Except something urgent is done, Nigerian universities may be thrown into another round of strike action, as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Thursday demanded the payment of N1.1 trillion from the Federal Government.
The fund was earmarked for the funding of public universities in the country for the last six years.
ASUU, at a press briefing addressed by its coordinator for Bauchi Zone, Prof. Lawan Abubakar in Jos, the Plateau State capital on Thursday, said it has commenced the mobilization of members across the country for a strike action that will begin soon.
The zonal coordinator also faulted the claim by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, that the Federal Government had approved the release of N20 billion to the union.
According to him, ASUU did not collect grant from the government, thus, the money was for the universities.
The Bauchi zone of ASUU comprises Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi; Bauchi State University; Federal University, Kashere; Gombe State University; University of Jos; and Plateau State University, Bokkos.
“What will N20 billion do for the 64 public universities in this country? What we want now is the N1.1 trillion. That is the amount that the government should release; not the N20bn,” Abubakar said.
Documents released by ASUU shows that the Federal Government was to provide funds for the revitalisation of the university system between 2013 and 2018. Under the arrangement, the universities were to get N200 billion funding in 2013, while N220bn was earmarked for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
The documents also showed that a dedicated revitalisation account was to be opened at the Central Bank of Nigeria by the Federal Government, and funds paid on a quarterly basis from which the universities would draw.
“I cannot be definite on the date for the commencement of the strike action. We are still mobilising. We will submit a report on this mobilisation from the various zones and the national leadership will invite the National Executive Council that will now take that decision.
“The N20bn claim by the Minister of Finance was one of the conditions we gave and agreed upon with government in 2017 to suspend the strike then. And the government promised that it was going to release the N20bn in two weeks. That was in 2017, and here we are in September 2018. When the government sensed that we were mobilising our members to take action on those issues, including the N20bn, which was just a palliative, it decided to be political.”
Professor Abubakar also claimed that his zone of ASUU was not comfortable with Wale Babalakin (SAN) as the leader of the government’s renegotiation team, alleging that Babalakin had been antagonistic of the process by being absent from meetings, among other things.
He added: “The kind of individual we want to head the government team must be a stakeholder in the Nigerian public university system and must be committed to solving the problems that we have in the university. With that and with a change in the personality that has such interest, we will simply come back to the table and continue with the renegotiation.”
Also, the coordinator of Port Harcourt Zone of the union, Uzo Onyebinama, Thursday, described the proposed education bank and tuition scheme by the Federal Government as a ploy to commercialise public university education and serve as an incentive for private universities in the country.
Onyebinama stated this while speaking with journalists at the University of Port Harcourt, insisting that if approved, on Thursday, the scheme would deny poor people access to higher education.
According to him, the introduction of the scheme into the renegotiation process was an attempt to blackmail ASUU before students.
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