By Ademola Adegbamigbe
There is a conflict between the Federal Ministry of Education and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP). This is over the former’s setting up of Visitation Panels for Nigerian Polytechnics, a move that the lecturers have kicked against publicly. Rather, they are demanding that the Ministry should release the last visitation Panels reports “as a good take off point for the new teams and the subsequent banishment of the demons of non-release of reports of Visitation panels and similar enquiries in the sub-sector.”
Trouble started when the Ministry published an advertisement in The Punch and other dailies on Monday 8 February, that President Muhammadu Buhari had “approved the constitution of Visitation Panels to 25 Federal Polytechnics and 21 Colleges of Education,” in that order.
The publication, signed by Arc. Sonny Echono, Permanent Secretary, contains a list of all the institutions and nine terms of reference for the Visitation Panels and the six-week deadline for them to submit their reports.
On Tuesday, which is the second day the Ministry made its publication, the lecturers came out smoking!
They published a letter to President Buhari, rejecting the Ministry’s move, with the following reasons:
- The reports of the last visitation panels set up in 2013 are yet to be seen or implemented in any Federal Polytechnic in the country. This is despite several demands by our Union to this effect in the recent past.
- The fruitlessness of this ritual has left the sector with no perceivable benefits from previous exercise despite the huge outlay of resources consumed by the visitations.
- The current visitations as announced, to the best of our knowledge, did not detail any period of coverage for the panels. This is even more significant in view of the fact that visitation panels are expected once in five years, while the last exercise took place eight years ago.
- The teams are predominantly led by academics from the university subsector, who have proved over time to possess minimal understanding of the prevailing laws and practices in Nigerian Polytechnics.
- We are apprehensive that this will impede wholesome yield from the exercise. We believe that the sector has grown significant capacity in human resource over the years to populace such panels as their deep understanding of the sector will certainly be useful in the exercise. In effect, His Excellency, we demand that past and serving polytechnic career officers be integrated in the various visitation panels.
- The absence of Governing Councils in the Federal Polytechnics since May 2020 will derail significantly the objectives of the visitation panels in the Polytechnics as the teams are equally expected to examine the roles of the governing councils in the administration of the Polytechnics. Our Union has been drawing the attention of the Federal Government in several correspondences since April 2020 on the need to reconstitute the Governing Councils in line with the Polytechnics ACT (2019 Amendment) to no avail.
- This has adversely affected this smooth running of the institutions as key activities requiring the statutory attention of Governing Councils like appointment of principal officers as well as staff appraisal exercises amongst others have either been stalled or done in breach of the law.
In view of these, Our Union requests:
- The release of the last visitation Panels reports as a good take off point for the new teams and the subsequent banishment of the demons of non-release of reports of Visitation panels and similar enquiries in the sub-sector.
- Indicate the period of coverage for the teams to aid submission of memoranda.
- A reversal of this trend of turning Polytechnics into colonies of sister subsectors in the tertiary education landscape, thereby denying the sector of the benefits of the capacity developed over the years.
- The immediate constitution of governing councils in Nigerian Polytechnics to complete the governance structures in the Polytechnics and the aid their administration in line with the provisions of the ACT.”