By Nwandugbom JOK
Nwandugbom JOK invites you to dispassionately review these facts and make comments without wearing your 2023 hat:
I ordinarily would have restrained myself from commenting on issues around the purported de-accreditation of Abia State Polytechnic (Abiapoly), Aba, but many of you have taken it upon yourselves to tag me to related posts even when you know it is not my brief to respond on behalf of the government or institution.
Having read the official government response on the issue, I think I can safely share information available to me so we can alll be part of the efforts to swiftly resolve the issues in favor of students, staff and other stakeholders.
These are some basic facts that everyone seeking to contribute to this discussion must have:
- According to the extant law setting up the institution, Abiapoly can generate revenue through school fees paid by the students and other enterprises without giving “shishi” to Abia State Government. Simply put, whatever they make as revenue they usually spend on their operations including payment of workers salary and other operational expenditures without remitting to state coffers. It therefore follows that since May 29th 2015 when Governor Okezie Ikpeazu was inaugurated Abiapoly has not remitted “shishi” to Abia State Government and they are not obligated by law to do so.
- As at 2015, the institution had a student population of around 20,000, hence, would have been internally generating a minimum of 20,000 x N53,000 or N1.10bn every year. As at that time the wage bill was around N180m per month or N2.16b per annum.
- With current student population of about 9,000 the receivable from school fees drops to about N500m per annum. Note that the decline in student population was caused by, among other things, instability of academic calendar occasioned by frequent industrial actions.
- With its current monthly wage bill at about N109m the school will need at least N1.3b annually to pay salaries alone.
- Statutorily, Abia state Government is expected to support the operations of the school with N90m monthly subventions which amounts to about N1.1b per annum. That money can be paid monthly or in lump sums depending on availability of resources.
- It therefore follows that in 78 months Abia State Government led by Dr Okezie Ikoeazu is expected to inject a minimum of N7.02b into the school.
- According to available data, in 78 months of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration, Abia State Government has actually paid N7.1bn to the institution. That is about N92m per month as against the expected N90m.
- While nobody is disputing that the government has actually paid N7.1bn to Abiapoly the argument on whether the money is for monthly subvention or not is of no moment. The fact is that the Government has “overfunded” the institution.
- Assuming part of the money was used by Abiapoly to defray loans or other obligations, it does not matter because the law does not say that the subventions are strictly for salary payment. Just like the law never said you cannot subvent them in buck.
- It is therefore obtuse to imply that the administration failed to fund the institution whereas they are even overfunded under the watch of Governor Ikpeazu.
- Interestingly, the school is also making money from school fees and other sources with none of those going into the state’s purse
- Abia State Government does not pay workers of Abiapoly. It is the school, which by law is autonomous, that hires and payroll workers then pay them. How then can someone say that NBTE action was taken because the government failed to pay the workers?
- Even the subventions the government is expected to give by law is not necessarily for salary payments. They can apply the fund to other needs if they so choose. The question is, did government pay her own obligation over the period under review?
- By law, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) is expected to accredit programs in the school. I am not personally aware that the law empowers them to litigate employee-employer labour relationships but that is for lawyers to speak to. Interestingly, we have never read that NBTE closed or withdrew the accreditation of any school in general but we know they have the powers to withdraw accreditation for specific programs (courses). Why has NBTE not withdrawn accreditation of schools that have not been able to operate?
According to information available within the public domain,
“The National Board for Technical Education, otherwise known as NBTE, is a board of education which supervises, regulates and oversees educational programmes offered by technical institutions at secondary, polytechnic and monotechnic levels through an accreditation process.”
- Those saying that Engineering faculty of Abiapoly has lost accreditation need to also know that if that faculty was actually accredited this year there is no how they can lose that because the review can only happen after 5 years.
- Within the past 7 years, at least 3 management and council leadership changes have been made at Abiapoly in a bid to reposition the school and bring in fresh management ideas. Obviously, the suggestion that the government did nothing to bring in “good” managers cannot hold water unless we now consider Professors as “bad” heads..
- While these facts must be placed within the public domain for obvious reasons, the most important thing is that the state government has moved swiftly to restore the accreditation and help the school sort out issues with her workers. Hopefully, the expected resolution will happen quickly to the benefit of stakeholders including students and workers. If this effort is frustrated by political actors then everyone will lose.
- The key to sustainable stability and growth in Abiapoly lies with all hands being on deck to end frequent industrial actions, grow the students population which in turn will grow internally generated revenue. Prolonged shut down will make students leave and if the accreditation finally returns we will still return to square one.