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 ongoing strike that has paralyzed academic activities in the nation’s public universities.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said no government worth its salt can 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, adding: ”Agreements are meant to be honoured, and breaching them comes with some consequences.”
APC said the strike which has kept students in public universities at home for many weeks is a further blow to the country’s education 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 Nigerian universities have made the top 100 in Africa.
”The 87 billion naira 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 1 trillion naira that has been spent on federal legislators in the past 8 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 costs) 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 3 trillion naira in non-existent fuel subsidies to fat cats, spend 10 billion naira annually 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,” the party said.
It expressed total shock and disgust at the demonstrated non-chalance of those who should be working round the clock to resolve the crisis, especially the Minister of State for Education Nyeson Wike, who has enough time on his hands to be launching vigilance groups and dancing ‘palongo’ around town when the nations public universities are shut and students are languishing. This is shameful and totally unacceptable.
”We are not surprised, because most government officials have sent their children and wards to foreign universities, hence do not give a damn if the children of others are in school or not.
”Education is the key to national development. This is why UNESCO has recommended an allocation of at least 26% of national budgets to that critical sector. Therefore, talking about national growth and development without adequately funding education is a pipe dream!” APC said.