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We are ready to call off the strike, if – ASUU

By Chimezie Godfrey

ASUU has said it is willing to call off the ongoing strike if the Federal Government shows sincerity of purpose.

The ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke disclosed this in Abuja on Thursday at the National Town Hall Meeting on Tertiary Education In Nigeria with the theme,” The Locked Gates of Our Citadels – A National Emergency”, organized by the Save -Public Education Campaign, Nigerian.

The ASUU President listed as their demands the issues of the revitalization fund, Earn Academic Allowance, Visiting Lecturers Payments, Proliferation of Universities, among others.

He revealed that the problem is not with ASUU but the Federal Government who refused to respond to their demand, assuring that if the government cannot meet up with all their demands , they should be able to come up with what they can afford.

Osodeke therefore assured that as soon as the federal government is willing to show commitment to resolve the issues they will call off the strike.

He said,””You see when you are negotiating you should tell us what you can afford not me telling you what I will accept. We have giving what we want to accept if you cannot tell us what you can afford. and we will look at it and go to our members. That is it, so all the issues we have listed the revitalization fund is very critical that is number one, earning allowances you are owing somebody several years of earn allowance, you told us you put it in the budget in 2020 till now is not there. They put something in 2021 but this year is not there.

“Let me explain to you , we have some lecturers who have not been paid 20mknths salary because IPPIS stop their salary. I had a Professor who supposed to be a Deputy Vice Chancellor, his salary is supposed to be N460,000 but he has been paid N150,000 thousand for sometime now. With the way it is now if a lecturer in Sokoto has problem he has to take flight from Sokoto to Abuja, spend two or three days on a cue, and they say it has been resolved, he has to take flight back to Sokoto today flight is said to be a N100,000 minimum. Those are the issues for which we are on strike.

“Like it is said, and we are challenging the students, any day the students and the parents take over the struggle we will be in the classroom.”

Osodeke who decried the level decadence in the country’s education sector said that if nothing is done about it, it may lead to the collapse of the entire system.

“We have to introduce the Post-UTME and someone who scored 280 in JAMB cannot score 50 Post-UTME, and there are many. So, that exactly why we are on strike and I have the graphics here, that is why the lecturers’ are on strike. The Lecturers’ are over worked, those big universities in the world, the staff lecturer /student ratio is 1to 3 or 1to 5, but in Nigeria what is the ratio 1 to 30 and 1 to 50.

“We are here I am using microphone to talk to you, we are less than 100 here, when a lecturer is teaching a class of 1000 there is no microphone, if there is microphone there no light. How will the lecturer do that? In Nigeria a lecturer pays for whatever he is using even generator in his office. Students have to go and stay in the villages, because there is no adequate hostel and hostels available is not good for humans, so go and stay in the village being harassed by the village people, and you have to take transport to come to school.

“Nigerian parents are also paying heavily, you have to pay for accommodation, you have to pay for transport, you have to pay ID card, you have to pay for our internet service, you have to pay for everything.

“One of the issues why we are on strike is that by the law of every university, the government is supposed to send a visitation panel every five years for them to look at what is happening, so that if there are bad issues, something is going wrong government will have to collate it and punish those who are to be punished. We had to go on strike eleven years after before this government agreed to set up this panel last year February we are in September the report is not out. Am sure they are trying to doctor those reports because I don’t see why the report should last for two years before it is released.

“Let me also explain to all of us, as I speak two of my chairmen have been sacked in Ebonyi State University, eighty something of our colleagues have been sacked in Kogi State University for challenging students for doing wrong, for challenging the university heads for doing wrong. We remember that we got court judgement but they are still at home. In Kogi about 68 have got job , we are paying them something every month to survive with for the past three of four years for challenging
the system for mismanaged funds that come to those universities,” he said.

Osodeke dismissed the excuse by the government that there is money to meet the demands of ASUU, adding that the government only increase their spending on areas they have so much benefits.

He said,”For anyone to say there is no money is laughable. If you watch out last week this government where they benefit so much from they increase it by more than 100%. Today a minister travelling form here to Sokoto his Duty to Allowance(DTA) is N80,000 for sleeping in one night, I don’t think there is any hotel in Sokoto that costs N20,000, the Permanent Secretary his duty to allowance is N70,000, for one night. they increased it, the President doubled it, they didn’t jave to go on strike but it was doubled, that is the inconsistency you have in the system.

“There was a state governor that spent N31million on just one trip for health check, and you say there is no money. We should be ready what we are seeing now is a child’s play, we should be ready Nigerians, the next set of people that are coming now, they are going to privatize you. They are going to privatize the university and everything. Check the backgrounds of the candidates who are coming in, one of them have a university the minimum fee you pay there is N5million. The next one his deputy, his school fees in his university here in Abuja is between 3 and 5 million. These are people who are coming, the documents we have seen at there proposal we are going to be ready for more action.This one will be smoother, if you cannot pay go home, if you cannot go home go and take loan.

“We checked, this federal government set up an education fund and pumped in so much money and within 3 years it collapsed. They stole all the money, and we have all the documents and presented to them. So if you set up one now how are you sure they will not also steal the money. We should be prepared, what we have now is a child’s play. The children of the ordinary Nigerians.”

The ASUU President also lamented the low budget given to the education sector by the federal government saying that what is obtainable in Nigeria is very low compared to other countries.

“Ghana gives between 16 and 20%, South Africa between 16 and 20% ratio to education, but Nigeria gives 5.39 and that is the problem. What they give to education is less than what they take to the National Assembly. And finally as we speak so, the president of Nigeria have an allowance called “Hardship Allowance” in his salary. All the Senators have hardship allowance. All members of the House of Representatives have hardship allowance. They are suffering so much so they must have hardship allowance, but the drivers in the National Assembly, the cleaners, they don’t have hardship allowance, they are enjoying themselves. How will you have peace in such a country? How will you say there is no money,” the ASUU President asked.

Earlier, the Convener of the town hall meeting, the Founder of the Save-Public Education Campaign, Nigeria, Comrade Vivian Bello noted that ASUU has demonstrated sufficient forthrightness in resolving the crises as against the accusations levelled against them.

She pointed out that people do not appreciate the fact that ASUU members are also suffering the impact of the ongoing strike.

She stressed that the Minister of education who represents the President holds the stick to either end the strike or allow it to continue.

Mrs Bello therefore appealed to the Federal Government to find a meeting point that will bring solution and an immediate end to the crises, and allow the students go back to school as quickly as possible.

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