The federal government blame striking lecturers of polytechnics and colleges of education of being stubborn, tenacious, obstinate, adamant by continuing with their strike.
Polytechnic lecturers, ASUP, have been on strike since October 2013 while colleges of education lecturers, COEASU, have been on strike since December 2013.
The federal government, however, said on Thursday that it has met all the key demands of the lecturers.
Simeon Nwakaudu, the spokesperson to the Education Minister, Nyesom Wike, told newsmen that the government had had productive meetings with the striking lecturers.
“Ever since the strikes by the unions began, the Federal Government had tried as much as possible to have various meetings with the various unions so as to end the strike. But at some point in time, Colleges of Educations Academic Staff Union, COEASU, opted out from the meeting,” he said.
Mr. Nwakaudu said that during one of its meetings with the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, both parties had agreed that the Federal government would attend to four key issues out of the 13 demands the union had tabled.
“The issue of picking four out of the 13 demands was done with the National Assembly Education committee, both Senate and House of Representatives. We all sat together, including ASUP, and picked out the four key issues. These were the immediate issues that needed to be attended to,” he said.
The four key issues the Federal Government picked out were the need for a constitution of the Governing Councils of Federal Polytechnics, the migration of the lower cadres on the CONTISS 15 salary scale, the release of the White Paper on the Visitations to Federal Polytechnics, and the need for the commencement of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Polytechnics.
Mr. Nwakaudu said that out of the four issues the federal government had done everything possible to attend to three of them.
“The needs assessment have been completed and the report will soon be presented and finally sent to the Federal Executive Council. The outstanding governing councils have been established and the office of the secretary to the Federal Government has almost concluded work on the white paper.
“What is left is payment of arrears, which the government, during one of its meeting with ASUP, offered to pay in two installments,” he said.
He explained that if ASUP had accepted the offer of two installments, the first payment would have been made in March, while the second would be in November. He disclosed that the arrears for both ASUP and COEASU were over N40 billion.
“Such an amount cannot be paid at once. That’s why we offered it in two installments to the unions, but they insisted on getting it in one go. However, the economy shows that the funds are not there. Too many issues are being tackled: basic education, tertiary education and all sub sectors of education are also involved,” he added.
Mr. Nwakaudu disclosed that more than 150 laboratories have been built in polytechnics and colleges of education in Nigeria.
“(In 2013), even while they were on strike, the Federal Government released over N30 billion to Polytechnics and Colleges of Education through an education fund,” he said.
COEASU recently frowned at a new government order to implement the ‘no work, no pay’ principle; that would ensure non-payment of salaries to the striking lecturers.
Mr. Nwakaudu, however, says his ministry is not involved in that directive and never issued such; saying if it exists, it would have come from the Labour Ministry.
The striking lecturers have insisted that they would not resume work until all their demands were met. The unions say their demands, when met, will lead improved standards for Nigeria’s polytechnics and colleges of education.
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