The ongoing strike by university lecturers may be called off in two weeks when the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities should have reached an agreement, the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, has said.
Mr. Suswam stated this when addressing journalists after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja.
The Benue Governor, who chairs the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) assessment implementation committee for universities, said his committee recommended projects worth an initial N1 billion in the universities, which President Goodluck Jonathan will flag off between now and September.
He said the report listed the infrastructural and instruction materials lacking in the universities or in a state of rot.
He added that though all the recommendations could not be implemented at the same time, “if every year there is a commitment on the part of government to be providing money, I believe we will be able to give our universities a new lease of life.
“It will start with the sum of N1 billion and we set up a small committee which will report back to the bigger committee on Tuesday for us to be able to select universities across the six geopolitical zones where the president will decide to go and fag off rejects worth about N1 billion. That should be (at) the end of this month or first week of September because there are processes that needed to be carried out for us to achieve that,” he added.
The governor said meetings were already ongoing with funding agencies in a bid to pull all the resources together into a single funding purse for the universities.
“What we are trying to do is that all the monies that agencies in their individual capacities be harnessed together so that it will be well coordinated so that we know that this is how much the federal government is spending on our institutions on a yearly basis.
“But as it is now, nobody knows apart from the budgetary money, which is passed by the National Assembly, nobody actually captures what is being expended by TETFund, NITTDA, CBN amongst others. All of these agencies I’m mentioning intervene in education, probably with the consent of the federal government, so we need to put all of that together, so that people will be aware of how much is being expended.
“Once that is properly coordinated at least we will see results, and if the President flags off these projects, worth N100 billion (in total) across universities, which will be inclusive of lecture theatres, classrooms and hostels. I’m sure you know that the state of hostels and classrooms in our universities is appealing and the president is determined and has given us this assignment to make sure that that is done immediately,” he said.
Mr. Suswam, whose committee has also intervened in the ASUU crisis, said the capital projects were part of the demands of the lecturers.
“That is even one of the reasons why ASUU is even on strike. Having said that, I want to say that the negotiation with ASUU, in the next one or two weeks, we should be able to arrive at something that will necessitate them calling off the strike. Once we are able to agree with them on all issues that they have raised,” he said.
He added that part of the reason for the strike, which includes the NEEDS assessment and the earned allowances, were almost concluded.
“The NEEDS assessment which I’m handling, we have virtually concluded, I think by next week, it will be definite. The earned allowance, the SGF (Pius Anyim) is still holding meeting, I believe that in the next one week, given the seriousness of the issue, we will be able to come to some level of agreement with ASUU, which will probably lead to call of the strike. I’m not saying they are calling off the strike, we have to agree on these two remaining issues,” he said.
The strike by ASUU is in its fifth week, with the lecturers saying they will not call of the strike unless government implements all the agreement it had with the union in 2009.