The Academic Staff Union of Universities explained that the N1.1 trillion fund for the revival of public universities was a commitment made by the Federal Government and not the union’s idea.
The chairman of ASUU, Niger Delta University chapter, Kingdom Tonbara, made the clarification during a call-in program on Rhythm 94.7FM, Yenagoa, on which he appeared with his secretary, Ebi Baraka, on Saturday.
This is because they insisted that ASUU-NDU would not withdraw from the ongoing national strike, adding that the chapter’s involvement in the union’s past struggles led to the transformation of the Bayelsa state-owned university, which has so far been in some described in circles as “a glorified secondary school”.
The Minister of State for Labor and Employment, Festus Keyamo, declared in August that the Federal Government would not borrow N1.1trn to end the ongoing nationwide industrial action that the national body of ASUU has embarked on since February 2022 over the government’s failures to to implement, among other things, the 2009 agreement.
Speaking on a national television, Keyamo claimed that the union is trying to blackmail the government to borrow the money while other sectors also need attention.
Tonbara said the N1.1trn revival fund for public universities was proposed by the Federal Government in 2013 when the university teachers downed tools for six months to drive home the need for the government to rescue the institutions from infrastructural decay.
He noted that the government came up with the figure following a report presented to the Federal Executive Council by a committee commissioned by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to visit all public universities to ascertain the level of lapses in response to an earlier complaint by the union in 2012.
Tonbara said: “That report was presented to the Federal Executive Council where they looked at it and they shouted, from what we are told; it means that Nigerian universities have completely decayed and they had to pump massive funds into public universities to revive our universities.
“And they (Federal Government), not ASUU, came up with N1.1trn to be pumped into public universities; not ASUU. And they said they don’t have the money even though they realized they need N1.1trn from the assessment.
“It was ASUU that recommended to them that you can spread this (money) over six years and the payment is not going to be made to ASUU, but it will be given to the administrators of the universities to fund the universities, both state and universities to be developed federally.”
The ASUU-NDU leader continued: “So, the then president, after agreeing, was not able to release this money. That’s why we went on strike for six months in 2013. At the end of that six-month strike, the President graciously released N200 billion instead of the normal N220 billion we agreed upon. He released N200 billion.
“And you will not believe it, for the first time the Niger Delta University got N3 billion (from the money). Before 2013, the Niger Delta University did not see N1 billion, and that was the era when people described the NDU as a glorified secondary school.”
Tonbara explained that the N3bn was very useful for the management of the NDU as it was able to build brand new faculties of agriculture and arts, auditorium and two residences while a library which had been abandoned since 2004 was also completed and equipped.
He added: “From that N3 billion, we were able to equip most of our laboratories. From that N3 billion, we were able to send some of our colleagues abroad to do Masters and Ph.Ds. We agreed in that 2009 agreement (with the Federal Government) that in three years we will renegotiate the agreement. From 2009 to date, various governments have cheated us.”