The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said the government has not at any time indicated that it does not have money to fund the union’s demands and university education.
The union was reacting to recent comments by the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo; and Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, who said it was unreasonable for the Federal Government to borrow over N1 trillion to meet ASUU’s demands.
Recall that ASUU has been on strike since February 14, 2022, after submitting its demands, which were being renegotiated by the Prof. Nimi Briggs committee set up by the Federal Government.
The strike enters its 180th day on Friday (today).
ASUU’s National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, in an interview with The Punch, described those saying the government had no money as interlopers who had no business in the affairs of ASUU and the government.
Osodeke said, “Do you believe the FG has no money? Is Umahi the FG? Has the Minister of Education said so? Has the Minister of Finance said so? If the person directed to resolve a matter has not said so when interlopers are saying things, who will you believe?
“When did Umahi become the spokesperson for the FG? They can borrow money for Trader Moni, they can borrow money to feed schoolchildren in schools, they can borrow to buy vehicles for Niger Republic, but they cannot borrow to fund education. We are tired too. If they want to close down all the universities formally, they should.”
When asked if ASUU would bend its demands so that the students could return to school, Osodeke insisted that the issue had to do with the government’s coming to the renegotiation table with ASUU.
“It is not about ASUU bending its demands; our demands are with the government. They should come to us with what they want. We don’t have to beg them. We agreed on something and let them send it to us. We have reached a negotiation. Let them come and tell us what they can do,” he said.
Meanwhile, Osodeke, also on Thursday urged parents and students to vote out leaders that have made universities remain closed nationwide.
He spoke with journalists at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, shortly after addressing the institution’s ASUU congress, which was also attended by lecturers from some other neighbouring universities.
Osodeke, who declared that ASUU would not relent in its bid to ensure better funding for universities, decried the Federal Government’s nonchalant attitude towards issues that concern education in the country.
“We also appeal to Nigerians. This matter concerns their lives. In the next five to six months, there will be an election. They should hold their PVCs, and all those who have subjected them to this, they should vote them out.
“It is their right. They should vote them out because children of the masses can’t be at home while children of those leaders will be enjoying education outside the country. That is their right and they should use their PVCs,” Sodeke concluded.
ASUU strike clocked 180 days on Friday (today), making it one of the longest in the history of the country.
Osodeke said the plan was not to “suspend the strike but to end it permanently. We want to end strikes permanently in our universities, and that is our demand. That is our desire.”
The Programme Director, Reform Education Nigeria, Ayodamola Oluwatoyin, said, “It is a shame that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to set terrible records for itself, especially in the area of education. 2020 is still fresh in our memories when our schools were closed for close to one year.
“We have the same situation coming up in 2022. This should not be allowed to continue. We reject the plot to turn our undergraduates into out-of-school children.”