The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has slammed the federal government’s seeming reluctance to fund education in the country but would readily make funds available to evacuate children of the rich from war-torn Ukraine.
The national president of the association, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke stated this while reacting to a statement by the minister of labour, employment and productivity, Dr Chris Ngige that the federal government has no funds to meet its obligations in the agreement it signed with ASUU.
Recall that the federal government had, last week, approved $8.5 million (about N3.5 billion) to evacuate Nigerians, mostly students from Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of that country.
Osodeke who maintained that ‘on 2009 agreement we stand’ advised the government to either fund universities or shut them down.
“The Nigerian type of politician does not take education seriously. Can they tell this country how much they spent on COVID-19? I can assure you the crisis in education is 10 times what COVID-19 is because what shapes a nation is education.
“If it collapses, you have nothing. They were building railways here and there; they were bailing out DisCos (electricity distribution companies) which they sold to private people, but they are still buying meters for them to sell to Nigerian people. But when it has to do with education that will shape this country, they will say they don’t have money.
“They are increasing their tour allowances. You know they move round all over the world. You saw the wife of the president celebrating birthday in Dubai and all governors’ wives were there with their aides.
They have hundreds of millions of naira for their children’s education) in the UK; they have money, government money. But to fund education, they don’t have money.
“We have told them they either close down the universities and prepare for youths or let’s for once solve this problem and move ahead so that we start having foreign students who will pay in dollars as school fees, foreign lecturers will come here to teach; so that we don’t pay this huge amount we are using to move Nigerian students from Ukraine to Nigeria. They had money to go and move the children of the rich from Ukraine. They spent over $8 million, but to fund Nigerian universities, they don’t have money. It is not true, they have money they are just playing games.
“The children of the poor will suffer in Nigerian universities while their children will have good education outside the country. When they are through, they come back here and take the juicy jobs here, and keep lording it over the children of the poor.
“It’s a class issue. For us, the option is for them; they shut down all the universities and let all the children go and learn mechanics or they fund the universities,” he said.
On the minister’s statement that the government was calling for renegotiation of the 2009 agreement it signed with ASUU, Osodeke said: “We are not signing any agreement or MoU with them. They should implement what they agreed upon 13 years ago. At that time, the exchange rate was one dollar to less than N100.00, but now, the exchange rate is one dollar to more than N500.00. Even the value of that money before we agreed in 2019 had already been eroded.
“We have finished renegotiation, but if they have gone back to their principals that there is an area we should look at, we will look at it, we are ready.
“We have finished renegotiation. All the things we asked for were scientifically calculated. On what basis do they want to reduce them? ”
The ASUU president said the government was not taking any meaningful step to meet the demands of the university teachers and end the three-week-old strike.
Some of the issues include funding for revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances, university transparency accountability solution, promotion arrears, renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement, and the inconsistencies in integrated payroll and personnel information system payment.
“Nothing concrete has been done. My members are saying we don’t want stories, promises. By now they should have told us the issue of UTAS has been approved. That shouldn’t take them more than two days
“Nothing has changed, they can do all those things within one week. If we take it that there is a crisis in education, they can do it,” he added.