The presidency on Wednesday for the umpteenth time pleaded with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to call off their five-month old strike just as it claimed that the sum of N200 billion requested by the union as a sign of faith that government is sincere in its commitment to revitalize the nation’s comatose universities, has been paid into an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said at a press briefing in Abuja that the account, a “revitalization of Universities Infrastructural Account,” was authorized by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation on November 13.
Stressing that there were now more than enough reasons for the nation’s striking university lecturers to return to the classroom, Okupe said, “I state categorically that I have personally seen the balance in the account as of today and confirm that it contains the requisite amount and disbursement will commence as soon as on-going administrative processes are sorted out”.
He also used the opportunity to reaffirm that the President and the administration have no credibility issues whatsoever.
“Mr. President has always honored his words and obligations to the Nigerian people as and at when due,” he said.
The presidential aide dismissed the four items mentioned by ASUU as preconditions for calling off the strike, stating that none of them “remain substantially pending or weighty enough to justify the continuation of the strike”, adding that “therefore, there are no legitimate reasons for the strike by University teachers to continue a day any longer”.
ASUU had given the following pre-conditions to the Federal Government:
•Commitment from the President that any review or reconsideration or renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement will not substantially affect the pact which is the cause of the ongoing strike;
•Immediate payment of all outstanding salary arrears and allowances of varsity teachers without victimization; and
•A written commitment from the President that the Federal Government will commit N225billion annually to the funding of universities for the next four years.
There is a fourth condition, which is said to be “personal” to ASUU, bordering on the need to be wary of gradual loss of public sympathy.
While appealing to the leadership of ASUU as well as other ‘patriotic’ members of the union to put all else aside and call of the strike in the interest of Nigerian students, who have been kept at home for 5 months without any form of ‘compensation’ whatsoever, Okupe said, “Having come this far, we believe it is time that we all come together once again as major stakeholders in the affairs of the country and the educational sector in particular to move on and begin to chart a new course for advancing the sector and improving the standard of our institutions for higher learning|.
He concluded that “There are no victor or vanquished in this protracted disagreement.”
Information Nigeria recalls that the Federal Government last week indicated it would sack the striking lecturers if they did not return to their classes yesterday (Wednesday) although it postponed the deadline to next week Monday, 9th December, ASUU ignored the threat, opting to continue their strike.