The federal government may be forced to break off negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) following the thwarting of its recent effort by the lecturers who rejected the N130 billion disbursed into the university system by the FG, sources have said.
After several meetings ended in deadlock, members of the committees set up by the federal government to negotiate with ASUU, rising from a meeting yesterday in Abuja, expressed their frustration that they had not been able to make any meaningful progress despite all the offers made to the lecturers. They therefore resolved to halt further negotiations.
A source also said the decision by the federal government’s negotiating team to stop negotiating with ASUU may not be unconnected with security reports that the union had been infiltrated by opposition parties which have egged on the lecturers to remain inflexible to the government’s offers.
The source added that the federal government has found the uncompromising stance of ASUU extremely frustrating.
“We are trying to meet their demands within reason, but ASUU has remained stubborn insisting on all or nothing,” he said.
He accused ASUU of being unpatriotic and not acting in the best interest of the students and the country at large.
“ASUU has not been patriotic despite the willingness by government to meet some of their demands. Instead, they have remained unyielding.
“The federal government is also alarmed over security reports reaching it that ASUU has been infiltrated by opposition parties that have encouraged the lecturers to keep the universities closed to make political capital,” he disclosed.
He said the situation had compelled the government to consider a number of options to reform the university system, including a report which was presented to the committees yesterday.
The report, he said, focused on the demographics of the university student population in the country and how much the federal government spends on each student in a four-year degree programme.
“The report showed that the total student population in federal universities in the country is 1.8 million to 2 million. By making university education free, it costs the federal government, on average, N6 million per student in a four-year degree programme.
“Compare this to most private universities where it costs parents an average of N4 million in the same period and the quality of education and graduates churned out are much better.
“Meanwhile, the report also showed that there are some 80 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 25 who want to get a university education but cannot get admission into schools and are frustrated.
“This means that the federal university system is running an inefficient structure which has to be reformed,” the source explained.
He pointed out that one of the options available to the federal government is the introduction of financial aid, similar to what obtains in the United States of America, to cater to students’ needs.
“This financial aid does not mean that students will now be made to pay school fees. That is not the intention of the assistance to be provided through financial aid. It will be a throwback to the bursary system and will be provided to students to help take care of their basic needs such as feeding, accommodation and books.
“It is similar to what obtains in the US through which money in the form of soft loans are disbursed directly to students which will be repaid when they get jobs,” he said.
He said the introduction of financial aid was informed by the report, which traced the high rate of delinquency, cultism, s*xual molestation and general indiscipline in the universities to lack of access to financial resources by students to meet their needs.
The source pointed out that this is what the federal government expected of ASUU by keying into some of these problems, not just their demands.
“The agitation by ASUU needs to key into the rot in the system; the lecturers ought to be concerned about falling academic standards and output, not just mere salaries,” he said.