As the strike action embarked on by Academic Staff Union of Universities persists, Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike has expressed optimism that the contending issues would be resolved amicably.
This is as an attempt by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia State to go into town to protest their grievances against the federal government was Thursday thwarted by the police, who confined them inside the campus.
Also, a royal father, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adeyemo Adejugbe, Aladesanmi III yesterday lent his voice to the numerous appeals to end the strike and urged the striking lecturers to shift ground and return to negation table with federal government.
Wike equally noted with pains, the effect of the strike action was having on both students of higher institutions, as well as their parents, adding that President Goodluck Jonathan has been doing everything possible to bring sanity to the sector.
The minister dropped the hint in an exclusive interview in Abuja.
Debunking the claims that Jonathan administration had been having image crisis, he said, ‘’the government does not have any image crisis talk less of worsening any image crisis. Jonathan administration does not have image crisis but one would say that it is quite unfortunate that the ASUU strike has been prolonged this far but the truth of the matter is that it is clear that whatever ASUU is agitating for today I would not say that it is selfish but also that it is not an agreement that was reached with this government, mind you ASUU claimed this agreement was reached since 2009 when the former President late Musa Yar’ Adua was in office but of course government is all about continuity.”
‘’So when this government took over, first of all you should give credit to Mr. President that this is the first time a president in Nigeria will say go and assess the level of fraud, the level of decay in the tertiary institutions in the country. If the President has no good intention he wouldn’t have said we should go and do this. He directed the minister of education and the National University Commission to go and do the assessment. This assessment was done and the report was presented at the Federal Executive Council meeting, everybody that was in the Federal Executive Council meeting were touched with the level of decay and Mr. President said this assessment we did is for only federal universities but what about the state universities.’’
‘’Since governors are not members of the Federal Executive Council but they are members of the National Economic Council which is presided over by the President and there is also the need to present this report to the National Economic Council.
He directed the minister of education, NUC to present the report before the state minister for education and state governors and everybody were disturbed with the level of decay in the tertiary education sector. That now made us set up a technical committee which was headed by governor of Anambra State.
‘’ So what ASUU is talking about is that we had an agreement with the government that every year government is suppose to release N400billion as infrastructure development, I am not disputing that fact, however the point we are making counters every issue, for government to release 400billion.
and not only that, the 400billion did not concern or affect the regular intervention by Tertiary Education Fund or the regular budgetary allocation. They said that aside from the money from the fund and the budgetary allocation the 400billion will be for the universities.
‘’So, government said this 400billion in three years will be 1.2trillion to revitalise our public institutions or our universities. This thing they are talking about federal government cannot afford it, it is not practicable and it is not done in the sense that government revenue does not come like that it trickles in; you don’t just expect the government to carry 400billion and keep somewhere that with 100billion yearly and the regular intervention of TERFUND which is not less than 100billion to the universities. So assuming that they collected 100billion from TERFUND and another 100billion from government intervention making 200billion to develop the universities but the question we ask is that does this institution have the capacity? Look at TERFUND money, we are still having issues with it. There is no image crisis this government is having and it is not that the federal government is happy about the ASUU strike and we are still committed to solve the problem at hand.’’
While saying the government will resolve the problem it is having with ASUU, the minister also disclosed that the government was passionate about education and as such not happy with what was going on.
‘’Parents are not happy even our children are tired of sitting down at home; to say the fact government is doing everything it can to resolve this issue. I respect ASUU agitation, I respect them but we are still talking to ensure we have a lasting solution to the problem at hand. We have had series of meetings but I believe that very soon we are going to resolve this issue’’ Wike said.
Pleading with ASUU to call off the strike, the minister also said the federal government was always committed to ensure that all her institutions were well cared for. He added that ‘’sometimes when you say some certain things it may compound the existing problem or crisis so to speak but I think that we must also understand that no government has all the resources to solve all the problems at the same time. In as much as education is key to the transformation agenda of Mr. President but it can be very difficult for him to say that he will not attend to other pressing issues in the country. We do know education is key but we cannot just ignore some pressing issues that equally needed attention in the country.’’
The MOU university teachers, all clad in black attires had gathered inside the university chanting solidarity songs with placards expressing their frustrations and marching towards the gate of the university with the aim of going into the town.
But on reaching the gate there was no road. The huge iron gates were all locked with a detachment of armed policemen stationed on the other side to make sure the protesting dons were kept inside the campus. All the howling and solidarity songs could not swing the gates open.
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