Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, yesterday, denied knowledge of the N200 billion said to have been deposited at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, by Federal Government, as a way of resolving the six months old strike which had paralysed academic activities in the nation’s universities.
ASUU also lamented that government was fond of rushing to the media with propaganda and falsehood, instead of resolving the contentious issues headlong, and vowed to continue with the strike until it was officially notified about the payment.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja Wednesday, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, asked ASUU to call its members back to work, since government had fulfilled its own part of the bargain, by paying the said amount into CBN.
According to him, the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation had authorised the payment of the money into CBN via a letter with reference number FD/OAGF/220/ ADC/1/4DF, dated November 13. Okupe said the money was paid into a ‘Revitalisation of Universities Infrastructural Account’ with the CBN.
However, speaking in a telephone interview with Vanguard yesterday, Chairman of ASUU at the University of Ibadan, Dr. Segun Ajiboye, said the union would continue with the strike as government was yet to officially notify it, detailing the evidence of such payment.
He said: “We read in the papers today (yesterday), that government has presented proof of the N200 billion deposited to in a CBN account for the funding of universities and therefore that we must call-off the strike or face sack.
“As I speak to you, we are yet to get any evidence of the payment as claimed by government.
“Our union is still expecting an official reply of the letter we wrote to the President through the Supervising Minister of Education on November 22.
“It is very simple. All we request from the Federal Government is to document all it said it has done and will do, and get it duly signed by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“When this is done, then we expect the Federal Government to invite our union for a meeting so that the final document can be duly recognised and signed by both parties.
“As a union of intellectuals, we see the government’s claims as payment on pages of newspapers.”
Reacting to the extension of the sack threat deadline to November 9, Ajiboye said: “The threat to sack over 30,000 lecturers is laughable.
Our members are resolute to salvage the decadence in our educational system. So, we are unperturbed by the threat.”
On some universities that had already resumed academic activities, the don said: “I can assure you, that there is no university where teaching is taking place.
“Mind you, universities have not been totally shut down in the last six months. Just that academic activities were stopped.
“So if administrative activities are going on, it would be wrong to say that universities have resumed. Look, when Vice Chancellors go into the classroom to teach with armed policemen, can we say teaching is taking place?”
On his part, Dr. Idris Adekunle, Chairman of ASUU, Lagos State University branch, said: “If you had discussions with some group of people and some resolutions where reached, I think it is logical to write the people you had discussions with stating your new position.
“After our meeting with government on November 4, we wrote government on November 8 and 22, stating some grey areas, which we believe government should meet to end this strike.
“But for reasons unknown to us, the government never replied our letters. Now, it is claiming it has made payment of the N200 billion revitalisation funds for universities into a CBN account.
“As a union made up of intellectuals, ASUU cannot just believe that payment has been made, which is only on the pages of newspapers.
“Even if government writes us that it has deposited the money, providing an account number, we must confirm the payment from CBN.
“I must lament that I see all these as normal government’s propaganda. The government is playing with the lives and future of our children using personalities we already know.
“This is not helping this nation. However, ASUU is resolute to ensure government is accountable and responsive to the people.
“Once we get government’s official letter, inviting us for a meeting, we will call-off the strike after the resolutions reached must have been signed by both parties.” [Vanguard]