The almost three-month-old industrial action by non-academic staff of the Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), Ikorodu, took a new dimension on Wednesday as the striking workers locked the three gates to the 40-year-old institution against students, staff and visitors.
The workers began the industrial action on January 20 over what they described as the wrong implementation of Consolidated Tertiary Institution Salary Structure (CONTISS) 15 migration by the management of the school.
They had allowed academic staff and students to go about their businesses without harassment until Wednesday. But they barred members of the institution’s management, led by the Rector, Samuel Sogunro, from their offices since the strike started.
The complete shutdown of the polytechnic on Wednesday, according to the leadership of the campus’ chapters of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Polytechnics (SSANIP) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), was a reaction to the management’s decision to pay the March salary of the academic staffers and leave them out.
But the management has told PREMIUM TIMES that the latest action is part of the lingering crisis rocking the institution and that a 14-member panel set up by the state’s Head of Service, Akeem Okunola, is looking into the matter.
The striking unions, in a joint statement issued recently, had accused the Sogunro-led administration of being responsible for the prolonged unrest on the campus. They said before Mr Sogunro was appointed in 2015, the institution was adjudged one of the most peaceful in Nigeria.
They accused Mr Sogunro of corruption, highhandedness, zero tolerance for dissenting views, financial recklessness and maladministration.
The statement, which was entitled: “LASPOTECH on the Brink of Collapse,” and jointly signed by SSANIP and NASU chairmen, Abiodun Awoyemi and Semiu Fasasi respectively, reads in part; “We are not surprised at Sogunro’s display of arrogance and tyrannical tendencies, his antecedence speaks volume. Unfortunately, the staff members do not have any contribution to the process that produce a rector for the polytechnic, otherwise, someone like him; throughout his time as a junior lecturer till he rose to the pinnacle of his career as a chief lecturer, could not have passed the test within the community for the position of a rector. Sogunro twice lost elections to represent the congregation on the Governing Council of the Polytechnic (the 9th and 10th Governing Council).
“Against NBTE directives and conditions for the implementation of CONTISS 15 migration as implemented in October 2016, the Sogunro-led management reversed the implementation in January 2019 for all staff on CONTISS 11 and below to pre-migration status (September 2016) and beyond. Not even the newly engaged 89 staff who were employed based on the advertised migrated salary scheme were spared.
“Also, officers on levels 13 and above across academics and non-academics were equally demoted and a rough estimate shows that over 800 staff members were affected with many going home with negative salaries.”
They accused the rector of interdicting and suspending staff without following due process over the CONTISS 15 migration crisis.
The unions alleged that the vice chairman of SSANIP, Oluseye Ero-Phillips; immediate past NASU chairman, Ogungbayibi Adebayo; Treasurer of SSANIP, Ayanda Abiodun; and others including Ibuowo Jelili, Adeniji Yusuf, Abimbola Alawada, Samuel Ogunsanya and four others from Mass Communication Department were demoted based on the wrong implementation of CONTISS 15 by the management.
The unions also accused the rector of appointing his relations and friends to positions of authorities, and what they tagged illegal payment of N100,000 as court sitting allowance for the rector and the governing council members, among other allegations.
But in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the polytechnic’s Deputy Registrar, Information and Public Relations, Olanrewaju Kuye, said the crisis was being resolved by the 14-man committee.
He declined to comment on the allegation of selective payment of March salary, saying he could not confirm it.
Mr Kuye said; “There is no new development. It is still part of the lingering crisis over CONTISS 15 migration. The truth is that when there are issues, there will be so many allegations flying in the air both founded and unfounded.
“As am talking to you I haven’t been able to go into my office for weeks due to the strike and so there is little information at my disposal. But I can assure you that all hands are on deck to amicably settle the matter.”