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OKOPOLY STUDENTS PROTEST PROLONGED STRIKE, SEEK REMOVAL OF COUNCIL CHAIRMAN

Thousands of students of the Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State on Tuesday took to the streets to protest the prolonged strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) of the institution. The local chapter of ASUP has been on strike for the past one month, paralyzing academic activities in the institution.

Aggrieved students poured out from their hostels, blocked the entrance to the polytechnic, and chanted protest songs, demanding an immediate resumption of normal academic activities in the institution. The students defied the early morning rain, as they displayed placards with inscriptions like: “Call off the Strike now,” “The Strike is Sponsored by Kawu Boys”, “Remove Kawu now or Blood will Flow”, “One Week Warning Strike now One Month Old”, among others.

The spokesman of the protesting students, Azoba Ekene Solomon of Mass Communication Department, lamented that the strike came shortly after the COVID-19 lockdown, thereby further interrupting the academic calendar which had suffered because of the Coronavirus pandemic. He said it has been a frustrating experience for students of the polytechnic and demanded an end to the industrial action.

A cross section of the students called on the Federal Government to as matter of urgency remove the Council Chairman of the institution Kale Kawu, noting that his leadership style has destroyed the peace of the institution.

The students wondered why Kawu was reappointed to the Council as Chairman after the former Council where he played a controversial role as a member was dissolved in 2019.

The Rector of the Polytechnic, Dr Francisca Nwafulugo, who was caught off guard by the protest, appealed to the students to remain calm, noting that issues of contention between ASUP and the Management were gradually being resolved. She said the Polytechnic Management has resolved all pending issues, except arrears of allowances for excess workload, which has been a national issue, not peculiar to the institution alone. She assured the students that the Committee of Federal Rectors (COFER) has taken up the issue with the Federal Government and promised the riotous students that the polytechnic Management was working tirelessly to bring ASUP back to the classroom.

Nwafulugo directed that academic activities should commence on Monday next week, 30th August 2021.

The protest came barely few days after the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) demanded the removal of the Council Chairman of the Polytechnic, Mr Kale Kawu. In a letter to the Executive Secretary, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), dated August 9, 2021, signed by the National PRO, Victor Ezenagu, the students decried “the high handedness and abuse of office” by the new Chairman of the Council, who was also a member of the controversial dissolved 2019 Council.

NANS said students of the polytechnic have been subjected to unending suffering, following the friction emanating from the Chairman’s overbearing interference in the daily affairs of the polytechnic, which led to the stagnation of academic activities for the past three month.

“As we write, the Polytechnic Academic Staff Union is on strike and it is prominently alleged that the Chairman of Council, Kawu, instigated the current strike action by the local chapter of ASUP through his foot soldiers”, the group alleged.

NANS alleged that the achievements recorded in the institution were being eroded by the return of impunity, with some lecturers harassing and extorting money from students for marks. The group further threatened to mobilize 14 million students nationwide to shut down OKOPOLY if the federal government fails to heed the cries of the students by removing the Council Chairman in order to restore sanity in the institution.

Our investigation revealed that efforts to get the embattled Chairman, Kawu to visit the Polytechnic and douse the tension among the striking ASUP members who had been on strike since one month failed. It was reported that the Chairman cited security reasons, and reportedly directed the transportation of ASUP members and Polytechnic Management to Abuja to meet him for discussion.

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