*11 died over 21- month’s unpaid salaries
The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has accused Abia State Government of owing staff of the State Polytechnic, Aba about three billion, three hundred million (N3.3b).
President of the unon, Comrade Anderson Ezeibe in a statement said this amount which does not include emoluments which accrued from staff promotions withheld since 2015.
Comrade Ezeibe while lamenting the situation which claimed the lives of eleven of the union members over the 21 month salaries arrears, called for urgent intervention by well meaning Nigerians to prevail on the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu to pay the money owing the institution which is about three billion, one hundred million naira (N3.1B).
“In all, the Abia State Government owes the Polytechnic a total of Three Billion, One hundred Million Naira (N3.1B) in unreleased subventions, while staffs of the Polytechnic are cumulatively owed about Three Billion, Three hundred Million Naira (N3.3B).
“This is excluding emoluments which should have accrued from staff promotions withheld since 2015.Within the period, 21 months of salaries is unpaid and as a consequence, our union has lost 11 members since 2017, while some others are facing one form of diseased condition or the other with the wellbeing of their families in jeopardy”.
Speaking further on the development, the ASUP president said “the Polytechnic which has been on a monthly subvention of ninety million naira (N90M) since 2014, had a salary wage bill of about One hundred and seventy two (N172M) as at September, 2019.
“Following the contentious dismissal of 253 staff (including 40 members of ASUP), the salary wage bill of the Polytechnic came down to One hundred and thirty two million (N132M). As at the time of the contentious dismissal of the staff, they were all owed 16 months salaries alongside other staff (July 2018 to October 2019). The owed salaries are yet to be defrayed even as the dismissed staffs continue to cry for justice.
“No staff of the Polytechnic has been paid any form of salary from April to August, 2020 (another 5 months owed). This implies that within the period of the pandemic enforced lockdown when governments and organizations all over the world were working out measures to mitigate the sufferings of citizens and staff respectively, the reverse was the case in Abia State Polytechnic, Aba as citizens and staff of the Polytechnic were left hungry as even their legitimate emoluments were unpaid.
“In 2017, out of an approved budget estimate of One Billion and Eighty million Naira, (NI.08B), only Four hundred and fifty million (N450M) was released to the Institution, leaving the management of the Polytechnic to its faith as regards meeting with the needs of the Institution in terms of staff salaries, and over heads. Of course, capital projects are unheard of. The Polytechnic managed to pay 9 months of staff salaries.
“In 2018, no penny was released to the Polytechnic by the state government, again leaving the staff with only 4 months salaries paid through funds sourced by the Management.
“In 2019, only One hundred and thirty five million (N135M) was released as subvention and in 2020, One hundred and eighty million (N180M) covering just 2 months of the subvention has been released after eight months”.
Comrade Anderson Ezeibe recalled that the union had submitted a petition to the National Human Rights Commission against the Management and Governing Council of the Polytechnic and the Abia State Government (Proprietors of the Polytechnic) on the sustained policy of pauperization of members of the Academic Staff community and indeed the entire workforce in the Abia State Polytechnic, Aba.
According to him, “our view is that this deliberate policy as seen in the refusal to pay the staff their legitimate entitlements in the form of salaries and allowances for 20 months (now 21 months), has led to the denial of members’ fundamental rights to life and dignity of the human person as captured in Chapter IV of the 1999 constitution.
“We also see the development as an affront to our members’ rights to just and favorable conditions of work as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
“The violation of these rights has equally affected the rights of their dependents to adequate healthcare, shelter and food as the Institution and the Abia State Government continue to oversee an institution filled with walking corpses”.
He accused the state government of sacking chief executive of the polytechnic whenever the raise the issue of nonpayment salaries, stressing that the union would not back out on the demand for legitimate right of her members.
“The stereotyped and unfortunate reaction of the Abia State Government any time the issue of unpaid salaries is raised is the removal of serving Chief Executives and principal officers (whose appointments in the first place do not enjoy the support of the edict establishing the Polytechnic).
“As a result, the Institution has the unfortunate record of the highest turnover of Rectors and Principal Officers in Nigeria (and probably the world). Since 2015, the Polytechnic has appointed 5 Rectors, 3 Registrars, 2 Bursars and 3 Governing Councils. All in a space of 5 years!
“This outdated strategy of turning Rectors, Principal Officers and Governing Councils into scape goats any time the issue of nonpayment of salaries is raised in the Polytechnic will not deter us. The Abia State Government should rise to the occasion and meet its obligations to the workers, the institution and the students who face an uncertain future as a result of the free fall in academic standards in the Polytechnic.
“Our union will not back out of this legitimate struggle until the earned emoluments of our members are paid and the Abia State Government commits to proper and sustainable funding of the Abia State Polytechnic Aba, as well as revisit the contentious dismissal of 40 members of the union since September, 2019”.