phillips Adebayo, is the Chairman, Academic Staff Union, The Polytechnic, Ibadan (ASUP). He speaks with MODUPE GEORGE on some of the grievances of the union and other management issues. Excerpts:
WHAT has really been delaying the resumption?
Before the strike, there have been some correspondences either to the management and the government, but they have not yielded our expected results. So, that was what resulted in the on-going strike. Our requests are very simple. We are just appealing to Oyo State government to one; announce the names of successful candidates for the management positions such as the rector, registrar, bursar and the chief librarian, but shouldn’t exclude the director of works and services as well, because the people we have in those offices are just in acting capacities and even the acting capacities we are talking about are not well defined. It means the cadre of administration is affected and so one cannot expect optimum performance. This has been causing administrative tardiness.
Things are not done the way they should be done and that is why we feel, this is affecting our work. The Oyo State governor made a promise to us on the 5th of December 2013 when, he came for the last convocation ceremony of the school, that before the end of the month, he would announce the names of the successful applicant. May be we would get the announcement tomorrow, we have not heard anything from him.
A lot of people have been asking why we are so curious about getting the management in their full capacities. The reason is this, when every acting positions are vacant, the people, who are acting such capacities, will not be able to exert authority appropriately. Certain things will not be possible for them to do because they are actually in acting capacity. As a result, a lot of people will be exploited; no matter their competence, it won’t show. We are not saying these people are competent or not, that is left for the government to decide. We are not in the right position to assess them and at the same time we are not condemning them. We know the problems they are facing. We are not even sure if they are enjoying the office, but what we know some of them might not even be happy. What we are saying as stakeholders is let something be done. There is nobody in the office of the rector, because it is the deputy rector that is acting as the acting rector now and the same goes for the acting registrar and on like that.
The agreement that ASUP had with the Federal Government some years back is that no rector stays beyond six months in the office in an acting capacity, but our own rector is spending his 27th month now. Meanwhile, there was an interview last year and this February 2014, we are yet to know the outcome of the interview.
Is this the only reason for the strike?
Also, there is a problem of underfunding; we all know this and government has not denied that. It is only salaries we have been collecting from the government,
since 2011, when this government came into power. And there are claims from different quarters that apart from the salary, the system is still augmenting some fraction of the school project. Fine, we could be getting money from TETFUND, but we feel there should be a budget for education. Look at the materials we are using in teaching the students and do your assessment. Just recently, we had a fire incident, very close to the school’s fire station and we could not put out fire.
We had to call for help from the University of Ibadan and Secretariat for their fire stations to come to our aid because there was no equipment in the vehicle.
On security, we have been facing a lot of problems. You must have heard about the issue of insecurity in the institution. There was a case of Aborisade, who was attacked two or three times, but the truth is that things are not functioning well in this area. The security department has only one vehicle to move around the campus. Though, the vehicle is still moving, but you always hear a loud noise when it is moving, which tells you that something is wrong with the vehicle.
We have turned to secondary schools in the ways we teach our students, most of the time we have to improvise to do practicals. We are really trying our best to produce competitive products. There is serious infrastructural decay. Take a look at my office, if see any good thing here, they are part of my personal effort. I’m using a corner in the office as a store. A lecturer will be happy within himself, when he knows he has been able to deliver maximally, because your product will show.
On the issue of retirement age, we just got a letter to that effect after we had written so many letters. It was declared in 2012, but we only got an official letter which has made the policy implementable though. However, we feel it still has to be included in the Oyo State cadet and we have been mounting pressure. Until we started this strike and we got an invite from the Ministry of Education that the thing has been extended to the non-academics to also retire at age 65.
Whereas, we have been on this struggle since 2011 and we only got the letter in 2013. What we are saying is, why not complete the process before you start another one. Even if you want to extend it to them, there is no big deal, but this will draw us back. Some people have been on this with the fear of what will happen tomorrow, though nobody has been asked to go home. What we are saying is, let it be part of the law. I must let you know that other younger polytechnics have been enjoying this for the past six years, let alone Federal Polytechnics. Here, I think we should separate issues; complete what you have started and you can now start another process for the people you want to extend it to. I just hope the government will take its time to investigate the new interpretation of the papers we’ve submitted, so that it won’t be as if some people are somewhere trying to sabotage the efforts of the governor. I hope nothing like that is happening. It is very important he lives up to what he has started.
Then, on allowances, there are some allowances we ought to have collected. One was agreed upon last year and we were paid 50 percent with a written promise that the remaining would be given to us at the inception of the new session. We have spent almost three months, we have not gotten anything. They have promised to pay us at the end of this month, but we are not very sure if they will pay. And if we say a-36-month arrears, you will think it‘s one big amount of money; some people may not collect more than N100,000 or N250,000,; the highest cannot be more than N350,000, that is the total sum of what we are breaking into pieces. When in other schools, our colleague collect up to N2million and N3million. The figures may sound much, but it is not when an individual gets it. There is also underpayment of seven per cent peculiar academic allowance, which project supervision, SIWES and free trips are embedded. We are also begging that they should please note that we have sacrificed well enough for this institution in the area of keeping industrial harmony. A lot of us are doing our best to ensure that the academic calendar is not disrupted.
ASUP also have gone on strike, but this Ibadan chapter denied them our obligation and we were sanctioned for not joining the strike. You know when we are sanctioned; we would have paid a lot of money. We didn’t collect any money from the government, neither from the management, I paid with my personal money all to ensure that the calendar got regular for once. Fortunately for a long time our students now go for service as and when due for the first time in a very long time.
What exactly do you want from the government and how far have you gone with the negotiations?
We have commended the governor for his support and till tomorrow we shall continue to appreciate him for giving his support and for having legislated on the new two polytechnics that will be joining us. We are praying that God will grant him the grace to continue the good works because more or less his is funding three polytechnics in one, why not get commendation for three instead of getting commendation for one? We are not forcing him, we are just encouraging him. It is not our business to tell him what to do, but it is our business to let him know that we are partners in progress. We believe it is also an obligation for us to encourage and advise him as appropriate.