The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused government officials of moves to privitise Nigeria’s universities to themselves.
Making the disclosure, the chairperson of ASUU, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, branch Ibrahim Inuwa accused the federal government of losing interest in Nigeria’s universities.
He said that underfunding public universities in the country under the pretext that the government has no money was a deliberate attempt to introduce exorbitant school fees that the ordinary Nigerian cannot afford.
Inuwa said: “It has become conspicuously clear to the Union that Nigerian governments are not interested in the development of Nigerian public universities to global university best practice.
“What is obvious is the deliberate under-funding of the universities through the guise of no money, to subsequently introduce exorbitant school fees beyond the reach of the children of the masses, and ultimately privatize these universities to themselves.
“After suspending the 8-month-old strike due to a court order and interventions of well-meaning Nigerians, the government went so low as to withhold salaries of ASUU members and only paid pro-rata the October salary. The Union rejects the casualization of Nigerian academics.
“The Union assures Nigerians that it will never be a party to destroying the country. The Union will never support the introduction of exorbitant fees beyond the reach of the children of the Nigerian downtrodden; neither will it be a party to privatizing Nigerian public universities.”
He added: “As a law-abiding union, ASUU deployed several diplomatic means to persuade the government to address the contentious issues in the public universities, but all fell on deaf ears. Thereafter, just like on other occasions, the Union was left with no choice but to declare a nationwide strike on the 14th of February 2022 to drive home its demands. For the avoidance of doubt, the issues that necessitated the strike are:
“While the union is struggling day and night to ensure that the government fulfils the agreement it willingly signed with the Union, the governments at State and Federal levels became politically obsessed with the establishment of public universities, even where it is evidently clear that the existing ones are grossly underfunded.
“More so, universities visitation panels, that statutorily afford Visitors of Universities (President/State governors) after every four years the opportunity to probe the management of the university operations in terms of finance, personnel, academic activities, and other matters were not conducted for over fifteen years: it took another ASUU strike in 2020 for the government to set up the visitation panels, but to date the white papers for the visitations are still being awaited.”
He appealed to well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government to, as a matter of urgency and national interest, resolve all outstanding issues with ASUU for the wellbeing of the Nigerian nation so that the country will take its rightful place in the globe, pointing out that “for the avoidance of doubts, we wish to state clearly that we shall continue to defend the University system and the Nigerian State through all legitimate means, we cannot be cowed by tyrants.”
Also speaking, the Bauchi Zonal Coordinator, Prof. Lawan Abubakar, accused the federal government of systematic attempts to destroy public universities in Nigeria by allowing strikes to linger for a long time.
Abubakar, who said that withholding salaries of its members and the pro rata payments are diversions by the government of the main issues, accused the government of provoking the last over seven months strike and allowing it to linger when they could have ended it within a short period of time by implementing agreements reached with the union.
“The Union resolved to go this way so that: we suspended the last strike having seen that it was the government that provoked the last strike in the first place because it was not necessary after the 2020 strike because we have an MOA and there were timelines for the implementation.
“And the government came up with what it came up with after eight months when it could have done the same thing in February 2022. We have seen a systematic attempt to destroy the Nigerian public university system, and we thought that we were the most informed stakeholders, and we said from ourselves that enough of the strike.
“And when government now continued with the provocation to the extent of paying the October pro rata salary, we went at the National Executive Council meeting and really affirmed to Nigerians what we will not join hands with these elements in government who want to create continues problems in the Nigerian public university system so that the private universities van thrive because as it is now, more than 95 percent of Nigerian students are still in public universities.”
The Zonal Coordinator said that: “The private universities are less than 5 percent and are enjoying while the public universities are running out of business, so they need to be protected by these elements in government because most of them have these private universities and most of them have seeming sinister motives to even privatize public universities; that is why some of them are situating federal universities in their villages so that they can quickly own and run them.”