Lecturers of Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwanna Afikpo, Ebonyi State are for war again over unpaid allowances. That has paralysed academic activities in the institution. UCHENNA INYA reports from Abakaliki
Lecturers of Polytechnics across the country under the umbrella of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics(ASUP) have special allowance identified as Peculiar Academic Allownace (PAA). The allowance is 7.5 per cent of their basic salaries.
Three items make up the PAA. There include, Teaching Practice to three weeks 3 per cent of basic salary, project supervision 3 per cent of basic salary and field trip 1 per cent of basic salary totaling the 7 per cent.
In 2009, the Federal Government and lecturers at Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwanna Afikpo, Ebonyi State had an agreement on the payment. The payment continued till 2016 when it was withdrawn. The lecturers kicked and engaged the school management. There was protest and strikes by the lecturers and the allowance was restored to them.
When the lecturers received their salaries last month, the allowance was missing and they resumed agitation for its immediate restoration.
The lecturers quickly went into an emergency meeting at the institution last week and resolved to use protest to bring back their allowance. The lecturers also resolved that they would launch continuous protest to press home their demands and commenced the protest immediately after the meeting.
The lecturers, numbering over 500, carried placards with various inscriptions such as, ‘Rector, our Peculiar Academic Allowance’, ‘Bursar, pay us our PAA’, ‘say no to PAA withdrawal’, ‘Give us our PAA’, ‘we are suffering’ among others, besieged the Rector and Bursar offices to register their grievances.
The angry lecturers were led by the Chairman, ASUP of the institution, Comrade Karl Nworu, during the protest. They lecturers said they would continue to protest until the allowance is restored.
They were addressed by the Rector of the Polytechnic, Venerable Ogbonnia Ibe-Enwo, who blamed the withdrawal of the allowance on a shortfall in the workers’ salaries.
But the lecturers said they were not satisfied with the response by the Rector, saying that he was not sincere.
“We are not satisfied with the response of the Rector for our demand. The reason we are not satisfied is that the shortfall he talks about is just N6million and it is not sufficient for him to remove our Peculiar Academic Allowances(PAA) from our salaries knowing fully what he gets after payment of our salaries which is over N30million. He should have dipped his hand from that excess and augment the shortfall in January salary.
“Besides, he gets IGR every month. He is supposed to get money from there and pay us our salary. What he told us that when he goes to Abuja and comes back, he will solve the problem is not sufficient. He didn’t give us good response and we will continue this protest. We had wanted him to tell us a definite statement that he will pay us on a particular day and not putting us into suspense and confusion. They are still owing us 13 months arrears of the PAA, which government has agreed to pay us. I know that our IGR is neighbourhood of over N100million every year.
“The reason why we are demanding for the payment of this particular allowance is that our school never declared shortfall. Secondly, there is no paper from government backing them for them to withdraw this allowance. They did this out of their own volition without our knowledge”, one of the protesters, Dr. John Amah, said.
Former Chairman of the union in the institution, Marcellus Eze, gave an insight into the PAA thus: “There was an agreement between the union and government in 2009/2010. This agreement is on three items; Teaching Practice to three weeks 3 per cent of basic salary, project supervision 3per cent of basic salary and field trip 1 per cent of basic salary totaling 7 per cent. Government issued circular on it and started paying us. But in 2016 January, the Rector stopped paying us on the basis that the government has withdrawn the allowance.
“We demanded for a document from the government on the stoppage of the allowance because government does not operate in the air. Up till today, the Rector has not given us the document. In one of our meetings last year, he said after all, government did not give us any document and this year, because of the struggle we had, he started paying us. What he was doing is that two days after paying salaries, he will pay the allowance. Towards the end of last year, he changed and started paying us along side our salaries .But January this year, they withdrew the thing without any authorizing document. We became angry because there was no basis for the withdrawal. Already, our pension deductions, which 7.5 per cent is being discussed. Our salary is going down every day. If I bring my salary, you will say sorry to me.”
Another protester, Paulinus Okoro, who is a senior lecturer, said: “For quite a long time, the management of this school have taken us for a ride. It is insulting and demeaning that a management will wake up and take action that will affect the workforce without notifying them and moreover, the shortfall they are talking about is only a N6million. If you check the deductions of all the academic staff that are not less than 2,000 and you are deducting N7.5 per cent of their salary is far more than what is short from the salary.
“We are protesting for something that has just been done unplanned. We are still working for a strike over our pension which we have given 21-day ultimatum. This one is a protest as result of illegal deductions of our salary.”
Meanwhile, the Rector in an interview wondered why the lecturers are still protesting after he explained the true situation of things to them. He also explained why the school was finding it hard to pay the said allowance.
“The peculiar allowance they are talking about is an allowance that was agreed upon by the unions and the Federal Government since 2010. But somehow in 2016, based on 2015 budget, the Federal Government stopped funding it. They said we should fund it from the IGR, but some schools argued that they don’t have enough IGR to fund it.
“This IGR is sourced from students and we said it is not proper to pay them from students’ school fees. However, we have been paying them from what we get from the Federal Government until this January when the money we got was not up to what we used to get,” he said.
He explained further that peace meetings were held to appease the lecturers. “We even held a meeting with the union where we told them that we will pay them as soon as we get more money in February. I have sent the Chief Accountant to go and follow up on my complaint to the Accountant General of the Federation that we have a shortfall.
“I am also on my way to Abuja to go and follow up to find out if the shortfall can be made up in February to avoid a reoccurrence.
“If they give us the arrears, we will just pay them back. It is not as if we got the money and refused to pay. I explained all these to them. We paid them exactly what we got,” he added.
Bill Gates: Everybody now aware of your misrule, PDP tells Buhari
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said with the comments by Bill Gates on Nigerian economy, it is obvious that the whole world is now aware that President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) Federal Government is running a dysfunctional economy.
The party therefore, advised President Buhari to stop wasting the nation’s resources on pointless image laundering and desperate quest for international endorsements. PDP in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it has been vindicated by Gates’ comment that the Buhari administration is the worst in the history of the country, which did not have the interest of the people at heart. The party further noted that Gates was just being polite to his host, President Buhari, when he said the policy of his government was not reflecting the needs of the people.
“What Gates did not tell President Buhari and his team was that their administration is so incompetent, disorganised and confused that it could not develop any functional economic policy direction and that this has caused our nation her current economic woes.
“Bill Gates comments on the Federal Government’s empty, deceptive and discredited Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), right in the Presidential Villa and in the presence of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, came to President Buhari and the APC as stunt gone awry as they had planned to use the world figure to earn an undue international endorsement ahead of 2019 elections,” the statement added. It regretted that instead of being remorseful, officials of the APC administration, including Prof. Osinbajo, are attempting to put up a lame defence, despite the indicting facts.
“The whole world is sad that under President Buhari and the APC, our dear nation, which was hitherto one of the most vibrant economies, has now become one of the most dangerous places to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world.
“This administration, in the last three years, has not been able to initiate any functional policy on health, education, housing, agriculture, electricity, industrial growth, effective economic empowerment and gainful employment, or any deliberate plan to grow a sustainable middle class in the country.
“Instead, what Nigerians get is a sinking economy resulting from anti-people policies; multiple taxations, increased tariffs on essential commodities and services, increase in food prices, fuel price hike, huge foreign debts, a weakened currency and massive job loss while APC interests continue to fritter away trillions of naira for their selfish gains. “It is obvious that this Buhari administration derives joy in seeing Nigerians suffer hunger and starvation even in the midst of our huge potential at becoming one of the greatest nations on the globe.”
Herdsmen killings, threat to food security –Benue Commissioner
Benue State Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Mr. James Anbua, yesterday said that the continued attacks and killing of farmers across the country by herdsmen poses a threat to food security in the state in particular and the country in general. Mr. Anbua stated this while fielding questions from journalists in his office in Makurdi, the state capital.
The commissioner lamented that even as the raining season was by the corner, some farmers were still staying in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps for fear of attacks by the rampaging herdsmen. He said that the farmers, who ought to have been in their farms preparing for the next cropping season, couldn’t go to their ancestral homes because their homes had been taken over by the herders.
According to him, most of the areas affected by the herdsmen invasion in Benue were the highest producers of agricultural produce like rice, yam, guinea corn, millet, cassava oranges and sweet potato. He said that since they were not going to prepare their lands for cultivation during the 2018 cropping season, it then means that food security would be negatively affected. Anbua also disclosed that the crisis had adversely affected the 2017 harvesting period because it started when farmers were harvesting their crops especially rice and soybeans.
”We were expecting bumper harvest during the 2017 harvesting season but it became a mirage because of the January attacks and subsequent ones. Even those that harvested their crops like rice and soybeans were yet to thrash them. The attacks took place at the peak of the harvesting season,” he said.
… we feel betrayed by FG, says father of dead girl
Adamu Jumbam, father of Aisha Adamu, one of the Dapchi schoolgirls who lost their lives while in Boko Haram captivity, said he was not happy with the Nigerian government and its security forces whom he blamed for the tragedy that befell his daughter. Of the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped, 104 were released by the Boko Haram sect while five died in captivity.
Mr. Jumban, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES in Dapchi village where he is currently mourning his 16-year-old daughter, questioned the circumstances that surrounded the abduction and subsequent release of the girls by Boko Haram. Speaking in tears, the middle-aged resident of Jumbam, a village 2km away from Dapchi, said rather than the Nigerian soldiers combating the insurgents after they came back to drop the girls, the soldiers simply “watched with folded arms while the insurgents left triumphantly.”
The Nigerian government had explained that in order to safeguard the lives of the freed girls, it refused to confront the insurgents when they came to deliver the captives on Wednesday. But this argument did not seem to assuage the pains of the mourning parents of Dapchi.
Speaking amidst a large crowd of mourners and sympathisers that throng his family home in Jumbam, the bereaved father said he had lost faith in the Nigerian government. He said the way his daughter and others were abducted from school and killed while in captivity of Boko Haram would continue to traumatise him and her mother for a long time to come “It was my worst moment in life when I was told she died,” Adamu said.
“It has been a huge bereavement that befell me on Wednesday when these poor schoolgirls were returned and I rushed out to welcome them only to be told that my daughter was among those that lost their lives. “I was told that they died on the way, and the Boko Haram simply dug the ground and buried them.
This confirms that I have lost her, so we the family have nothing more to do for her than to mourn her. “From the 19th day of February when they were abducted and taken away to the day they were brought back, I have not been myself.
But I give gratitude to God when I eventually found out that she is no more, what I was scared and prayed against had come to pass. I pray God comfort her soul and forgive her shortcomings.” Jumbam said despite his bereavement, many of them in Dapchi could not understand the “mystery of the abduction and the drama of the girls’ release on Wednesday”.
“We have no option than to still commend the government for seeing that most of the children that were taken from us have been brought back”, he said. “But what bemused us most is that, it is very shocking and surprising to say that Boko Haram came into this community, picked our children without any one challenging them, and then brought them back on their own, dropped them in the town and then returned. That development has really unsettled most of us here in Dapchi.”
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