Snakes and other reptiles now find the Federal Polytechnic, Ekowe, Bayelsa State as a safe habitation, largely owing to the unbelievable bushy environment, prompting the students and lecturers who now cohabit with the snakes to protest.
Apart from the unsafe school environment, academic and non-academic staff of the polytechnic have been protesting the refusal of the school management to address their welfare needs.
These have been given as reasons for the strike embarked upon by the workers, beginning from Monday, July 10. On the same day, students of the polytechnic went into the streets with placards in protest, as a way of drawing the management’s attention to the concerns raised by the workers and also calling for a halt to every form of activities in the school until the strike is called off.
But the provost, Dr. Adegoke Agbabiaka does not appear to be bothered by whatever is happening in the school, neither is he concerned about the hue and cry of the workers. The workers believe that he is telling them to do their worst.
Last week, the workers sent a notice to him on their resolve to resume their strike, since the management was not doing anything about their demands. They informed him that if he still did not do anything about their demands, the strike would resume on July 10.
In the communiqué they released after the meeting, they said: “arising from the deliberations of the congress, the review of the suspended strike action that was embarked upon on the 6th of August, 2022 but suspended on the 31st of August, 2022, and the subsequent reminders (6th December, 2022, and 10th March, 2023; find Attached), the following observations were made by the congress as unresolved issues;
“1. Promotion implementation and Arrears for; i. 2018 promotion arrears ii. 2019 promotion arrears iii. 2020 promotion implementation and its arrears iv. 2021 promotion implementation and its arrears v. 2022 promotion implementation and its arrears till date. 2. 2023 Implementation of annual step increment and its arrears from January, 2023 to date. 3. The agreed 2% academic allowance 4. Imprest 5. Infrastructural decay in the campus (classrooms, desks, and teaching aids) 6. Running the institution from the liaison office after one decade of establishment 7. Poor security in the campus 8. Unkempt working environment 9. Poor power supply that cripple academic activities In the light of the above observations, congress resolved that effective on Monday 10th of July, 2023, the union shall embark on an indefinite strike.”
TNN learnt that upon receipt of the communiqué and strike notice, the rector merely reacted thus: “Chairman, ASUP! Kindly carry on with your threat and management will do needful, thanks. Rector.”
One of the workers who spoke with TNN on grounds of anonymity said the rector has been non challant, largely because he operates from the liaison office of the polytechnic and only visits the school campus once in a while, without even entering his office.
“The school is bushy with dangerous snakes, electricity only four hours a day. He has refused to resume work at the main campus which is in the coastal area; he spends his time at the liaison office with his staff(in Yenagoa) while lecturers and other staff risk their lives weekly on the river to go to work.
“Just look at the school environment where human beings are made to work. The rector doesn’t come to work at the main campus, he abandons the campus for us to live and work as animals. Almost on a weekly basis, students either encounter or kill snakes. He has never sat in his office in the main campus, he only comes to inspect his projects and would leave within two hours.
“Why would a rector who is paid heavily by the government abandon his main place of duty to be holding management meetings and academic board meetings at the liaison office in Yenagoa?”
“He only comes to supervise his projects once in a month and sometimes will not show up for months. He has never entered or sat in his office in the main campus since he was appointed.”
Chairman of ASUP in the school, Franklin Agada who spoke with TNN over the telephone said the school management was yet to address their concerns, despite frequent communication to the rector. He said the world would soon hear from them on their next line of action.
On Sunday, TNN called the rector for his reaction based on the various allegations against him. When he picked, he shouted at the reporter and rebuked him for calling him on a Sunday, before dropping the call rather rudely.
Later in the day, TNN also sent him whatsapp messages, still urging him to respond to the allegations. His response was “Thanks.” He did not respond to any other message sent to him on the issue.
Even when TNN sent a message on the protest by students of the institution on Monday morning, he did not respond.
But TNN learnt that strangely, a traditional ruler in the state, HRM King WSJ Igbugburu has reached out to the workers, calling them for a meeting in Yenagoa.
The notice of meeting said “I am directed by HRM king WSJ Igbugburu to invite you to come for a meeting at the Traditional Rulers Council Secretariat Ovom, Yenagoa, Bayelsa state. Please, this meeting is born out of the recent meeting held with Majesty(SIC) by the union leaders Fed Poly Ekowe, due to the industrial disharmony in the institution. Time:4pm. Date: Monday 10th July, 2023.. Please, Endeavour to attend and inform other union leaders. Thanks.”
One of the staff expressed shock that instead of the rector to initiate a meeting with the workers to resolve the issues, it was a traditional ruler who was not part of the school, that was calling them for a meeting. He described the rector as a man too full of himself, an allegation the rector did not deny or confirm.
Also on Monday, angry students locked out the visiting rector from the school after he refused to address them as expected. The rector was in the school with some officials of TETFUND to inspect projects sponsored by the Fund.
He got to the school after the students had suspended their protest. When the students heard that he had arrived the school, they re-assembled and barricaded the main gate, forcing him to use a small gate at the back of the school to walk out with the TETFUND officials, while the students sang protest songs and followed him.