Lecturers of the Akanu Ibiam Federal Polytechnic, Unwanna Afikpo in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State on Monday staged a peaceful protest against the school management over a decrease in their allowances
According to them, their Peculiar Academic Allowance (PAA) was withdrawn by the management of the school.
The lecturers, numbering about 500, protested as members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic, ASUP.
Carrying placards with various inscriptions highlighting their anger, the lecturers besieged the rector and bursar’s offices to register their grievances.
The lecturers, who were led by the ASUP chairman of the institution, Karl Nworu, said they will continue to protest until the allowance is restored.
They were addressed later by the Rector of the Polytechnic, Ogbonnia Ibe-Enwo, who blamed a shortfall in monies received by the school for the withdrawal of the said allowance.
But the lecturers said they were not satisfied with the response of the rector, saying that he was not sincere.
One of the lecturers, John Amah, said he was not pleased by the development.
“We are not satisfied with the response of the rector to our demand. The reason we are not satisfied is that the shortfall he talks about is just N6 million and it is not sufficient for him to remove our Peculiar Academic Allowances (PAA) from our salaries knowing full what he gets after payment of our salaries which is over N30 million. He should have dipped his hand from that excess and augmented the shortfall in January salary.
“Besides, he gets IGR (internally generated revenue) every month. He is supposed to get money from there and pay us our salary. What he told us was that when he goes to Abuja and comes back he will solve the problem. He didn’t give us a ‘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 in the neighbourhood of over N100 million every year,” he said.
“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 (documentation) from government backing them to withdraw this allowance. They did this out of their own volition without our knowledge”, Mr. Amah added.
Another protester, Paulinus Okoro, a senior lecturer, said for quite a long time, ”the management of the school has taken them 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 N6 million.
“We are protesting for something that has just been done ‘unplanned’. We are still working towards a strike over our pension for which we have given 21 days ultimatum. This one is a protest as result of illegal deductions of our salary,” he said.
Why we can’t pay the allowance – School management
Meanwhile, the rector in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES 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 on Thursday 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 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 reoccurence.
”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.