As the economic situation continues to bite hard in Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Chairman for the University of Lagos, Mr Adelaja Odukoya believes that “the whole idea of recession is not to say that there is no money in the country, it is about setting our priorities right”.
While on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, he said this in response to the popular opinion that the economic recession has however threatened any promise of funds made by the government.
This follows the recent threats by the Union to commence another strike action on Wednesday, if the federal government fails to deliver on its 2009 Agreement and 2013 MoU.
The Universities have claimed that the government is owing over 800 billion, funds which the ASUU chairman says were meant to upgrade the university system, in attempts to make them globally competitive.
Explaining that the problem has persisted over a long period of time, he said “we have passed this road before, in 2013, we were on a prolonged six month strike, and the issue at stake then was the need to properly fund the university system.
“There was a 13-hour meeting with the then President, Good Luck Jonathan, and although a lot of promises were made, nothing much was being done,” he said.
Mr Odukoya stated that apart from the 800 billion Naira, there are allowances for academics that are yet to be paid from as far back as 2013.
According to him the monies had accumulated
He explained that after ASUU’s agitation that universities are in a state of decay, the Needs Assessment Committee was set up by the federal government, in 2012 that went around public universities in the country.
“They came to a conclusion that about 1.3 trillion was needed to revitalize the Nigerian Universities
“After the strike, some parts of this fund was released and there was also an agreement that every year, within the next three to four years, 200 billion Naira would be released.
He then explained that the monies accumulated over the years, now sums up to the 800 billion Naira.
Furthermore, Odukoya stressed that despite ASUU’s payment of about 660 million Naira as the cost of registration for NUPENCO, the body responsible for universities pension, “members are retiring without any pension to go with”.
The state government was not left out, as he accused them of not rising to the responsibilities expected of it, while still partaking of Federal Government benefits for the tertiary institutions.
“They want to implement what favours them. Rather than even funding existing universities, state governments have turned the establishment of Universities into constituency projects.
Citing examples in Edo, Ogun and Osun states, he emphasised that the state had refused to fund their Universities, which has led to various crisis.
“State governments are not releasing funds as a matter of fact, the template is that they want student fees which are internally generated revenue, to be the only bases of funding these universities.”
This according to him is putting so much burden on students as a result of the “commercialization of education in this country”.
Contrary to reports that the government has asked ASUU to exercise some patience and to suspend the strike as it is ready for dialogue, Mr Odukoya says the union is yet to get any formal word from the government or the key ministries involved.