With the strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) nearing almost 200 days, it has reiterated that it will call off its strike action once its demands are met by the Federal Government today.
The Federal Government is expected to meet with the Union today alongside various bodies as part of the last-ditch effort to end the five-month old strike embarked upon by ASUU.
Speaking during a live programme monitored by Daily Sun yesterday, the President, ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, said, Nigeria is almost treading towards a country with collapsed universities and stated that the Union is not tired in its effort to restore sanity in the country’s education sector.
He noted that the Union have not had any serious communication with the FG and added that ASUU is seeking for the re-negotiation of the 2009 agreement which has to do with funding, structure, autonomy and other issues relating to how funds can be raised to fund Universities in Nigeria.
Osodeke said: “The FG has relegated this to salary alone but if they had looked at the whole content of the agreement and implemented it, they would not be talking about funding, that is why the issue of TETFUND arose in 1992.
“This set (administration) does not bother but blackmail us with funding salaries. If they look at the agreement, it encompasses funding and the issue of autonomy because every university in the world is an autonomous body. If we go to a meeting today and the government meets our demand, then we will call off the strike. The economy is down today because we do not want to do the needful because the educational system is broken.
“This is a government who has given huge sums into TraderMoni but what we are asking for is nothing compared to the sum they have put into Trader Moni. This is a government who released N200 billion to feed school children and that is more than what we are asking for as regards revitalisation fund. So I do not think the government is sincere when it says it has no money. We have constantly asked that they give appropriate budget allocation to the education sector.
In Ghana, they give not less than 16 per cent and in South Africa, it is 60 per cent but in the continent, Nigeria is the lowest with 5.3 per cent and we are saying priority must be given to education, they will say they do not have money but it is not about the quantum of demand we are seeking for, they are just not sincere”.
He accused the government of being deliberate in their actions to prolong the strike and added that lecturers now have to cover the backlog of work that ought to have been done.
When quizzed on the ripple effects the union’s demands might have on other sectors of the economy, he said, “Check all over the world, the only job competitive worldwide is lecturing, academics. How much is being given to staff in establishments in NNPC, CBN or NEPZA? When they were increasing their salaries, did they ever think that other MDAs would come and look at increments? Nigerian academics are leaving the country, doctors are leaving and these are special areas. Do they want to crash these major systems?
The ASUU President further took a swipe on the operations of private universities and accused them of contributing to the decadence of the education sector.
“Before these private universities came on board, JAMB never gave a cut-off point of less than 100. Today they are taking 120 because the private institutions have bastardised the system and are admitting people who fail Jamb. These same people who fail JAMB are the ones coming out with first class honours from these private institutions, it is now a matter of “cash and carry”. What we are having now is a situation of “the children of the rich will only go to school and the children of the poor won’t go”.
When asked to give a response to the Minister of State for Labour and Employment,
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