The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said that the Federal Government is not sincere about resolving the issues that led to its almost six-month strike.
ASUU described as “unfortunate,” government’s belief that it could placate its members into calling off the strike with salary increment instead of holistically addressing the issues affecting university education in the country.
The union, however, disclosed that its leadership would meet again today with the government in Abuja.
Today is the 19th day after President Muhammadu Buhari gave Education Minister Adamu Adamu two weeks to reach a truce with ASUU and other university-based unions on their respective strikes.
ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, who featured on Channels Television’s Politics Today yesterday, accused the government of paying lip service to university education.
Osodeke, lamented the prolonged strike, saying that ASUU members were ready to return to the classrooms once their demands are met.
He said: “The government is not sincere in its dealing with us. This has been the issue all along.
What we are doing is the sacrifice we have to save this country and its youths. A collapsed university system is a collapsed country and we are almost there. We will not be tired, we will ensure that our university system works.
“We have not heard any serious communication from the government though they have invited us for renegotiation of the 2009 agreement tomorrow (today).
The issues have to do with funding, structure, autonomy, and how to raise funds for the university system in Nigeria. But the government has reduced the issue to just salary alone.
“If the government has looked at the issues comprehensively, we will not be talking about funding. This government wants to blackmail us with salaries.
“Every university in the world is an autonomous body. You don’t subject the university to public service. This is why we are where we are today.
“The renegotiation started in 2017 when Mr. Wale Babalakin was appointed to chair the talks. We spent more than two years on that.
That committee eventually collapsed when Babalakin was removed as the Chancellor of the University of Lagos. Another person was appointed.
“Each time a new committee is set up, the first question we ask them is whether they have the mandate to renegotiate the whole agreement with us and they usually answer in the affirmative.
“Imagine since May 2021, we concluded renegotiation and they said they would get back to us. Since then, they didn’t back to us since we started this strike.”
Osodeke also described as “sad,” the claim by Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamu, that the government does not have the money to meet ASUU’s demands.
His words: “It is sad for the Federal Government to say it does not have money to meet our demand. If anybody has a will, he or she can get what he wants.
“If the government has the will and believes that education is important, it will raise any amount to fix it.
“This is a government that has given N100 billion for Trader Moni, raised about N200 billion to feed school children? Each of these is more than what we are asking for as revitalisation fund.”
On how to solve the problem, ASUU’s president said: “We have always been asking the government to give enough budgetary allocation to the education.
“All over Africa, Nigeria has the lowest of about 5.3 percent when countries like Ghana and South Africa give about 16 percent of its budget.
“If the government signs to the agreements of the previous discussions, the strike would be called off.”