The federal government on Monday said it did not have the financial power now to meet the demands of the Academy Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The minister of education, Adamu Adamu, disclosed this while addressing journalist in Abuja. He said the crash in the prices of oil globally has affected the economic fortunes of Nigeria.
This, he explained, had dire consequences on all sectors of the economy, including education.
The government also accused the administration of late president, Umaru Yar’Adua, of making bogus promises to the union during a period of oil boom.
“Let me begin by saying that the issues necessitating this strike dates back to 2009 when the then government of late President Umaru Musa Yar Adua signed an agreement with the ASUU on funding of the federal universities in the country,” he said.
According to the education minister, the agreement provided for funding of universities to the tune of N1.3 trillion over a period of six years. It is instructive to know that Nigeria was experiencing the oil boom at that time. It was therefore expected that government will be able to meet the terms of agreement.
“However, international oil prices crashed in subsequent years thereby throwing the country into economic hardship. At the inception of this administration, the country’s economic fortunes worsened, nose diving into recession, with dire consequences on all sectors of the economy, including education,” he said.
Mr Adamu said the country just exited recession and is beginning to recover from the consequences of low oil prices.
“If this trend continues, definitely, the education sector will also improve, in other words, the well-being of the education sector and any other sector of the country’s economy is a function of the international oil prices. This is the stack reality for now which all of us must acknowledge and accept.”
The minister appealed to both parents, ASUU and students to exercise restraint in their response to the education sector.
He said the union should be mindful of the fact that other sector of the economy were competing with similar financial needs.
“We must also be mindful that there are other sectors with similar competing needs, if our universities produce graduates, such graduates must work in other sectors of the economy which must also be supported by government,” he said.
ASUU, on Monday, embarked on an indefinite strike after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Akure, Ondo State, on Sunday.
ASUU’s current strike is hinged on delays in implementing the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) the government agreed to in 2017, including to compel government to conclude the renegotiation of other agreements also collectively reached in 2009.
The national president of ASUU, Biodun Ogunyemi, while announcing the commencement of the strike, re-echoed the insincerity of government in meeting their demands.
“Having waited patiently for action and meaningful negotiation with reasonable men, using the principle of collective bargaining, ASUU, at its NEC meeting of 3rd and 4th November 2018, at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), resolved to resume the nationwide strike action it suspended in September 2017, with immediate effect.
“This strike will be total comprehensive and indefinite. Our members shall withdraw their services until government fully implement(s) all outstanding issues as contained in the MOA of 2017, and concludes the renegotiation of the 2009 agreements.
“We have today, been subjected to 20 years of continued re-colonization under alleged democracy,” he said, alleging that all that the ruling circle have been doing is regrouping themselves in the various factions they call political parties.
The ASUU president noted the release of a paltry N20 billion revitalisation fund, despite the fact that the same government released N1.3 trillion to a distressed bank recently.
Mr Ogunyemi also highlighted that the government was not interested in public universities as the children of the top politicians and rich men in the society patronised private universities at the detriment of public institutions.