As universities lecturers continue their stay at home action awaiting an amicable resolution of the lingering dispute between their Union, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government, its president, Nasir Fagge has expressed optimism that the strike will end soon.
Fagge insists that the FG needs to vote more funds into education so as to achieve a better quality of graduates from universities.
The ASUU president also spoke about the conduct of the National Universities Commission (NUC) accusing its leadership of misapplying universities’ Stabilization Fund.
Read excerpts of the interview below:
The Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof. Okojie, is shifting the blame on the rot in the universities to the authorities which he accused of lacking in good leadership.
What is your take?
The accreditation exercise conducted by NUC in all programmes in the universities was a charade. That is what the Needs Assessment report proved.If the system is working, maybe the system is working according to his own personal standard not according to the national minimum standard in education that is in the law of the country.“If he is saying that things are going normal, there wouldn’t have been any problem in the system but our students and we that are working in the system know that there is a problem. And to make matters worse, the proposals ASUU made to government in 1992 on how to get additional funding for the system, one of them has been cornered by NUC and NUC is just using the money without making it available to the universities, the Stabilization Fund I think there is the need for investigation into the NUC activities.
How much did NUC misapply?
The first amount that was made available, I think, was N1.6 billion and the NUC boss himself mentioned at the National Assembly that the money was diverted to buy a house which initially National Open University was supposed to use. In actual fact, the law did not allow NUC to use that money to buy a house The Stabilization Fund is supposed to be used to assist universities in emergency situations; when they need money urgently, you can draw from the money and stabilize and when they get their own money, they can return it into the Stabilization Fund.
NUC just cornered the money and was using it to do what is normally budgeted for every year. “Government is supposed to replenish the fund so that there will be a certain amount that should be put into the fund annually; and from the interest, the universities can draw, that was the idea. NUC is using the money to organize conferences and all kinds of things that the money was not meant to be used for.
Any hope for the resolution of FG/ASUU crisis soon?
I keep telling people that all my life, I have been optimistic and that I think, if I had been a pessimist, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I am always optimistic that no matter how difficult a situation is, we will be able to address it. But the key issue is that government must do what is right “This thing that they are saying agreement cannot be implemented, we have heard it before. Prof. Ben Nwabueze was always in the media when he was the Minister of Education saying it was an agreement of imperfect obligation.
The thing about it is that if other countries are investing about 28-30 per cent of their annual budget in education, typically Ghana, why not Nigeria? Is it because we are under the dictates of IMF and World Bank? Don’t we want to do what is right? Must our children continue to go to Ghanaian universities for education? Must our people be leaving our country, be brain drained to other countries to m develop their economies? Must we continue this way? Even now what is happening is that the Chinese have taken over our economy simply because they trained their people, they educated their people and their people can compete anywhere in the world.
That is why our President is going to China to sign MoUs. Why can’t we do the same? Why can’t we train our people and give them quality education so that we will also be exporting them to other countries and bring foreign exchange and we will not need to import people to do sundry projects in our country? Most of the key contracts now are being handled by Chinese companies most of our companies are down simply because we have not paid high premium to our education sector.
Are we happy with what we are producing as graduates?
We are not; that is what we are crying out for. Let people understand that it is the pride of an intellectual to produce a well rounded graduate who is even better than himself. We don’t have the facilities to give our students the state of-the-art training and we are crying out and some people are telling us all sorts of things.