The federal government Tuesday released the sum of N30 billion to the Ministry of Education for onward disbursement to the universities for the payment of earned allowances of the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Making this disclosure, yesterday, at a meeting with the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), at the state Governor’s Lodge in Abuja, Benue State Governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswan reiterated his appeal to the striking university lecturers to return to the classrooms in the interest of the future leaders of the country.
Suswan, who is also the chairman of the Needs Implementation Committee, said the money for the earned allowances was released yesterday afternoon, admitting that, although there was delay in the commencement of the implementation of the existing agreements, the government had already addressed almost all of the demands of ASUU except on the allowances.
He also described as ‘unfair’ comments allegedly made by ASUU leadership that the government was insincere and that the government disbursement of N100 billion for infrastructure needs of the institutions was done without consultations.
“ASUU participated in all the meetings where it was agreed to raise N100 billion, which has already been distributed to all the universities. In fact, the president of ASUU nominated one Dr. Baffa, who is very resourceful. He did all the work, and presented the criteria for distribution of the money which is based on the population of each university,” he explained.
Suswan added that after the draft distribution was drawn up, he asked the union to go through the document for their satisfaction.
“Instead, they wrote me a letter accusing the committee of insincerity. The councils are the ones that would verify what we are owing, go and ask them. ASUU said no, that unless we put N92 billion on the table,” he added.
The governor clarified that the government cannot hand over any money blindly unless it verified the need. This, he said, was necessary so that every university would be allocated the money it needed for the earned allowances.
On the N100 billion for infrastructure, which had already been disbursed to the schools, Suswan said the governing councils would be the ones to award the contracts, and not the Needs Implementation committee.
Suswan also alleged that the strike had assumed a political dimension. He appealed to all well-meaning Nigerians to work with the federal government to find a permanent solution to the incessant strikes, which held the danger of seeing to the production of mediocre graduates.
He also urged NANS not to embark on a protest as being canvassed in some quarters. Instead, he appealed to the union to urge ASUU to return to work.
“To raise N100 billion in two weeks is not an easy task. We are making efforts to ensure that this intervention is sustained beyond 2013,” he said.
NANS President, Mr. Yinka Gbadebo, in an earlier address, expressed the intention of the students’ body to embark on a protest either against the government or ASUU.
He also urged the government to consider the idea of interest-free loans for tertiary education students to ease the financial burden on those, who cannot easily pay for their education.