By Adesina Wahab
THE Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has said if the Federal Government can spend over N1.5 trillion to bail out power generation and distribution companies over a period of time, it should not to so for the education sector.
This was contained in a statement by the Lagos Zone Coordinator, Prof. Olusoji Sowande and made available to our correspondent.
The union noted that it was absurd that the government found it expedient to spend huge sums of money to constantly bail out power generation and distribution firms that had been privatized and could not do so for the education sector.
“If government could bailout private businesses for “Business Good” then Nigerian public Universities deserved to be bailed out for “Public Good”, the union noted.
ASUU also slammed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, for his comment that the government was just collating data and other things needed for negotiating with ASUU on the ongoing strike by the union.
“The Nigerian public should be appalled that government team, having had series of meetings with our union, is just collating pertinent data required to engage our union. Consequently, government has deliberately been wasting the time and resources of our union on meetings and engagements it was not prepared for. It is therefore not surprising that Dr. Chris Ngige led government team has not been able to return to negotiating table since the last engagement with our Union on November 4, 2020.
“Furthermore, parents, students and the general public should not be persuaded by Dr. Chris Ngige’s public statement that government cannot afford to pay the conservative N110 billion naira for revitalization of the Nigerian public universities. Only recently, government approved N5 billion bailout fund to operators in the aviation sector to ameliorate the harsh realities of COVID-19 on their business operations.
“The Needs Assessment Report of 2012 (an assessment funded by government itself) provided glowing evidences of the need to save the public universities from imminent collapse. In fact the document stipulated that N1.3 trillion injected over five years would save the public universities from collapsing. Government’s failure to faithfully release the revitalization fund over the years is a deliberate attempt to allow the public universities to collapse.
“In the interest of our students who have been at home for seven months, our union has shifted ground from the in insistence of a release of one tranche of N220 billion revitalization fund to demand for 50% of one tranche (N110 billion) for government to show its commitment to revitalization of our universities. This is a major reason government has not been able to return to negotiation with our union in the last two weeks.
“Parents and Nigerian students should note that our current struggle is patriotic and our sacrifice for the survival of Nigerian public universities is unparalleled. We have gone without salaries for 5 to 7 months, we have had to work under very harsh environment, without adequate facilities/equipment and with ever increasing student population. Our students who have never enjoyed learning in very comfortable environment are beginning to accept the dilapidated and crowded lecture theaters as well as hostel accommodation as the best they could enjoy.
“Therefore, parents, students and the general public should join us in the battle for the soul of the Nigerian public Universities as failure to do so would spell doom for the coming generation. For the records, the issues in contention goes beyond our rejection of Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) for which our union have developed an alternative called University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS). Members of ASUU are on total, comprehensive and indefinite strike action because of failure of government to fully implement the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement and February 2019 Memorandum of Action which stipulated timeline for the revitalization of dilapidated infrastructure in public universities, payment of outstanding Earned Academic Allowances, conclusion of renegotiation of 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement, setting up of Visitation Panels to Federal Universities as well as underfunding and proliferation of state universities,” the union said.
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