Academic activities were on Monday grounded at the Abia State Polytechnic Aba, the commercial nerve of the party state as Staff and students of the institution held a peaceful protest against 11 months unpaid salary arrears.
The demonstration which took place at the main entrance of the Polytechnic along Aba-Owerri expressway caused serious gridlock as the protesting staff and their students brandished placards with inscriptions such as “Mr. Rector pay me my 11 months salary”.
In an interview the president Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics ( SSANIP ), Abia State Chapter, Comrade Nwachukwu Chucks accused the polytechnic management of punishing them and their families by allegedly using the subventions released to them by the state government for workers salaries to pay contractors handling projects in the state.
“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 due for 14 months which was deducted from source was not remitted to the union. The management converted it into private use.
“Also cooperatve 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 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? Most of us have been ejected out of their houses by their landlords.
“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.”
The Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics ( ASUP ), Comrade Umah Godswill said that the polytechnic’s management has refused to pay them even after the Third Trench of the Paris Refund by the federal government.
“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.”
Some of the students who were in solidarity with the lecturers, called on the state government to intervene and save their academics which would suffer because of the strike.
According to Princess, a Final Year Student of Public Administration, “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.
“They’ve got families too. We are supposed to be writing our exams, but we cannot do that now because they are going on strike. Please let them pay them. Let them call them to round table and discuss. Let the state government do something. Our exams ought to start on 22nd and with this strike now; we are back to sitting at home and hoping for help. This is unfair.”