Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By H.T. Soweto

Ten union leaders of three staff unions (ASUP, NASU and SSANIP) of Lagos State Polytechnic were arrested and detained on April 15 by police following trumped up allegation by the Rector of the polytechnic. They were later arraigned at the Magistrate Court on April 17 which granted them bail. The protest actions held around court premises by the polytechnic workers and members of Joint Action Front could have contributed and to securing freedom for the union leaders.

The affected union leaders are Salami Olugbenga, Mr Ero Philips, Mrs Muinat Ogunbambi-Ibrahim, Mr Ayanda Rauf, Mr. Awoyemi Abiodun, Mr Semiu Fasasi and Mr. Tobi Oremule. Others are Mr. Tiamiyu Olalekan and Mrs. Janet Odunuga with a one year old baby. Since January, two of the staff unions (NASU and SSANIP) have been on strike and continuous protest over the reversal of CONTISS 15 migration by the polytechnic management. The reversal means that rather than being paid a monthly salary, since January 2019 many of the workers have been recorded of still being indebted to the polytechnic.

Socialist Democracy (SD) spoke with Comrade Salami Olugbenga, the Vice Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and one of the freed union leaders. He shed more light on the crisis that has rocked the polytechnic since 2016.

SD: What is the origin of the workers struggle in LASPOTECH and what are your concrete demands?

Ans: The crisis began in 2016 when the unions demanded the implementation of new salary structure and conditions of service that was approved by FG and NBTE in 2013 called CONTISS 15 for the officers in grade level 11 and below. This new salary structure was not new because senior colleagues in the polytechnic had been enjoying this scheme since 2009, when chief lecturers in grade level 14 were moved to a new grade level of 15, and SL (Senior lecturers) and PL (Principal lecturers) were moved from grade levels 12 & 13 to 13 & 14 respectively. Leaving out officers from grade level 11 and below from the new scheme. This discrimination was what led the agitation for the inclusion of all officers left out of the scheme in 2012, which was eventually granted in 2013. However, when the unions approached the then rector (Dr. AbdulAzeez Lawal) for the implementation in 2013, he constituted a committee chaired by the deputy rector (Admin), Mr. Samuel Sogunro (who is now the rector). The committee, in their recommendation, suggested the implementation on grade level to grade level and that, the financial implication is an additional N19 million to the monthly salary bill of the polytechnic. The then rector could not however commence implementation allegedly due to paucity of fund. Base on this, the unions had to move all out in lobbying for the increase in the polytechnic monthly subvention to allow easy Implementation. The unions lobby was answered to in 2016 when the state government increased the polytechnic monthly subvention from N153 million to N210 million.

When the unions then approached the new rector who was just barely one year in office then but who was the chairman of the committee set up on the implementation of this scheme, the rector declined implementation despite huge increase in the monthly subvention and wasso adamant of his decision.

This was what led to the unions’ strike in 2016, demanding the implementation and payment of 87 months arrears accrued. The unions however, were able to get the implementation done in October 2016 through the intervention of the ministry of education. The decision that did not go down well with the rector, and vowed to reverse the implementation if he had the opportunity. In 2017, the unions were strong in their agitation for the commencement in the payment of arrears of CONTISS 15 migration and various welfare the staff members are lacking. This led to various constitutions of committees on this matter. Various committee set up at different times include:

1. Expanded Committee set up by the office of Special adviser to the state governor on education

2. A committee set up by the council

3. A committee set up by Lagos State house committee on education.

All these committees were unanimous with their recommendations that the polytechnic is buoyant enough to pay 6 months of the 87 months at first instance among other recommendations of the committee. But, rather than the rector agreeing on these recommendations, he was bent on fighting and if possible crush the staff unions for daring him. So, in August 2017, the rector in collaboration with the special adviser on education and ministry of justice, dragged the unions to national industrial court (NIC). However, it was the same people that later pushed for the withdrawal of the case before the court in order to resort to self-help. This is what led to the present crisis. Our concrete demands are:

1. The Laspotech issue actually goes beyond the reversal of Migration, it is deeper than that. The maladministration and financial misappropriation of this management know no bound, hence, our demand for the constitution of panel of enquiry to formally unearth the deep rooted crisis in the polytechnic.

2. Immediate reversal of the wicked de-migration and demotion of majority academic and non-academic staff members of the polytechnic.

3. The immediate sack of the entire management team and the 11th governing council for their complete incompetence and lack of administrative skills in governing an institution like Laspotech.

SD: Now that you have been released, what next for the step?

Ans: The next for the struggle is to rally all concerned civil society groups labour unions to come to the aids of Laspotech staff and liberate us from the shackle of Sogunro’s tyranny