The meeting chaired by the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike was held to resolve issues raised by the academic body.
The minister expressed disappointment over what he described as unjust with claims by the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) that government is not making efforts to resolve and call off the four months old strike.
The minister disputed claims by the union that it was the government out of its own volition, that choose four issues for resolution in the short term out of the 11 issues placed before the government.
He insisted that the government could not have taken the decision without the agreement of the union.
Wike added that the Needs Assessment of Polytechnics is not being done at the request of the union, rather, at the initiative of the government through its bid to arrest the decay and rot in the education sector holistically.
He also refuted claims that the Needs Assessment committee which was inaugurated in October 2013 does not have the funds to operate.
His words: “government knows it cannot talk about addressing the decay in the education sector with a needs assessment to know what and what is wrong in the system. We would not have inaugurated the committee without having the money to fund the activities. But you are saying that you heard from TETFund that there is no money, I do not know here you are getting your information from. when we are presenting issues to the public, we should tell them the actual truth.” Wike also described as unfair claims by the union’s officials that they have only met with the Federal Government once since October 2013, noting that he (Wike) had personally met with ASUP National President, Dr. Chibuzor Asomugha and two of ASUP officials, while the ASUP officials also met with officials of the Ministry of Labour.
The minister added that one of the main agenda for the meeting is to discuss how to go about the implementation of the disbursement of the N20.4 billion accrued from the migration of lower cadre to CONTISS 15, so that the students can return to the classroom.
Some of the issues raised by the union, such as the dichotomy between the Higher National Diploma and degrees obtained in the universities are not directly under the purview of the Ministry of Education, Wike noted.
ASUP President, Asomugha said the union officials have not been briefed as to the agenda of the meeting and were only present out of respect for the Federal Government.
“We should have gone beyond this point by now. We expect the government to announce the definite steps it has taken over these pending issues. Let it be on record that this is our first meeting with the government since October last year, ASUP has made several overtures to the government to be informed about the extent that government has gone to fulfil its promises,” he said.
Asomugha alleged that the Ministry of Education has already prepared the White Paper of the Visitation panel to the polytechnics five months ago, but has refused to release it. He also addressed issued raised by the representatives of the students noting that ASUP’s fight was not in any way selfish.
Comrade Ogbonnaya had expressed dismay that ASUP did not include the dichotomy issue among the four listed for resolution in the short term. In a veiled threat, he noted that the students have the capacity to storm Abuja and protest the prolonged closed of their institutions.
“We are here because we believe in peace and dialogue, and that a lot can be achieved at a round table. If in two weeks times this strike is not called off…we have decided to tow the path of peace, we have the capacity to flood Abuja…”” he said.