ASUU Strike: Nwajiuba Apologises To Nigerian Students, Says His Children Are Affected

A file photo of the former Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba.

 

The former Minister of State for Education Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba has apologised to Nigerian students over the lingering strike by the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU), saying his children are also affected. 

Nwajiuba, a presidential aspirant under the All Progressives Congress (APC), tendered the apology during his appearance on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.

“I do apologise to Nigerian students because as their minister, I will take responsibility.  But also, on behalf of the Federal Government, I would say ‘please understand what the issues are’,” he said during the current affairs show.

“All my four children have passed through Nigerian universities. I still have two who are at home now, because they are all in public universities.”


READ ALSO: [ASUU Strike] FG Working On A Funding Structure For Public Universities – Nwajiuba

As part of moves to end the incessant industrial action by university lecturers in public schools, he said the Federal Government is working out a funding structure for the varsities.

“I have proposed, and the Minister of Education (Adamu Adamu) will continue discussing this with Mr President, a new scheme in which universities have a different way of earning money to be able to care for themselves,” the APC chieftain explained.

“Because you see, there are only 50 of these federal universities and there are 200 others. However, these 50 alone are more than 75 percent of the number of students in the entire university structure – about 2.2m of them,” Nwajiuba added.

“So, it is important we give them a funding structure; we need to bring a funding structure to the table because this coming hand-in-cap to the Federal Government at all times cannot be continued and is not sustainable.”

According to Nwajiuba, university lecturers should find other means to press home their demands instead of going on strikes.

“In the last 20 years, we have had nearly 16 strikes. So, my position has not been that ‘Please, ASUU is talking rubbish’,” Nwajiuba said. “No, this is not true. ASUU is making a case for the entire university system.

But he said, “the only point of departure is that we have asked ASUU that strikes cannot cure the problem”.

His comment came on the heels of ASUU’s extension of the strike embarked on by the union since February 14. The lecturers are accusing the Federal Government of unwillingness to heed their demands.

ASUU Strike: FG Working On A Funding Structure For Public Universities – Nwajiuba

The Federal Government is working on a funding structure for public universities in the country as part of moves to tackle the incessant strikes by lecturers in these institutions. 

This is according to the former Minister of State for Education Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba who noted that the government’s funding of public universities is unsustainable.

“I have proposed, and the Minister of Education (Adamu Adamu) will continue discussing this with Mr President, a new scheme in which universities have a different way of earning money to be able to care for themselves,” he said on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics.

The presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 election maintained that with the number of public universities in the country, these schools have to get new ways of making money to fund their institutions.

“Because you see, there are only 50 of these federal universities and there are 200 others. However, these 50 alone are more than 75 percent of the number of students in the entire university structure – about 2.2m of them,” he argued.

“So, it is important we give them a funding structure; we need to bring a funding structure to the table because this coming hand-in-cap to the Federal Government at all times cannot be continued and is not sustainable.”

READ ALSO: APC Inaugurates Screening Committees In Abuja

‘Point of Departure’

A file photo of the main gate of UNILAG.

 

Nwajiuba, who last week resigned his position in the cabinet to concentrate on his presidential dream, said “this (a new funding structure) is something I would implement if you give me your mandate to be president.

“I know that even if it is not implemented now, the universities autonomy law needs to be reactivated.”

The former minister’s comment adds to the debates about funding for public universities in the country. Lecturers in these institutions have been on strike since February 14, pushing their demands, which include better funding for universities.

But the APC chieftain believes ASUU should reconsider strike as a means to press home their demands.

“In the last 20 years, we have had nearly 16 strikes. So, my position has not been that ‘Please, ASUU is talking rubbish’,” Nwajiuba said. “No, this is not true. ASUU is making a case for the entire university system.

He, however, said, “the only point of departure is that we have asked ASUU that strikes cannot cure the problem.”

“We need our children back in school. It hurts parents; it hurts us,” the presidential aspirant noted. “My own children are here. I don’t have children in private universities.”

Strike: ASUU Cannot Dictate Payment Platform For Their Salaries – Nwajiuba

 

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba, has said the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) cannot dictate to the Federal Government what platform to be used in paying their salaries.

He stated this in Abuja while addressing journalists shortly after receiving his presidential Nomination Form of the All Progressives Congress (APC) purchased for him by the Project Nigeria Group.

“It is impractical and incongruous to continuously expect that somebody who is paid a salary continues to dictate to someone who pays him: ‘This is how you must pay me’. This is where this anomaly is,” the minister said.

Mr Nwajiuba also appealed to the striking lecturers to return to the classroom as the Federal Government is working to address some of their concerns.

“We have pleaded with ASUU that ‘If there any areas where your salaries fall short, kindly address them within the ambit of IPPIS because that’s what the government has now,'” the presidential hopeful explained.


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‘Go Back To Classes’ 

The Federal Government inaugurated a committee to renegotiate the 2009 ASUU agreement on March 7, 2022.
The Federal Government inaugurated a committee to renegotiate the 2009 ASUU agreement on March 7, 2022.

 

According to him, the strike embarked upon by ASUU was uncalled for, and expressed worry over the impact of the union’s action on the education of Nigerian students.

“Why they have chosen to go on strike over this (IPPIS) is what you and I can explain. There is nothing that ASUU wants that we have not agreed to. We would like them to go back to classes so that students can go back to class,” Nwajiuba added.

“As the nation earns, we pay them. As the nation makes money, they would get money. What we don’t want is for the children to miss the opportunity of their own time because there is a timeframe within which children must grow. The child cannot wait. It is important that ASUU returns to class.”

The minister’s comment adds to the continued debates over the payment systems for lecturers in public universities across the country. While the union says its University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) should be used for payment, the Federal Government maintains that the payment system has not met its technical requirements.

But ASUU, which down tools over two months ago, believes the government is paying lip service to the lecturers’ agitation.

According to the union’s president, Emmanuel Osodeke, the government’s budgeting of N4trn for subsidy payment is an indication that it is not ready to resolve the crisis. 

“You can raise N4 trillion for fuel subsidy in a year, but you cannot raise N200 billion to fund your education because you don’t have money; it is a priority,” he told Channels Television when he featured on Sunrise Daily last week.

“You can spend N228 billion to feed children in primary and secondary schools, but you cannot raise N200 billion to fund your universities; it is an issue of priority, that is the problem.”

ASUU, among others, is fighting for increased funding for public schools as well as the usage of UTAS to pay the lecturers’ salaries.

School Resumption: Bear With Us A Little More, Education Minister Tells Students

File photo: Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba gives an update on the COVID-19 situation in the country on April 21, 2020.

 

The Minister of State for Education, Emeka Nwajiuba wants students to exercise more patience as Nigeria mulls the reopening of schools after months of forced closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nwajiuba who praised the students for their patience since schools were shut down in the country,  gave an assurance that the Federal Ministry of Education is working with stakeholders for the safe reopening of the education centres.

“I urge our students who have actually exercised a lot of patience along with their parents … I urge you to bear with us a little bit more. The rioting needs to stop; there is nothing to riot about,” the minister stated during Monday’s briefing of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.

 

File photo: Students under the aegis of National Association of Nigerian Students during a protest to demand the reopening of Tertiary Institutions by the Nigerian Government amid the coronavirus lockdown in Abuja on Wednesday 19th August 2020. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/ Channels Television

 

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Nwajiuba disclosed that there have been moves to safely reopen schools, noting that the guidelines for such have been given to higher institutions, with a number of them already expressing their commitment to adhere to the protocols.

He expressed confidence that relevant authorities would soon give a nod to the resumption of classes.

“We don’t want to bandy around dates,” he said, “We remain positive.”

According to the Minister, the Federal Government is also in negotiation with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), reiterating that every player in the education sector is engaged on the reopening of schools.

“The PTF profiles for us a national response and everyone can tee off from there,” he added.

Wearing face-masks, final year students of Government Secondary School, Zone 3, Abuja, sit in a classroom as they write their West African Examinations Council exams, following the ease of COVID-19 lockdown order on Monday August 17, 2020. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television.
File photo: Wearing face-masks, final year students of Government Secondary School, Zone 3, Abuja, sit in a classroom as they write their West African Examinations Council exams, following the ease of COVID-19 lockdown order on Monday, August 17, 2020. Photo: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television.

 

As part of measures to contain the spread of the pandemic in the country, the Federal Ministry of Education on March 19, 2020, ordered the immediate closure of tertiary institutions, secondary as well as primary schools nationwide.