THE Academic Staff Union of Universities said on Wednesday that the Federal Government’s resort to blackmail would not force it members back to the classroom.
ASUU maintained that it would continue to stand by the sanctity of the agreement the Federal Government voluntarily entered into with it in 2009.
The chairperson of the union, University of Port Harcourt Branch, Prof. Antonia Okerengwo, who said this while briefing newsmen in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, explained that contrary to Federal Government’s claim, the union was not fighting for itself, but for the revitalisation of tertiary institutions in the country.
Okerengwo expressed regret that rather than fulfill its promises to ASUU by reviving the Nigerian education sector, the Federal Government had resorted to blackmail.
The union was reacting to claims by the Federal Government that some politicians were encouraging university lecturers to disregard its appeal to call off the ongoing strike.
“The resort to blackmail is not the solution to the present impasse as we cannot run away from our problems. We cannot continue to pretend or wish that these problems do not exist. Practical problems need practical solutions.
“The media must also begin to ask questions about the cost of governance in this country so that we can see the alternative forgone in terms of education, healthcare and infrastructure,” she added.
Describing the action of the Federal Government as tantamount to the “repudiation of an agreement that was negotiated and signed,” Okerengwo said, “The negotiation itself took three years (2006-2009). As was agreed in 2012, evidenced by the Memorandum of Understanding, government promised to release N100bn immediately in 2012 and N400bn in 2013.
“It may interest you and the general public to note that the technical committee set up by NEC to review NEEDS assessment report also recommended that the sum of N800bn would be required in the short term of two years (N400bn per year) for revitalisation.
“But this has remained a mere promise, as only N100bn for 2012, which is 20 per cent of what is due as at today, has been released. The fact is that the N100bn is the amount due and outstanding since 2012. The question therefore is what about the N400bn for 2013?”
She explained that while a country like Ghana was earmarking 31 per cent of its annual budget to education, Nigeria was allocating a paltry seven per cent to the sector.
She disagreed with insinuations that the union had not been patient enough with the Federal Government, recalling that ASUU wrote over 52 letters to government and lobbied some members of the National Assembly on the need to revamp the education sector.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress on Wednesday called on President Goodluck Jonathan to ensure a full restoration of normalcy into the troubled education sector in the country.
The President of the NLC, Mr. Abdulwahed Omar, who stated this in a statement issued in Abuja, said the call was necessary in order to prevent a total paralysis of the sector.
Omar said, “We urge Mr. President to muster all the necessary will and skill to confront the issues that threaten this vital sector.
“The threat of a total shut-down is present and immediate and this deserves all the urgency and mobilisation that Mr. President could muster.”
The NLC boss noted that the development in the education sector was symptomatic of greater ills in the polity.
He argued that the strike by the ASUU for instance had entered the fourth month and had almost certainly disrupted an entire academic session with collateral consequences.