By Mike Ebonugwo
The Federal Government negotiating team has appealed to the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to return to the negotiating table, while denying that it has proposed the imposition of N350,000 and N500,000 as tuition fees to be paid per annum by undergraduates.
Speaking with newsmen in Lagos, weekend, Chairman of the team, Dr. Wale Babalakin, dismissed the figures as not only incorrect and contradictory, but also a figment of the imagination of ASUU officials peddling them around the country.
He said: “We do not know from where ASUU got the figures that it has been peddling around the country. Aside from the fact that our committee has no power to impose fees on students, we are at a loss regarding the source of the said figures.”
Babalakin disclosed that while the committee regarded dialogue with ASUU as the most effective way of resolving contentious issues bordering on the industrial dispute, it currently had little choice but to respond to “allegations” and “the inaccurate narratives” that had been consistently provided by ASUU’s President and some zonal heads in a bid to misinform and mislead members of the public on the true situation regarding university education in Nigeria.
He also accused ASUU officials of inundating the public with suggestions that he, as chairman of the Federal Government Renegotiating Committee, was pursuing a personal agenda.
Babalakin said: “All I have expressed are the collective views of the Federal Government Negotiating Team.
“Going by the figures provided by ASUU, Nigeria requires over N2 trillion per annum to fund university education.
“This figure exceeds the total amount available for all capital projects in Nigeria, including health, infrastructure, security and others.
“No doubt, if the money were available for university education as ASUU has insisted it is, the government will have no difficulty in spending it on university education.
“However, as it is, government cannot ignore all other areas of expendi-ture that require funding.”