Police Disrupt ASUP, COEASU Members' Protest
The police yesterday fired tear gas canisters to disperse members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and College of Education Academic Staff Union(COEASU) who marched on Abuja to protest their prolonged strike that has grounded academic activities in the institutions.
The striking teachers who had arrived at the Ministry of Education at about 8 am for a peaceful rally to protest the prolonged strike and what they described as government's insensitivity had earlier resisted attempts by the police to bar them from going beyond the main entrance gate to the Ministry of Education.
The police also used tear gas and sprayed the protesters with water as they proceeded to the National Assembly.
ASUP has been on strike since October 2013 and COEASU started its two months later.
Both unions at various times have accused the supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, of insensitivity, blackmail and not working to resolve the issues at stake.
The minister's seeming lukewarm attitude in resolving the crisis prompted the Senior Staff Union in Colleges of Education, Nigeria (SSUCOEN), South-west zone to yesterday demand his sack.
The protesters who decried the negligence of their sector of higher education, called on the federal government to urgently address their grievances so they could go back to work.
ASUP President, Dr. Chibuzo Asomugha, said the polytechnic sector remains disadvantaged due to gross under funding.
President of COEASU, Dr. Asagha Nkoro, also listed the reasons why the strike has lingered.
"We are on strike because government has refused to implement migration to CONTISS 15 that was approved in 2009 and pay the areas thereof. They have also refused to conduct accreditation of National Certificate of Education(NCE) programmes in Nigerian Colleges of Education since 2010.
"They have refused to release funds for the benefits of deceased colleagues so that their families and children could have opportunity of going back to school and to feed as well.
"We are also on strike because they have refused to implement the understanding we have with them that they are ready to pay our migration allowances in two instalments," he said.
The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, appealed to them to go back to work and reiterated the commitment of the government to resolve the issues in contention.
Reacting to the allegation that he ordered the police to use tear gas on the protesters, Wike said he had nothing to do with the disruption of the protest.
His Special Assistant (Media), Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu in a telephone conversation with THISDAY, said: "No, that is absolutely untrue."
Meanwhile, the South-west chapter of SSUCOEN yesterday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to sack Wike.
Wike, according to them, has not been representing the president well on matters affecting tertiary education.
They accused the minister of gross insensitivity and inept leadership, saying it is high time the president relieves him of the post to concentrate on his rumoured governorship ambition in Rivers State.
The union, led by Mr. Lere Oladapo lamented that aside many of the federal colleges of education, many state-owned colleges in the South-west were being owned a backlog of salary arrears.
Oladapo told reporters in Ibadan that since April when Wike met with provosts of Federal Colleges of Education, offering to pay the arrears of migration in two tranches, there had been no implementation.
He called for the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians to end the avoidable strike.