The President of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Biodun Ogunyemi, has said that the union will resist any attempt to increase tuition fees in the country’s public universities.
He also said ASUU could go on strike if the government failed to meet its demand on adequate funding of the institutions and payment of salaries.
Mr. Biodun, who gave the hint in an exclusive chat with PREMIUM TIMES, said the union would not accept any increase in fees by state or federal governments.
“We will not tolerate any attempt to increase tuition fee, we are against telling people to pay more, even the current fees, we are still fighting them, we as a body have always stood against fee increment and we will continue to stand against it,” he said.
The union leader spoke against the backdrop of reports of a possible increase in tuition fees in universities by the federal government.
According to Mr. Abiodun, ASUU has been engaging the federal government since November 2016 on issues rocking the university system.
“The truth is there are lots of issues rocking the system. We have made our position known to the federal government; we have also written to state governments who have refused to give subvention to their universities,” he said.
“Some of them cannot sustain one university and they go on to establish two or three, compounding the issues.
“We have given the government till June ending to attend to our needs, if the government does not call us by June ending we will convey a meeting to take our position.
“However, we are trying to engage the government but if they don’t invite us to a meeting before June ending, we will still take our position on whether we are going on strike or not.
“But that will not be like early July but middle or late July, that is if they don’t heed to our demands which includes payment of salaries, funding, research and lots more”.
Asked if ASUU would initiate a meeting with the federal government, he said “We will not initiate any meeting if they don’t call us, we can’t initiate meeting.”
He added that the feedback received from the petitions written to the government would determine whether there would be strike or not.
The ASUU President also spoke on the crisis at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH.
“We have issues like this, a case where lecturers are not paid for months will no longer be tolerated. The truth is that this and many more make up our demands, we have written to all state governors too and we want to engage stakeholders in this issue, that is why whatever happens in July will be very comprehensive,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Oyo State Commissioner of Education, Adeniyi Olowofela, has said the owner states are committed to speedy reopening of LAUTECH.
He said the university would have reopened, if not for the controversy surrounding the issue of audit of its finances.
Mr. Olowofela told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday that the government had given a three-week ultimatum to the external auditors, but were hindered due to lack of documents.
He also said that the stance of ASUU had remained a major problem towards resolving the crisis.
“The truth is when the auditors were to come in, we gave them three weeks to complete the audit, the three weeks should have elapsed but the auditors did not have enough documents to work with,” he said.
According to him, the Oyo state government used federal allocations to pay civil servants’ salaries and used internally generated revenues to fund other institutions like LAUTECH.
He said the government had just paid N144million as subvention to the institution.
“As we speak now, the allocation that lately came from the federal government, everything was used to pay workers’ salary in the civil service,” he disclosed.
“The Oyo state government also just paid N144 million to LAUTECH as subvention, we are committed to the reopening, we did that. ”
On the issue of ASUU’s position and the continued controversy, Mr. Olowofela said, “What we asked of ASUU is just cooperation for three weeks, there is a difference between three weeks and eight months, we cannot obey the position of ASUU.
“Really, the government only needs three weeks of the time for audit, we need to know what we really need in the university; when the audit is done, we know the needs and move on from there.”
While saying that the university administration could be better, he denied that the owner states were suspecting the university management led by Adeniyi Gbadegesin of corruption.
“We never said they are corrupt, as far as we are concerned we only said that the university can do better, no one is stating that they are corrupt,” he said.
On when the university will reopen, Mr. Olowofela said, “We need everyone to appeal to ASUU so we can carry out what we need to, ASUU should not be the proponent of saying that the audit should not take place, they should understand that these are hard periods, these things ought to have been completed and all issues solved.”
In his remarks, the Chairman of ASUU, LAUTECH Chapter, Biodun Olaniran, said, “We are not against any audit, what we needed before now and still need is the pattern of funding because that is what the university needs.
“There are several other recommendations in the white paper of the visitation panel but we don’t know why it is only audit that has taken prominence.”
He said the owner states should show seriousness by charting ways of funding the university more.
“We wonder why they are bringing us to this issue, the documents they need are not even with us,” Mr. Biodun noted.
Efforts to speak with the Vice Chancellor of the University, Adeniyi Gbadegesin, were unsuccessful as he did not pick his calls or reply messages sent to his phone as at the time of filing this report.
LAUTECH has been enmeshed in controversies surrounding poor funding and disagreements between workers and owners of the university on ways to resolve the problems.
The Alumni Association of the institution recently launched a #FundLAUTECH initiative intending to raise about N1billion within 90 days to support the university.