The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused the Nigerian government of attempts to ‘systematically’ wash its hands off the funding of public universities with the introduction of a student loan bill by the National Assembly.
Both chambers of the National Assembly have passed a student loan bill that was first introduced to the house by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, in 2016.
If assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari, the government would be mandated to establish an education bank which the bill proposes would provide education loans to students.
But ASUU, in a statement by its President, Emmanuel Osodeke, a Professor of Soil Science, condemned the move, describing it as an attempt to make university education beyond the reach of poor Nigerians.
In the statement released after its quarterly National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held at the University of Calabar at the weekend, ASUU claimed the education loan being proposed has failed in other countries where it was introduced.
“We find it troubling that the proponents of the policy are so eager to foist it down the throat of Nigerians when they have done more to push the working people of this country into poverty through sheer incompetence in handling the economic fortunes of our nation,” the statement reads in part.
The union rejected what it described as the government’s “arrogant insistence on handing down an award” instead of a bargained salary package for its members. It also accused the government of attempts to turn the relationship with the workers inito a master–slave situation.
The union also condemned the government’s continued withholding of the academics’ salaries for seven and a half months, saying it would not accept the alleged casualisation of its members’ work through the payment of October salaries on a pro-rata basis.
“The union calls the attention of Nigerians to the lingering issue of renegotiation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement which was the initial issue that led to the just suspended strike action. More worrisome is the increasing anti-labour posture of the government, suggestive of attempts to abrogate the principle of collective bargaining agreement. NEC rejects in totality the government’s arrogant insistence on handing down an award instead of a bargained salary package,” the statement added.
ASUU, therefore, called on Nigerians to prevail on the government to urgently address all outstanding issues between it and the union in the interest of the students and the country.
“Finally, NEC appreciates the resilience of our members and their families. Their understanding and perseverance, in the face of hardship and provocation occasioned by government’s intransigence and insensitivity, shall be rewarded by posterity.”
The industrial dispute between ASUU and the Nigerian government, which has resulted in incessant strikes that characterised the country’s university system has ushered in conversations about the funding of the universities.
Government officials have on different occasions stated that the government cannot continue to fund the universities alone but ASUU has rejected this.
At a recent event, the registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Is-haq Oloyede, suggested a model similar to the National Health Insurance Scheme where the government can help indigent individuals pay a certain percentage of the school fees after they must have subscribed to the initiative.
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on 1-covered issues around the globe.
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