By DAYO ADESULU & LAJU ARENYEKA
LAGOS— After 10 unsuccessful meetings with the Federal Government, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, yesterday said government was not ready to end the 8-week-old strike, lamenting that government displayed dishonesty and lack of integrity during negotiations.
At a briefing in Lagos, ASUU’s President, Dr. Isa Faggae, claimed that government had declared it would not implement the agreed injection of funds to revitalise the public universities, but was only making a dubious statement of supporting some universities with N100 billion.
He said: “Government had also declared that it will not pay university academics their earned allowances which accumulated from 2009 to 2013. Rather, it is talking about providing N30 billion to assist various Governing Councils of Federal Universities to defray the arrears of N92 billion owed to all categories of staff in the university system.”
Narrating the union’s experience at the last meeting with the Government held on Monday, Faggae said: ASUU was shocked by the level of deceit, dishonesty, and lack of integrity displayed by the Government. Never in the history of ASUU-Government relations have we, as a union, ever experienced the kind of volte-face exhibited by Government. At one stage in the interaction, the Secretary to the Government Federation ridiculed the agreement, the MoU and the Needs Assessment Report, mocking the Minister of Education to “go and give them N400 billion,” at which members of the government scornfully laughed.”
He argued that the Governor Gabriel Suswam-led Implementation Committee was being used as smokescreen to “deceive ASUU, Nigerian students and their parents, as well as other unsuspecting members of the public on the purportedly released N100 billion for the implementation of the Needs Assessment Report.
First, he said, government plans to divert the regular yearly allocations to universities by Tertiary Education Trust, TETFund, to make at least 70% of the N100 billion. This is unacceptable to ASUU. It is like robbing Peter to pay Paul, since the idea of revitalization took full cognizance of the intervention role TETFund ab-initio.
“Again, contrary to subsisting operational procedures, about 75% of the money meant for revitalizing universities would not be released to them as the Suswam Committee plans to hand over construction of the hostel projects to the Federal Ministry of Education and/or the National Universities Commission, for implementation. This is illegal; neither the ministry nor NUC is backed by laws of Nigerian Public Universities to divert monies meant for the development of these institutions into centrally executed projects.”
Dr. Faggae questioned the committee’s motives for proposing to commit N1.6 million to a bed space, instead of N200, 000 to N400, 000, saying, “We see a continuation of outrageous contract regimes in the plan to centrally coordinate the construction of student hostels as done in the case of the 12 newly established Federal Universities with TETFund resources. The NUC has transmuted itself into a “Tenders’ board” which awarded contracts for the construction of 560 bed spaces hostel for each university at a whooping sum of 1.2 bn. This contract sum translates into N2.143 million per bed space.”