Strong indications emerged Tuesday that President Goodluck Jonathan may have personally taken charge of efforts aimed at getting striking university teachers back to work soon.
Besides, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has asked the Federal Government to honour its agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in order to end the industrial action.Meanwhile, the Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, has appealed to the ASUU to accept the offer made by the Federal Government and call off the strike. He spoke at the African Regional Centre of Enterprise Workshop yesterday in Abuja.
And the Registrar/Chief Executive of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, has directed all universities to conclude admissions on or before October 31, 2013.
Jonathan met yesterday for more than two hours with the Federal Government’s officials engaged in the negotiation with ASUU at the Presidential Villa.
At the meeting were Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Anyim Pius Anyim; Benue State Governor, Dr. Gabriel Suswam; Ministers of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i and Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu; Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, as well as the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe.
The previous negotiations between the Federal Government team and the union on Tuesday last week and Monday this week at the office of the SGF failed to yield result as the teachers insisted on the implementation of the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Suswam, who chairs the implementation committee of the NEEDS Assessment panel of the universities, expressed confidence that with measures so far put in place by the Federal Government, there was hope that the teachers might call off the strike soon.
He also noted government’s readiness to make available N30 billion out of the N87 billion being demanded by ASUU to be disbursed as earned academic allowances to the teachers, in addition to the N100 billion for infrastructural rehabilitation in the universities.
He confirmed that the Federal Government would meet with the governing councils and vice chancellors of federal universities before the end of the week to inform them of the decisions so far taken by the Federal Government.
In a statement in Abuja yesterday by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, APC said no government worth its salt could afford to play with education, because it is the path to national development.
It said ASUU was not making any fresh demand beyond the agreement it reached with the government in 2009, stressing: ‘’Agreements are meant to be honoured, and breaching them comes with some consequences.’’
APC said the strike was a further blow to the country’s educational system, which has deteriorated so much that no Nigerian university is currently listed in the top 100 universities in the world and only a few of them have made the top 100 in Africa.
The party added: ‘’The N87 billion that ASUU is demanding represents earned allowances hence cannot be renegotiated. In any case, this amount pales into insignificance when placed side by side with the N1 trillion that has been spent on federal legislators in the past eight years; or the frivolity involved in a government minister travelling to China to negotiate a $1 billion loan in a chartered jet (with its attendant cost) and with a retinue of staffers who earned generous estacode in hard currency.
‘’It is an indication of the kind of priority that this Federal Government attaches to education that while it has refused to meet its own side of an agreement it reached with ASUU since 2009, it could pay out N3 trillion in non-existent fuel subsidies to fat cats, spend N10 billion yearly to maintain the jets in the presidential fleet and do little or nothing to prevent the stealing of 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day, which translates to $120 million in a month, money that surely ends up in some people’s pockets!
‘’What we are saying is that if the Federal Government would reduce its profligacy and cut waste, there will be enough money to pay teachers in public universities, as well as fund research and upgrade infrastructure in such institutions. Hungry teachers can neither teach well nor carry out research. And poorly-taught students can neither excel nor propel their nation to great heights.’’
Ojerinde spoke yesterday during the opening of the first technical committee meeting on 2013/2014 admission to degree-awarding institutions held at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
In attendance are officials saddled with admissions into federal, state and private universities whom the registrar charged to strictly adhere to the dateline as late submission would not be entertained by the board.
“I wish to inform you that the next admission exercise for the
2013/2014 academic session will come up from Monday, October 14 to Friday, October 18, 2013 at the board’s national headquarters, Bwari, Abuja”, he said.
According to him, the selection for Nigerian universities has to be done because of the higher number of candidates who subscribed to these institutions.
“It, therefore, implies that the next technical meeting scheduled to hold at Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, from Monday, September 23 to Friday, September 27, will solely be for admission into polytechnics, monotechnics, colleges of education and innovative enterprises institutions”, he added.