PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has approved a sum of N400 billion to be expended on infrastructural development of Nigerian universities in order to transform them to international standard within the next four years.

The document to this effect is expected to be made available today at the meeting of the Presidential Committee on Implementation of the NEEDS Assessment in the universities with the leaders of the four university based unions – the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

President of SSANU, Comrade Samson Ugwoke, stated this while addressing his union members at the SSANU National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held at the University of Abuja at the weekend.

Comrade Ugwoke was briefing the SSANU members on what the NEEDS Assessment Implementation Committee, led by the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswan is doing.

The N400 billion, according to him is different from the N100 billion which Governor Suswan- led committee had raised from donor agencies and big companies to tackle the problems of Nigerian universities in the year 2013.

The SSANU President said: “Let me give you a tip on what the NEED Assessment Committee is doing. The President has approved that within the next four years, N400 billion would be expended in infrastructural development of Nigerian universities, and to transform them to international standard.

“N100 billion has been raised by the Suswan Committee, he has done that already. 61 universities had been penciled down as contained in the NEEDS Assessment Committee. These 61 universities will share the N100 billion in various categories which include refurbishing and renovation of lecture theaters and lecture halls, refurbishing and renovation of laboratory/library and the renovation of hostels.

“The second category is building of new hostels of international standard, self-contained room, the latest model in the world. That is the standard to be built in every university, and also the state-of-the-art laboratories as well as classrooms, lecture theatres and the halls.”

Comrade Ugwoke pointed out that the money had been shared and out of the N100 billion, N96 billion had been sent to universities.

He added: “The committee is meeting again on Monday (today), and by Monday, the document will be out. This time around, it is not only by giving universities money, but it will be monitored to ensure that the money is used to transform the universities, to bail universities out of the present situation and develop them to an internationally recognized university standard.”

He, however regretted that theinitial setting up of the first committee that came up with the report was subjective, wondering how a committee on NEEDS in the universities would be set up to work without the inclusion of the three non- teaching staff unions, SSANU, NAAT and NASU, but only flocks with ASUU members and their associates.

The SSANU president stated that this led the committee to write a report only from ASUU’s perspective, but for thequick intervention of the otherthree unions who wrote a counter report which was accepted by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who apologized to the other unions.

However, he assured the non-teaching staff in the universities and SSANU members that none of them will be retrenched based on the previous NEEDS Assessment report.

The SSANU president said: “I know that our members will be saying that what does the committee say about our members. I can assure you thatour members will never be relegated, they will never be sacked or retrenched, there is nothing like that in the terms of reference of the PresidentialCommittee on the Implementation of NEEDS Assessment.

“We have three Presidents against one in that committee and we are doing our networking. Unless they want to close the universities, they dare not try to retrench or touch our members, because when we go on strike, it will be mother of all strikes, they know that.

Not even vice-chancellors will cross the gate of the universities.”

He also frowned on the Senate approval of girl-child marriage,describing it as an embarrassment to the nation, saying that what Senate should concern itself with is girl-child education, compulsory girl-child education and not compulsory girl-child marriage.

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