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Government Will Not Borrow N1.1 Trillion To Meet ASUU’s Demand – Umahi
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, yesterday, said even though the demand by the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) is genuine, there is no way the country will borrow N1.1 trillion to meet the union’s demand.
Umahi, in a statement, when he received members of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, led by Mr. Ben Akubueze, insisted that the basic problem in the country remains security, health and education.
According to Umahi, a university education is not for everybody. He stressed that the basic education every country strives to attain is secondary and vocational school education. He maintained that these are basic schools and that qualifications obtained from them can aid one to start up something or gain employment.
His words: “There is a need to review our educational system; it mustn’t be for everybody. I am not ashamed that I have a first degree and my deputy is a PhD holder; it doesn’t matter. So, I cannot see how we cannot sit down with ASUU leaders and iron out the strike problem.
“I have read on the social media and newspapers how students got into trouble just by sitting at home or engaged in other means of keeping themselves busy instead of being in school.
“There is no way the country will borrow N1.1 trillion to meet ASUU’s demand; it’s unreasonable. Are the demands genuine? Yes, but we can start little by little.
“There must be a commitment from both parties. ASUU members are not making demands to take to their houses so to say; they are asking for better infrastructure, as well as better lecturers and students. Yes, but we can start with a fraction of that and then have a programme that will run on the platform of sincerity to address all demands.
“Let me also say that most of the time, our people have a low appetite for maintenance of public works.”
No matter how much you deploy to these universities, unless the users, the industry, the regulators begin to treat public infrastructure as their own, it will continue to go bad no matter how much Federal Government deploys to it.”
The National Association of Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria has advised the Federal Government to convey a tripartite meeting of parents, Academic Staff Union of Universities, and government so as to resolve the ongoing strike by the university teachers.
This was against the backdrop of the request from the Federal Government that parents’ associations should appeal to ASUU to call off its strike, while the government insisted that it did not have funds to meet the union’s demands.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, NAPTAN President, Mr Haruna Danjuma, explained that it was improper to ask the association to beg ASUU, adding that the government should meet ASUU’s demands.
He said, “If the government is saying parents should meet with ASUU, over what? ASUU didn’t direct their requests to PTA; they directed their demands to the government, their employer. FG has been meeting with ASUU they know what ASUU wants; we also know what ASUU wants through what we read.
“Let the government look into the demands, it is then the parents can say ‘ASUU, please consider the FG.’ I don’t think it is right for NAPTAN to meet with ASUU just like that.
“We have been begging ASUU, we are not begging them again. But If the government says ‘PTA, NAPTAN, ASUU come,’ then we are ready. The government should organise a meeting with the parent bodies of public and private schools, basic and higher institutions, let government arrange for a tripartite meeting. We will go there and say something; after all, they are our children. If it requires us to kneel down and beg government and ASUU to arrive at something, we are ready to do that and I appeal to the government and ASUU to arrive at something.”
Report on UTAS
Meanwhile, ASUU has disclosed that the test conducted by the National Information Technology Development Agency on the University Transparency Accountability System was concluded three weeks ago.
The PUNCH reports that one of the reasons ASUU embarked on strike on February 14, 2022 was the government’s failure to accept UTAS as the payment platform for the payment of salaries and allowances of university lecturers instead of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.
In 2020, the union embarked on a strike over some other demands and allegations against what it tagged as “massive fraud and inconsistencies” on the IPPIS.
The union and the Federal Government agreed on the development of a new payment platform.
Early in 2022, a test was conducted by NITDA on the UTAS with the agency claiming that the platform failed the integrity test.
However, the Federal Government through the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, ordered that the platform should again be subjected to another test.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH, the National President of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, said, “The testing ended three weeks ago, we have not seen the results. The tests have been concluded three weeks.
“Meanwhile this is for our children, our youths staying at home. Meanwhile a minister will come and say we are asking for N1.2 trillion. Have the issues that do not have to do with money been resolved? Three weeks now, we have not seen the results.”
When contacted, NITDA’s Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs, Hadiza Umar, confirmed to The PUNCH that the agency has completed the test on UTAS.
She said, “We have completed the testing and the report of the testing has been sent to the Ministry of Labour. I do not know the content of the report but the testing has been concluded.
“The labour ministry sent it to us for testing and that is why the report was transmitted to them. You may however wish to contact the labour ministry for further information”.
When contacted, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, simply said, “Absolutely, I do not know anything about it. I am not aware of it and in all honesty, that is the truth.”
Parents, on the platform of National Parents Teachers Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, have said they can only beg members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to call off their strike if government considers the reports of the various committees set up to look into the matter and come out with its decisions.
The body stated that it expects the Federal Government to come out publicly with its offers for it to know how to intervene and mediate between the two sides.
NAPTAN spoke through its National President, Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, in a chat with Vanguard on Sunday.
The association was reacting to an interview where the Minister of State for Labour, Mr Festus Keyamo(SAN) asked Nigerians, especially parents, to beg members of ASUU to return to their duty posts.
Keyamo also said the government would not go borrowing to meet the demands of the union.
“Let the Federal Government consider all the reports of the various committees it set up to negotiate with ASUU.
“There was a committee led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, among numerous committees.
“There has never been a time when parents are involved in the negotiation.
“We don’t want a situation where somebody will pitch us against ASUU or any group.
“The negotiation should involve parents, NANS, ASUU and government team.
“What the government should do is consider the reports of those committees and look at areas they can afford or work on and present same to ASUU.
“If whatever they can afford is unacceptable to the unions, then parents and others can come in to intervene,” Danjuma said.
Also speaking in a chat, the National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said it is subtle blackmail for anybody to insinuate that the union is pushing the government to borrow.
He advised that the government should get its priorities right to solve the impasse and do the needful.
“We are not asking the government to go borrowing. But since the Minister is a Nigerian, he should know what our demands are.
“Our demands include that they implement the Memorandum of Action signed in 202 with us.
“The document says government will release the first tranche of the Revitalisation Fund, pay Earned Academic Allowance, stop proliferation of universities, renegotiate the 2009 agreement among others.
“They have set up a committee to renegotiate the 2009 Agreement and they are yet to come up with anything from the report of the committee they set up.
“I wonder why some people behave as if they are living in another world entirely. Is it because they are occupying public offices that they seem to exist in another planet?” he wondered.
ASUU has been on strike since February 14 and recently extended it by another four weeks.