*Govt approves seven private varsities
By Daniel Idonor & Chris Ochayi
ABUJA â€” THE Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, yesterday signed the re-negotiated 2006 agreement, ending the protracted strike, which has crippled academic activities in the nationâ€™s universities in the last four months.
Meantime, the Federal Government, yesterday, gave provisional licences for the operation of seven private universities in the country.
Leader of the Federal Governmentâ€™s negotiation team, Mr. Gamaliel Onosode, signed the agreement on behalf of government, President, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie, signed on behalf of members of the union and Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors, Dr. Wale Babalakin, signed on behalf of the Pro-Chancellors.
Those who witnessed the signing of the agreement include two former ASUU Presidents, Doctors Dipo Fasina, and Abdullahi Sule-Kano; Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu, Minister of State for Education, Hajia Aisha Dukku; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Professor Dapo Afolabi, Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, NUC, Prof. Julius Okojie and Executive Secretary, Education Trust Fund, ETF, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
ASUU President, Prof. Awuzie however warned the Federal Government not to attempt to break the ranks of the union, insisting that the government must ensure that the contents of the agreement are implemented to the letter.
On his part, Chairman of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors, Dr. Babalakin appealed to government to jettison the no-work-no-pay policy and ensure that all arrears owed the lecturers are settled immediately.
Speaking with journalists shortly after the meeting, ASUU President, Prof. Awuzie said the resolve to sign the agreement was a sign of patriotism on the part of the union.
According to him, we signed the agreement because we are all patriots. We want the best for this country. So, all of us had to make compromises here and at the end we have an agreement which have now been signed.
â€œWe have made commitments in writing. We hope every party to this agreement will keep their own part. When this is done, there will be harmony and we will go. I donâ€™t even want to answer the question on strike because no academic wants the university to go on strike but we can not sit and watch the system decayâ€.
He said, â€œwhat I discovered is that those who ask questions about strike are those who have their children in school, I have mine in school too and they are at home.
â€œBut we have a duty to this nation and to posterity to give them education that is competitive in Nigeria and in the world.
â€œThe in-thing is that we have signed the agreement. We have left war stage, the stage of community bargaining; we have finished with that. We are also going to foresee the next stage which is the implementation of the agreement.
â€œSigning agreement is one thing, implementing it is another. So we are going to wait for that stage and we are hoping that all parties will keep their part and we will move education forward.
â€œI am going to go back to my NEC and call a meeting for us to take decision and I will inform the public accordingly. This agreement is the greatest benchmark for every university,â€ he said
On his part, Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu said both parties to the disagreement decided to shift ground to ensure the crisis is resolved.
According to him, â€œI think we have made some concession. We have shifted ground, so that we can move forward. What we did was in the best interest of this country.
â€œThe Federal Government shifted ground as well as ASUU and that was made for the interest of the university system in Nigeria.â€
On his part, Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, who brokered the meeting thanked President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua for his statesmanship in reversing his earlier stance not to sign the agreement saying it was in the best interest of all. For him, what has happened in the last four months has shown that there is no substitute to dialogue.
According to him, â€œMr. President has demonstrated enough statesmanship, while ASUU has demonstrated a high level of patriotism. At the end the day, they mean well, you might not appreciate their style but Nigeria is all that we have.
â€œFor me, the lesson to learn is that at the end of the day, there is no substitute to dialogue. The challenges now is to ensure that this time around, this agreement is implemented to the letter so that next time ASUU and government will not have this crisis of confidence that has led to this prolonged situation. Iâ€™m satisfied with the outcome and let me thank Mr. President for the rare privilege of being part of the resolution process and be of some help in the service of the only country we have,â€ Oshiomhole said.
Govt approves 7 private varsities
This brings to 41, the number of private universities and 103, the total number of universities in the country
The newly approved universities, according to government, will reduce the unhealthy competition over admissions whereby a high percentage of eligible applicants are denied university admissions every year.
The decision was made during the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua, yesterday.
Minister of Information, Prof. Dora Akunyili and Minister of State for Education, Hajiya Aisha Dukku who jointly addressed State House Correspondents said the number of universities presently in operation in the country were inadequate to cater for the academic needs of the nation and that the new universities which have met all National University Commission, NUC, requirements are to commence academic activities immediately.
The new universities are: Wellspring university, Evbuobanosa in Edo State; Rhema University, Obeama-Asa, Rivers State (South-South); Paul University Awka, Anambra State; Godfrey Okoye University, Ugwuomu-Nike, Enugu State (South-East); Oduduwa University, Ipetumodu, Osun State; Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State (South-West) and the Nigerian-Turkish Nile University, Abuja, FCT (North Central).
â€œConsidering our rising population and this administrationâ€™s desire to improve skills and enhance standard as one of the 7-point agenda, Council therefore considered and approved the issuance of provisional licences for the establishment of the seven private universitiesâ€, Prof Akunyili said.
On why the private universities are concentrated on one side of the geopolitical divide, the minister said, â€œThat is not the idea of government as what is paramount is the ownership and who is interested in providing such a tertiary service. Government cannot decide for whoever and the number of those who wish to contribute. As individuals, they can be in one place, but as long as they meet the requisite conditions of the NUC, they can operate.â€
Dukku added that this year alone, over 1 million candidates applied for admission through JAMB, but only 220,000 could be accommodated.
Other decisions taken by FEC include the award of engineering contract for the design, manufacturing, supply and installation and commission of 360 MVA 132 transformers at Hadejia, Katsina and Kontagora at the sum of 5.81 million euros payable at the prevailing exchange rate of N500.38 million, and another contract for the rehabilitation of the Sapele power station for $526.66 million and N84.35 million.
FEC also adopted a memo by President Yarâ€™Adua for the Federal Government service delivery initiative under SERVICOM, and the contract for complete overhaul of water de-mineralisation plant and rehabilitation of the water treatment plant at Egbin Electric Power Plc.