The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), yesterday, accused the Federal Government of misinforming Nigerians about their demands, just as it said that it never had it so bad with past administrations as far as negotiations are concerned.
The ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke disclosed this while reacting to the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo’s claim that it was unrealistic for the Federal Government to borrow money to end the five-month-old strike.
Osodeke in an interview with The Guardian, in Abuja, said that the claim by Keyamo that ASUU was demanding N1.1t naira to end the industrial action is false. He, therefore, urged the Federal Government to stop misinforming Nigerians.
We have never had it this bad in the history of Nigeria, because we never had any situation where we would have an agreement with the government, only for the government team to disappear…We’ve never had it this bad!
He said: “We’re not saying give ASUU this money; we are saying refurbish Nigerian universities in such a way that it can attract students from all over the world. That’s the major thing we are asking for. It’s not about ASUU.
“We’re asking for that money for Nigerian students, and Nigerian parents. The money is for building infrastructure, upgrading libraries, hostels, and lecture theatres so that students will not be having lectures through windows; so that students will not be sitting on the floor during lectures. That’s what we are asking for. Just like you have in other countries, even our neighbours here, Benin Republic and Ghana. That’s what we are asking for.
The ASUU president added: “We are also saying that lecturers must earn competitive salaries so that we can have lecturers from all over the world come to our universities to teach, just like we’re going outside. Those are the things that we are asking for.
Osodeke said that negotiations with the government have not been fruitful owing to the actions of some government officials at the federal level.
“On two occasions, we have negotiated and reached an agreement with the team that was set up to meet with us, which did not come from outer space; a team that was set up by the President. On both occasions, the government team will not come back to us but will go out and start misinforming the public. Honestly, we have not had it this bad since ASUU started having issues with the government.
The Federal Government agreed to inject a total of N1.3 trillion into public universities, both state and federal, in six tranches, starting in 2013 after the union decried the deplorable state of the institutions.
In 2013, the government was to release N200 billion and release N220 billion each year for another five years.
After releasing the first tranche, the government stopped releasing the funds. In 2017, it, however, released N20 billion. In 2020, it promised to release N25 billion.
ASUU rejected the offer, insisting on N110 billion, which is 50 per cent of the N220 billion that it demanded, but the government declined, citing paucity of funds.