By Lazarus Zakaa Abuja.
National President, Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) Nuhu Ogirima, has accused the federal government of neglecting the Nigerian Colleges of Education Sub-sector, describing the act as complicity to remain quiet in the face of the wanton neglect that has characterized the disposition of the government to their plight.
Comrade Ogirima, said the neglect is evidence in the non-response to the series of memo raised by the union reminding the FG of her responsibilities, while some of the issues are administrative, which the regulatory body NCCE and the collages management are expected to handled while others borders on critical needs of the COEs for survival as a teacher-education, yet the government choose to ignored their pleas .
He said that, the union suspended her nation wide strike action in 2018 due to FGs commitment with the COEs, but has failed to live up to its pledge.
“Between 5th December 2018 and now, the union has made spirited efforts towards making FG commit to its obligations.
“Letters were written to the government, as represented by the Federal Ministry of Education and the That of Labour and Employment as well as the agencies under them with appropriate jurisdiction on the issues in convention.
“Giving the nonchalant response from the MDAs, the union wrote to the president for intervention “. He said.
Comrade Ogirima lamented that the union consistent reminder to the government to do the needful to review the 2006 outsource policy to cater for the needs of COEs is predicted on the implications on the collages.
He said the FG refusal to provide funds to adequately remunerate the outsource security staff and other on sundry jibs and the inability of the collages to afford the high cost of sourcing and funding good security outfits have made COEs much more vulnerable to attack.
“He recall that on 17th September, 2014, the Federal College of Education (FCE), Kano, was attacked by perceived
Boko Haram elements.It is on record that the security men at the gate of the College fled at the
sight of the armed men. Thus, invaders fired sporadic gunshots into one of the lecture theatres, as bomb blasts of the invaders reverberated.
“While scores of persons were severely injured, twenty (20), including three (3) bombers, died from that incident.
“Shortly after the FCE Kano episode, specifically on 12th November, 2014, FCE Kontagora lost one final-year male student from the bomb blast by a suicide bomber who infiltrated the College.
“The trauma experienced by many residents of the staff quarters at the time still resonates even years
after the terrible experience.
“Many other Colleges of Education have had similar brushes with
insecurity occasioned by the policy till date.
“Currently, the College of Education, Katsina-Ala, reel underkidnapping, which remains unattended,
in spite of all representations to the Benue State government.
“Similarly, and worst of the current
predicament, we drew the attention of Yobe State government to the plight of Bitrus Zakka, alecturer of Umar Suleiman COE, Gashua, kidnapped around Dapchi by Boko Haram elements in November, 2019, but to no avail (Show the clip). Rumour is making the round that he might have been killed.
According to Ogirima, is one neglect too many. “Whereas, the Federal Government had informed us in 2018 that a joint committee of the FME and State Governments shall be constituted to address issues of the State government’s irresponsibility to their COEs, it remains to be seen in reality”. He said.
He explained that a Needs Assessment of the public
Colleges of Education was conducted and a report made in 2014.
He said the implication of the report impacts on all aspects of the infrastructure of public COEs. According to him the initial cost implication of the exercise was over nine hundred billion naira.
Stating that the current administration requested a review in 2017, which was done and the reviewed report, with the cost implication of N456bn was submitted to FGN in the first quarter of 2018.
“Quite sadly, the Union had to embark on another agitation in 2018 before a paltry N15bn was pledged as a palliative.
“Again, while the Union is aware that the late COS to Mr. President made spirited efforts to get the HMF and HME to come to terms on the source of payment in 2018, not a farthing has been released by FGN, and no further ought to have been renegotiated twice to usher in new provisions on the working conditions of staff, the work place and institution structure in line with current realities”. He noted.
Ogirima however lamented that, the gross under-funding of COEs has been abysmally consistent with
He noted that quite unfortunately, State governments toe the line of FGN in this regard. It could be said
that FGN encourages irresponsibility towards funding obligations.
He added that credence to the claim can be seen in the ministerial appointment of a former governor known to have paid ridiculous salaries and emoluments to the staff of his State’s Colleges of Education.
According to him, at the expiration of his tenure, FGN compensated him for meritorious service with the ministerial appointment in spite of owing staff thirty-eight (38) months salary, without utilizing the “bail-out” which FGN gave him to cater
for the salary.
He explained that the issue of funding affects the system in all ramifications. “For example, between 2012 and 2017
the funds released as capital allocation to COEs by FGN stood at just about 56% of the budgeted
sums”. He added.
He said a little while before the period in question, especially from 2006 to 2008, the totality of allocation to COEs relative to other sister institutions, was appalling.
He also said that while the relative huge allocation to the university sub-sector in the period can be understood for obvious reasons of their enormous responsibilities and quite divergent services, that of the polytechnics, with similar conditions of service and related infrastructure with COES remains higher till date.
According to Ogirima, FGN has been manipulating academic staff salary with the imposition of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) in several ways; from the unilateral stop of payment of academic staff on Sabbatical Leave, imposition of non-negotiated Personal Income Tax, to over-deduction of payable amount of Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS).
“Other impropriety which the
IPPIS has engendered is the non-remittance of third-party deductions especially for staff
cooperative societies and the statutory union check-off dues in contravention of ILO Convention
and its own Laws.
“These recurring challenges engendered by IPPIS reaffirms the Union’s earlier conviction against the implementation of the pay platform in COEs, as a tertiary institution, and thus strengthens her resolve to remain opposed to it.
“Alternatively, a pay model consistent with tertiary education administration and management should be developed for the tertiary education sub-sector.
“From the foregoing, it is quite evident that the Union’s agitation is an existential struggle geared
towards revitalization of the COE system”. He explained.
The president said that as the main entity for the training of the teachers and managers of the foundation level of the nation’s education system, the sustained neglect of COEs portends a grave implication for the development of the entire educational system.
“So, the union hereby formally declares that all options are open for an industrial action against FGN and some notorious state governments.
“The public should take notice that the NEC shall reconvene shortly
to unveil the series of measures that the union shall take towards bailing the COE system from the
doldrums and further decadence inherent in the wanton neglect by government”. He submitted.