They went to laboratories where they found people using kerosene stoves instead of bushing burners to conduct experiments; they found specimens being kept in pure water bottles instead of the appropriate places where such specimens should be kept
PROF. FESTUS IYAYI is a former National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). In this interview, he explains why university teachers nationwide are on strike; saying the action is to compel the Federal Government to implement the agreement it reached with ASUU on funding of universities.
Iyayi, currently Head of Dept, Business Administration, University of Benin, insists that the union members are prepared to stay at home for the next three to five years until the right thing is done.
ASUU has gone back to the trenches with the Federal Government. Why are you on strike?
The short answer is this: Government believes that Nigeria should continue to be not just a second rate country but a third rate country because the quality of development, the kind of society you have depend on the kind of education that the people have and the quality of education that exists in the country. In 2009, ASUU reached an agreement with government on how to rehabilitate and revitalize the universities. That agreement was a product of three years of negotiation, from 2006 to 2009, and government agreed that it will provide funding for universitiesto bring them to a level that wecan begin to produce graduatesthat will be recognized worldwide, and our universitiescan also be classified and rated among the best in the world. People keep talking about universities rating, but no Nigerian university features among the first 1,000 in the world because of the issue of lack of facilities. So, from 2009 to 2012, ASUU waited for the Federal Government to implement that agreement and what government did was to believe and present the argument that what ASUU was looking for was money, and so, they implemented part of the salary component; they did not implement the agreement on funding. As academics, if you pay us N10million a month and we do not have the tools to work with, that money is worthless because we want to be able to conduct research, teach students the latest that is available in the world of knowledge. Those tools were not available and are still not available. So, in 2011, precisely in December, ASUU went on strike to force government to implement the funding part of that agreement.
What did the government do?
They apprehended the strike in January 2012 and the Secretary to the Federal Government invited the leadership of ASUU for a meeting in his office. We went there, discussed with them on the basis of which on 24 January, 2012, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government under the title, “MEETING OF THE SECRETARY OF THE GOVERNEMNT OF THE FEDERATION WITH THE ACADEMIC STAFF UNION OF UNIVERSITIES “and signed by Prof. Nicholas A. Damachi, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education on behalf of the Federal Government.
The most important of the items signed was 3.0, that is, “FUNDING REQUIREMENTS FOR UNIVERSITIES”. And this is what the Federal Government said it would do: “Government reaffirms its commitment to therevitalization of Nigerian universities through budgetary and non- budgetary sources of funds; government will immediately stimulate the process with the sum of N100billion and will beef it up to a yearly sum of N400 billion in the next three years”. As we speak now, not a Kobo, not an iota of intervention has taken place in the universities. Yet, government itself, in the various studies it has done, saidit recognizes the pathetic state of the universities. In order to implement this agreement, government first gave a reason saying, ‘oh, for us to apply the funds, let us first of all identify the areas of priorities to which the funds will be applied’. Government also said, ‘we are not going to give the money to the universities, what we are going to do is to identify the projects, we will them call on government agencies such as the CBN, PTDF, ETF to deliver theprojects to the universities that would then be estimated’. So the money is not coming to the universities, government will do the costing and get people to come and do all those things such as the rehabilitation of the laboratories, classrooms and a variety of other things.
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