9th December, 2013
Dr. Nasir Fagge Isa, National President, Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, tells AYORINDE OLUOKUN why members of the union are unmoved by sack threats from the government and why the striking lecturers do not have faith in what the government says
Is the Federal Government’s directive that lecturers should resume work or consider themselves jobless not causing panic among your members?
It is unfortunate that government is thinking in this direction. But this is not the first time members of the union have been threatened by government. In 1993, when Ibrahim Babangida was the military president, a similar ultimatum was given and our members did not go back to work.
The same thing happened in 1996, when the late General Sani Abacha was the head of state. We were given a similar ultimatum and we didn’t go back. But the surprising thing is that we thought such an approach was a characteristic of dictatorial regimes. Unfortunately, we are in a democratic dispensation that is exhibiting the tendencies of the dictators of the military era. I want to assure you that our members are up to the task. Threats like this will not, cannot, and has never worked against intellectuals. We are intellectuals. Franz Fanon said ‘knowledge dispels fear’ and there is nothing we don’t know about in this country. The only thing is that government is sending signals to Nigerians that it really doesn’t want to address this problem. Rather, what it wants is to keep our children at home and to deny us the opportunity of continuing with our work of conducting research, producing knowledge and disseminating knowledge. It is unfortunate because it is going to have a serious impact on the developmental aspirations of our great country. It may not be surprising that the government is behaving this way because it is the intellectuals in the community and those of us that are less privileged that still have our children studying in Nigerian universities. It is common knowledge that most of the policy makers have succeeded in moving their children out of the country to study in universities that are working. I thought that what we need to do is to concentrate on ensuring that our universities are turned around so that they can compete effectively with their peers globally. But rather than do that, government has been paying lip service to education and university education in particular. That’s why it seems like government is not really interested in addressing these problems.
After that order, the vice-chancellors declared the universities open. Some, like the University of Abuja, have released timetables for their examinations. It seems government is succeeding in its attempts to break your ranks…
Our members are not responsible for closing or opening universities. Our members have a duty to teach when the teaching and learning environment is conducive. Our members decided to withdraw their services because the teaching and learning environment is not conducive. When we decided to embark on strike, our members did not close the universities. But because work is not going on, students–on their own–decided to leave the campuses. So, with the government order to the vice-chancellors to open the universities, they can open. But I want to assure you that for as long as this strike lasts, our members will not be there to teach. If students want to go back, they can go back. But I am sure that our members are not going to teach.
Some of your members are also complaining that the strike has gone on for too long. Some are saying you are not carrying them along and that nearly all the chapters of ASUU have voted to end the strike. Some lecturers at the University of Lagos said something to this effect on a recent television programme?
I am aware of that development. But I think it is good for people to understand what is happening in University of Lagos. We have two persons, who have been mobilised by government, and what they are doing is that because they have been mobilised, they are also mobilising the press so that they can have coverage. But as I speak to you, I want to assure you that our colleagues in Unilag are on strike. You can’t expect everybody to be with you on a project. There must be one or two people that will think at this point, because they have been mobilised, they can opt out of the project. But it is very important to categorically state that our members nationwide are on strike. We are very much used to government antics. As I told you, I have seen it all. I have gone round the world as an intellectual; I have had interactions with people outside this country. The people that our leaders have a lot of respect for, when we go to them, they also have a lot of respect for us. But inside the country, our leaders don’t seem to respect us. The issue here is that the government is not interested in doing what is right and that has become clear. After meeting with Mr. President for 13 hours and agreeing on a number of issues, we think that what the government should do is to concretise those things we have agreed on, so that within the shortest possible time, we would suspend this strike. But rather than do that, government is chasing pipe dreams.
That is what we have seen with agents of government making all sorts of allegations in the media against ASUU. At last Monday’s press conference, we cleared the air on most of these allegations. It’s unfortunate that in Nigeria of today, people are more interested in things that directly benefit them. They are not interested in addressing community problems. If government is interested in the transformation agenda, as espoused by the President, who is really going to move the country towards achieving all the items on the agenda? Is it not the intellectual community? If we have a highly trained and motivated workforce in this country, you don’t even need to set an agenda. Naturally, we would be moving forward. Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Brazil that we started this journey with have already achieved development. But Nigeria is still languishing in underdevelopment and what we are saying, as intellectuals, is that we know that it is our responsibility to mobilise the country to move towards development. We are saying that we are tired of this deception. Let things be done right, so that we can also play our own roles to ensure that the country achieves the required development within the shortest possible time.
In concrete terms, what are really the demands of ASUU?
We met with the President and we reached agreements on virtually all the issues in dispute. But instead of government implementing the agreements after the meeting, the letter we got from the office of the Minister of State for Education clearly indicated to us that government is not interested in addressing the problem. But let me quickly say that there are four issues that our members nationwide say should be addressed before we suspend the strike. It is important to make it clear that 92 per cent of our members nationwide decided that we can suspend the strike if about eight demands are met. But the National Executive Council of this union met, took the report, analysed it and decided that all the requirements can be reduced to four major ones. The first requirement is that if the President had accepted that for the year 2013, N200 billion is going to be made available for revitalisation, 92 per cent of our members are saying that if that is the agreement and since 2013 is almost over, let government make the money available so that we can commence the process of revitalisation of our universities. The thinking is that we have seen many people have meetings with the President. Promises are made and they come out to suspend strikes, only to find out that those promises are not honoured. Our members are saying that since this is a cardinal issue, let us see government’s seriousness in addressing the rot and decay in our universities by creating the account it said it is going to create in CBN, credit this account so that the committee that is supposed to disburse this money can begin to work within two or three days. Already, the NEEDS Assessment report has laid out the criteria for disbursing the money. So, that committee can, within two or three days, follow the criteria to disburse the money. Our members think that within a day or two after that, we can suspend the strike.
Secondly, our members are convinced that if we are really serious about addressing the problems of education, we should make sure that whatever is agreed between us and government should not be included in the sort of Memorandum of Understanding we signed with the Ministry of Education in 2012, which the authors later disowned. Our members are saying that this time around, since government has agreed to do this thing, let us sit down with government and let us have somebody higher than the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education sign the agreement and the ASUU representative will also sign in the presence of a witness, possibly, the NLC President. Our members are saying if we have a document like this, somebody will not come tomorrow and say the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education was misguided into writing something and giving it to us. It is known in trade disputes like this that whenever a crisis is being wound down, the two parties will agree to a ‘no victimisation clause’. The clause is enshrined in the International Labour Organisation Convention of which Nigeria is a signatory. In fact, as evidence that Nigeria accepted that convention, it has also been adopted in our local Labour Act. Our members are saying whatever agreement we are going to sign with government, this time around, should include a no-victimisation clause. We have done it before with government, especially at the time we signed the 2009 agreement. Finally, as I said earlier, our members are saying that since one of the demands at the time of embarking on this strike is that we should renegotiate the agreement once we have started implementing it, and since the President has agreed that the agreement will be renegotiated in 2014, let that also be included in the document that will be signed as an agreement between ASUU and government. These are the four demands and as far as we are concerned, we really do not see any new demand among these. That is why it was surprising to us that the Minister of Education, who didn’t sit through the interaction with Mr. President because it was said that he had to travel out of the country, is the person telling the media that ASUU is making new and outrageous demands. There is nothing outrageous in these demands. Our members want to ensure that this time around, we get it right before we suspend the strike.
But government said it put the suggestions of the agreement, which you are now requesting, before ASUU representatives at the meeting with the President, but you turned it down. Instead, you asked that government should issue a letter of intent for you to take to your members.
It was a very simple thing. At the time we were interacting with the President, he said government is going to give A, B, C, D. That was the position of government. It is not the position of ASUU. The first thing that ASUU needs to do as an organisation that respects internal democracy is to take the position of government to our members and if our members agree to it, we can come back, sit with the government and sign an agreement. We made it abundantly clear to the President that ASUU representatives do not have the mandate to sign an agreement with government at that point. We said whatever government offers in terms of implementation of 2009 agreement, through the roadmap produced by government in 2012, we are going to take to our members. If it is acceptable to our members, then, we can come back and sign an agreement with government. And the President himself acknowledged at that meeting that he knows how the union operates; that he knows that representatives of ASUU cannot enter into an agreement at that meeting. He agreed that whatever the government is offering in terms of the implementation of the agreement can be taken to our members and then, the response of our members can be returned to him through the Minister of Education. That was the agreement that we had with the President and that is exactly what we have done. Our expectation, as I said, was that at the time we wrote this letter to the President, through the Minister of Education, either the President or the Minister, if he has the full mandate of the President, should have responded to our letter by telling us that, ‘these conditions, we will need to come and look at them again.’ Or these conditions are conditions acceptable to us, you can come so that we can draft the memorandum of understanding and we can sign it to enable you suspend the strike. But that didn’t happen. Instead of responding to our letter, the Minister of Education was on air insulting ASUU, telling the public that we are making new demands that are outrageous.
Government said it has already deposited the N200 billion in an account with Central Bank of Nigeria, but that ASUU did not make efforts to find out before it wrote the letter. Government also said the three other demands are non-issues.
How would we know that government has done this or that? Is it through the media? We wrote a letter to government requesting A, B, C, D. If government has done it, why is it now issuing threats? Why is government asking universities to reopen? Why is government giving our members ultimatum to go back to work? If you have done all the things in the letter, I think it is rational for government to now come and sit with us and say, A,B,C,D have been done. Let us sign this agreement. The representative of government can sign, we would sign and then, a witness can sign. This muscle flexing is not going to work because it has been tried before by the military and it didn’t work. Our members are up to the task, but I also want to inform the public that we are not interested in strikes. We want to ensure that we end strikes in this country, but how do we do that? Accepting promises of government that we are not sure are going to be implemented? If the representatives of government are saying that the money is in CBN, what is wrong with government telling us formally? If that was done, what reason would our members have not to suspend the strike? We have had several situations in the past when government interacted with other trade unions and pronouncements were made on air, only to find out later that nothing out of those pronouncements have been implemented. I can give you examples.
But is ASUU not concerned that public opinion has turned against the continuation of this strike and that some members of the public are beginning to believe claims by government that ASUU is unduly intransigent with its decision to continue with the strike?
Contrary to what you are saying, the information I have is that the general public is asking why won’t government do this or that so that ASUU members can go back to work. In this country, there are ways people can use the media. Unfortunately, ASUU doesn’t have the financial capability for a massive media campaign. But I have also spoken to many students, who called me from their homes, to ask us to tarry a while because they don’t want a situation in which things are not done right. Many members of the public are calling to say the same. If you have information that people are tired, I also have information that people are saying let us tarry a while, get this problem addressed so that you won’t have to go on strike very soon. Having said that, I think it is important for people to understand that the government does not even have the basis to do what it is doing because there is an agreement. All that our members are asking for is evidence of commencement of the implementation of what the President said, so that all said and done, we will be convinced that government is serious. There is this problem of lack of confidence by our members in government. But government should be pro-active in ensuring that it restores confidence. I think the challenge here is that members of the public should also be telling government to do what is right. It doesn’t bode well for government’s integrity if it will make promises that it is not going to fulfil. That was the problem with the 2009 agreement and the 2012 MoU. If the government said it is going to make N200 billion available in 2013, how long do we have to the end of the year? Just one month.
The government said the money is already deposited in an account at the CBN…
If the money is ready, what is wrong with government calling us formally and then we sign this final document and the strike can be suspended?
You said the students are asking you to continue with the strike until you get what you want from government, but some students led by officials of National Association of Nigerian Students led a protest at which they accused ASUU of being intransigent and asked you to call off the strike.
Those students really don’t have connection with the larger body of students. We know the students you are referring to and who is mobilising them. At the appropriate time, we will talk about that. But the real issue here is our students have been calling and telling us that we should let this be the last strike action by ensuring that we do what is right before the strike is suspended. We are heeding the advice of our students in this light.
Your battle with government has resulted in closure of all public universities for about five months now, while the private universities are unaffected. There is the argument that though you are fighting for improvement in public universities, you are also helping to deepen the gulf between children from poor homes in public universities and those from privileged background in foreign and private universities.
We would have been culpable if our children are studying outside this country. But all my children are studying in this country. I have two children in a Nigerian university. The issue is that our children are at home. We are also not happy that our children are at home. Secondly, we have members who are pursuing their postgraduate studies in Nigerian universities. They are also at home, not studying. Thirdly, as an intellectual, if you are really worthy of the tag, you will not be happy if you are not conducting research, producing and disseminating knowledge. We may be conducting research, but the paucity of facilities has ensured that we cannot compete with our peers across the world, including those on the African continent. Since we don’t have research facilities, we cannot conduct cutting-edge research and produce knowledge that will be imparted to the students. We are convinced that the graduates we are producing are those who cannot play adequate roles in nation building. We are also getting to a point at which the students we are producing, instead of them to help the country achieve development, are even ensuring that the underdevelopment of this country is entrenched. I gave an example at a previous forum and I want to restate it here. For me, it is better not to have a medical doctor than to have a quack masquerading as a doctor. Instead of curing the patient, he is likely to kill the patient. The situation is very clear: do we continue with this deception in the guise of producing graduates that we know are not adequately trained? Or is it better to ask these students to stay at home until when we are able to address the problem? The choice is very clear to our members and we decided to choose the latter. Let us wait, address the problems, so that when we go back to work, we will be producing students that will meet up with the requirements of the job setting; that will, within the shortest possible time, help us get this country developed. Are we going to import the Chinese to come and help us develop our country? As we sit here, more than 60 per cent of Brazilians have very good quality degrees and that is why they are in position to move their economy forward. Now, they are saying Brazil has overtaken Great Britain and is the fifth most developed economy in the world. We are saying that government should help us deliver on our mandate, so that within the shortest possible time, we will be producing manpower that will also help us to develop this country. That is the challenge and we are taking up that challenge.
With what you know of the system and situations in other parts of the world, do you think the government really has the money to fund the universities in a way that will make them comparable to their counterparts in other parts of the world?
If government had implemented the 2009 agreement, the universities would have begun to fend for themselves by now. That agreement contains a number of ways to address the funding requirements for the revitalisation because we also know that universities should be able to fend for themselves. But the initial funding, whether we like it or not, must come from government. Government is not funding the universities adequately because it has misplaced its priorities. We have, over the years, been witnesses to different investigations of fraud in this country–fraud in fuel subsidy, privatisation, pension and so on. How many trillions of naira have been lost by this country in those frauds? We are saying that if you support education, because it will affect everybody, whether you come from a rich or poor family, once you are availed of quality education, you are now placed in a position in which you will be able to fend for yourself and also help the country attain its developmental goals. We are convinced that the Nigerian government has not been doing enough for education because the countries that you talked about, there are criteria for funding education. Take Ghana, for instance. In the last 25 years, Ghana has been investing not less than 30 per cent of its annual budget in education. In Nigeria, the highest we have gone is about eight or nine per cent.
The argument is that there are so many competing demands for government funds…
Between Ghana and Nigeria, which country is richer in relative terms? Ghana in 2012 spent 8.2 per cent of its GDP on education. Nigeria spends 0.8. So, why won’t Nigerians be migrating to Ghana for education? Southern African countries are spending about 35 to 45 per cent of their annual budget on education. The 2009 agreement stipulated that government will begin to move towards implementing the 26 per cent minimum annual budgetary allocation for education, as stipulated by UNESCO, so that by 2020, Nigeria will be in position to invest 26 per cent of its budget in education. Surprisingly, after signing that agreement, we noticed that instead of progressive increase in annual budget for education, there was a decrease in annual allocation between 2012 and 2013. In 2012, Nigeria budgeted 8.43 per cent for education and in 2013, 8.1 per cent. Instead of moving towards addressing the problem, we are moving away from addressing the problem. That agreement also said that federal government-owned universities, 24 of them then, were to receive a sum of N1.5 trillion in three years (between 2009 and 2012). The MoU of 2012 reduced that drastically to N1.2 trillion for four years for all public universities, that is, federal and state universities. What that means is that we have reduced the quantum and also increased the period of impact. What it means is that Nigeria is not ready to revitalise the university system in such a way that the institutions can begin to fend for themselves. Our thinking is that universities rely very much on internally generated revenue. But before they can produce that revenue, they must be in a position to do it. How can they do it? Universities generate revenue through conducting cutting-edge research and the outcome or product of the research can be sold. If we can do that, we can easily be attracting international research grants. But Nigerian universities don’t have the capacity to conduct cutting-edge research because the required facilities are not there. The last time I was in South Africa, the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg had acquired the latest scanning electro-miscrocope and at that time, they were telling us that once the installation was completed, it’s going to be the most sophisticated scanning electron microscope in the Southern hemisphere. If they are able to do that, how do you expect Nigerians, who don’t have facilities, to produce knowledge in that area? When we visited the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, we also realised that it has cutting-edge research facilities and they were even asking us to collaborate with them in research. Unfortunately, before you can effectively participate in collaboration, you must also have facilities for research. If they give you the offer and you take it, you will know that you are deceiving yourself because if you come back, are you going to cook results and send them abroad? In the modern world, as far as research is concerned, once you produce a paper, the first thing that will be asked is where it was conducted. If it was conducted in Nigeria, they know that no Nigerian university has that facility and your work is suspect. What we are saying is that let us do what is right. Once government gives these universities the initial momentum they require, they will be able to take care of themselves.
Companies will be patronising the research facilities. You can conduct research for them and give them the results to help them improve in their productivity. But we don’t have that capacity. If government had implemented that agreement, which also included setting up of research and development units in the universities, we would have made progress. We figured that companies operating in Nigeria can help us set up some of these research facilities as part of their corporate social responsibility. The agreement also said government would assist the universities to generate revenues through other means. All these things are there in the agreement. But the key issue is that four years after, the agreement has not been implemented. If we had commenced the implementation in 2009, by now, I can assure you that universities in Nigeria would have gotten some research facilities that would have enabled them attract research grants, conduct research, produce knowledge and then, we would also be able to attract students, researchers from outside the country. The university is a universal community, but what is happening in Nigeria is that rarely do you find any foreigner coming here to participate with us in research and production of knowledge. This means that we have actually been reduced to inbreeding. Everything is done within the country. Go to other countries and see what is happening. In their research laboratories, you will see all kinds of people from all parts of the world coming to participate in research and that is what helps in production and dissemination of knowledge. The classroom setting is such that the lecturer interacts with students and produces knowledge, but that knowledge must have a foundation. If the foundation is not there, forget it. You may think that you are producing something new when in actual fact in another place, that thing has been done 20 years past. The challenges we are facing in the universities are enormous, but we think that if we had implemented that 2009 agreement, we would have begun the process of revitalisation and addressing the multitude of problems in the university.
There is also this argument that while lecturers have been holding government by the jugular, as regards funding of the universities, they have not played the same role in their universities, especially in monitoring the little being generated as internally generated revenue. Your members have even threatened to go on strike when some state governments asked questions about how their universities are spending the funds being generated internally.
Let me state here categorically that ASUU is an organisation that believes in transparency and accountability and we have pursued that in all our undertakings. Secondly, part of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement recommended that each university must set up what we call the Budget Monitoring Committee. Whatever revenue is generated internally must be made known to this committee and this committee draws membership from external members of council and all the trade unions on campus, not just ASUU. The reason we agree with government on that is that if the vice chancellors are chief executives, it is their responsibility to apply whatever is generated. But if there is a unit or a committee within the university that is detached from the executive arm in the university, such a committee will serve as a watchdog. At the end of maybe a quarter, they will be able to see if the resources generated internally or given by government have been judiciously utilised. Each committee in each university, on quarterly basis, will be submitting reports to the Implementation Monitoring Committee which is a national committee and that committee will now do the analysis of each report from each university and then make recommendations to the minister.
What is stopping the setting up of this committee since this will not involve spending of much funds?
But we are saying that this is part of the agreement, it has to be implemented. Some universities have set up the committees, but other universities, because they have seen that the agreement is not being implemented, have decided not to implement that component of the agreement. But the moment the implementation of the agreement begins, every university will be forced to set up the budget monitoring committee.
You also involved state universities in this strike. The fear is that the state universities will go back to also force a process of negotiation with their proprietors, which may also involve the use of strikes after the federal government may have taken care of federal universities.
The union has been working with state universities to ensure that does not happen. As it is now, we are interacting with the councils and managements of state universities, so that whatever is done will also be implemented in the state universities.
Are you sure because it will involve money and some states are already groaning on account of having to pay salaries?
The implementation of the NEEDS Assessment report involves federal and state universities. That is exactly why government says that it is going to resort to budgetary and non-budgetary sources of funding to implement the NEEDS Assessment report. Once the NEEDS Assessment report is implemented in each university, whether federal or state-owned, it will reduce the burden on the visitors to state universities in terms of provision of infrastructure. So, whatever is outstanding, maybe in terms of remuneration, can easily be addressed by the visitors to state universities. We are convinced that if government finalises the agreement, the state universities will also get additional funding through the implementation of the NEEDS Assessment report.
What is the problem of ASUU with the National Universities Commission because it seems you are not convinced of the way the body has been intervening in the affairs of the universities?
Recently, a former executive secretary of NUC was on air saying ASUU is being forced to carry out what should ordinarily be the responsibilities of NUC. In reality, this pressure we are putting on government to address the problem of rot and decay in our universities is the responsibility of NUC. If the NUC is charged with the responsibility of maintaining standards, it must also ensure that proprietors of the universities make available the funding to ensure that these universities are of international standards. Unfortunately, over the years, NUC has not been carrying out that responsibility. In fact, what we have noticed is that NUC is seriously deviating from its responsibility. It is not the responsibility of NUC, for instance, to be organising conference on old age. It is not also the responsibility of the NUC to tamper with the workings of the university senate by unilaterally deciding that Nigerian universities should not award pass degrees. That is not its job. It is up to a university senate to determine all issues relating to academic standards. All the NUC is expected to do is to come in periodically to assess whether the universities are really operating according to their statutes or not. But NUC has taken on that responsibility. We have also seen that recently, some of the sources of funding for the universities are being handled by the NUC and misapplied. I will give you an example. In 1992, when government asked ASUU to propose other sources of revenue for the universities other than funding from the government, we came up with two suggestions. One is the Education Tax Fund, which is now Tertiary Education Trust Fund, and then, the Stabilisation Fund. These two funds were supposed to assist the universities in a number of ways. The TERTFUND is supposed to be an intervention fund, it is not supposed to be the major source of funding for the universities. The Stabilisation Fund is supposed to be kept aside so that in case of any destabilising factor in a particular university, money can quickly be drawn from this fund to address the problem. Unfortunately, since the establishment of the Stabilisation Fund in 1996 by the Abacha government, NUC has never made public what it has been doing with it.
The order of the federal government that ASUU members should return to work is purportedly anchored on the earlier resolution of the pro-chancellors of the universities. But is ASUU in touch with the pro-chancellors?
It is unfortunate that the chairman of council of one of the universities was on air making all sorts of spurious allegations. In fact, what is more worrisome is the fact that the same chancellor had earlier on told the President that his university has disbursed its share of N30 billion made available to address the earned allowances of all staff and that the money is even more than enough. He said they are returning part of the money to government. Unfortunately, after that assertion, at the meeting we had with Mr. President, he found out that it was not true. The same pro-chancellor also went on air to say that we had a meeting in Jos, but the union didn’t meet in Jos. He said the outcome of that meeting was that 60 per cent of ASUU members said we should go back to the classrooms unconditionally. That, unfortunately, is also not true. We didn’t meet in Jos, and when we met, 92 per cent of our members said we should suspend the strike conditionally, which means that we must suspend the strike with some conditions, and eight per cent of our members said we can suspend the strike while pursuing government to meet those conditions. I don’t know how 92 can be reduced to 60. That is why all along, as part of university autonomy and academic freedom, our union has been insisting that only men and women of honour and integrity, who have ideas of how the universities are run, should be appointed into the governing councils. In a situation in which you have a chairman of council being economical with the truth, how do you expect that person to deliver in an environment where the search for, protection and cultivation of truth is primary? How do you expect him to govern that university? On the basis of falsehood?
Are you now saying that the union will not call off the strike unless government formally responds to the letter in which you listed the four conditions?
Government can invite us for a meeting and then we look at the response of our members. That is not a problem. But what I’m saying is that our members have made it categorically clear that unless government does what is right by implementing the agreement, we will not go back to work.
Government said it is ready to implement the agreement.
What is the evidence?
What about the N200 billion already deposited with the CBN and the fact that the President sat with you for 13 hours also show government’s seriousness
Did you see the N200 billion?
Government said it is already with the CBN.
In January 2012, when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was dictating that MoU, he told us that they had already set N100 billion aside and that once we finished the NEEDS Assessment report, the money would be made available for the commencement of implementation of the revitalisation of universities. That is almost two years ago. When the Gabriel Suswan Committee was inaugurated, we were told that N100 billion was not there. Then, the Minister of Finance came, SGF was seated by her right. She told us in a meeting that whoever told us in 2012 that N100 billion had been made available and N400 billion annually for three years would be made available was only deceiving us. The SGF sat there and didn’t say anything. Government said it was going to make N100 billion available, but it later told us that the money was no longer available. Now, they talking of N200 billion. If this has happened to you several times, are you likely to trust the person saying it? It is the same government that we are talking about. Our members are saying if this money is there, let us know that the money is there.
I told you earlier that the report has all the recommendations for each university. All that the committee needs to do is that from the day of inauguration, take the NEEDS Assessment report, look at the projects that are to be carried out in each university and determine, based on the quantum of money available and then make the money available to the universities on the basis of projects that have been approved. That will not take two days if the money is truly with the CBN. Then, the letters of allocation will be given to the universities to enable them draw from the funds. That will not take an additional two days. If they had responded to the letter and set up the committee, by now, that committee would have already started disbursing. If they had done that, even on the ones they are saying should be taken for granted, we would just say let us have the documentation and that will be the end of it. If they do that, we will know that this time around, government is serious and we would not be taken through the same path we were taken before when government agents will tell you that the money is there, kampe! In fact, the SGF, I recall, was wearing a red cap [when he] told us that by the time MoU was implemented, the universities would have much more money than we could ever think of.
What will be the reaction of the leadership of ASUU if government decides to enforce the resume-or-lose-your-job order?
I told you that it has been done before. IBB did it. I was reading a newspaper and I saw IBB advising government against it because he did it before and it didn’t work. If the late Sani Abacha were alive, maybe he would have also testified to that. It will not work. But I can’t sit here and tell you what the union will do when they do that. That is our strategy and we cannot expose our strategy now.
Is the union interested in the controversies surrounding the accident that claimed the life of your former president, Professor Festus Iyayi?
Naturally. If we lose a member, the union must be interested, more so, a former president, who was going to Kano to attend a meeting of the union that was to address this current crisis. But the issue is that our union has its procedure. We just don’t come out in the media without getting our facts right. We will wait. When we see the outcome of the autopsy, we can then take a decision on what we are going to do on that.