The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, yesterday called on the National Universities Commission, NUC, not to grant operational licence to any state government that approaches it for such.
NUC is saddled with the responsibility to approve the establishment of new universities and supervise their activities.
The union made the call at a press briefing organised by its Lagos zone comprising University of Lagos, Akoka; Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye; Lagos State University, Ojo; Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun Ijebu and the Federal University of Agriculture, FUNAAB, Abeokuta.
The briefing was held at UNILAG with all the chairmen and other officers of the chapters in attendance.
The Lagos zone coordinator of the union, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, who spoke at the briefing, said the group was strongly against the establishment of new state universities at least for now based on the fact that many of the existing ones were in serious deplorable conditions.
He said many states were not economically viable to run one university effectively let alone establish new one.
The ASUU boss, who teaches Animal Science at FUNAAB named Ondo, Edo and Bayelsa states as case studies, arguing that many state governments now relied heavily on money from the TertiaryEducation Trust Fund, TETFund, and the Needs Assessment Intervention Fund to run their universities.
According to him, apart from the deplorable conditions of its university at Akungba-Akoko and Okitipupa, Ondo State government still owed workers three month salaries and yet the state governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko went ahead to establish a third university.
“Also, Governor Adams Oshiomole of Edo State who has failed in funding Ambrose Alli University has also established another university, and likewise Governor Seriaki Dickson of Bayelsa State established another university at a time workers at the Niger Delta University had not be paid for five months.
“And one common thread among these new universities is that they are all sited in the communities of governors that brought them to life.
“So, there is no need to establish other universities when the ones on ground lack basic infrastructures and facilities to make them perform as 21st century universities,” he said.
He re-echoed ASUU’s earlier opposition to the appointment of former Vice-Chancellor of University of Ilorin, UNILORIN, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, as the new Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB. Prof. Sowande insisted that the new JAMB boss was unfit to hold the position he described as sensitive to the education sector.
He said the union’s stance on the Islamic scholar was based on his antecedent, which he said was inhuman and anti-democratic.
Sowande also threatened that the union would embark on a nationwide strike to press home its demands for the implementation of its 2009 agreement with the Federal Government.
According to him, ASUU was planning to toe this path after several efforts to ensure that the government addressed the pending demands, proved abortive.
He said that the 2009 FG/ASUU agreement, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on funding of state universities, breaches of the conditions of service and renegotiation of the agreement, were still pending.
The coordinator also mentioned other demands like the exclusion of Nigerian universities from Pension Management Company and non-release of NEEDS Assessment Intervention Fund.
He said funding of state universities, earned academic allowance and renegotiation of the agreement were parts of the outstanding issues.
Sowande recalled that the union had embarked on strike in 2012 and 2013 as part of efforts to make the government implement the agreement, adding that the issues remained unresolved.
He said that the 2009 agreement provided for a periodic review after every three years, which had not been done.
“The review of the agreement should have been undertaken in 2012 and 2015 but that did not happen.
“The implication is that our union has shown enough patriotism and understanding on these matters in the last four years.
“We are perplexed and disappointed that both the federal and state governments are not responding to our consistent appeals to bring about genuine transformation in the education sector,” he said.
According to him, embarking on strike has never been a favourable choice as students and ASUU members have always suffered the pains more.
“It is unfortunate that the only language government appears to respect and listens to is that of industrial action like strike,” he said.
The don said national officers of the union had met with the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu on May 10 and tabled a ten-point demand.
He said the minister had promised that the issues would be resolved within two weeks but nothing had been done till now.
Sowande said that based on the MOU signed in November 2013, “Nigerian universities require N1.3trn to revitalise the system”, adding that the government was already in arrears of N605bn as at the third quarter of 2016.
He said the government had refused to release N128bn and N250bn respectively for the earned academic allowance of three years after the MoU was signed.
“In order to forestall this avoidable crisis, we appeal to all genuinely progressive individuals and groups to prevail on both the federal and state governments to commence release of funds for the listed purposes.
“This is to arrest the brewing and potentially combustible situation in the Nigerian university system before it degenerated into a serious conflagration,” he said.