Thursday, August 22, 2013

FG Distributes N100bn to 59 Universities

The federal government Thursday distributed N100 billion to 59 public
universities as its first intervention fund for the provision of
critical infrastructure in the institutions.
It also appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)
to call off its strike and allow resumption of activities in the ivory
But its plea may have not swayed the union, which Thursday announced
that it was withdrawing from further negotiations with the federal
government, which it accused of insincerity.
In a bid to ensure equity and national spread in the distribution
ofthe money, each of the 36 states of the federation would have
oneuniversity covered in the first phase of the intervention
The funds would be deployed to building new hostels, renovation of
old ones, provision of libraries, laboratories, lecture rooms and
theatres and Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
facilities, among others.
Chairman of the Presidential Implementation and Monitoring Committee
on the Needs Assessment in Nigerian Universities and Benue State
Governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, announced the distribution of the funds
at a news conference yesterday in Abuja,called to brief the public on
the outcome of the committee's meeting.
The meeting was attended by the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruquayatu
Rufa'i and her counterpart in the Ministry of Labour and Productivity,
Chief Emeka Wogu, representatives of both the Senate and House of
Representatives Committees on Education, representatives of federal
agencies involved in funding university education and the various
workers' unions in the university system.
A statement from Suswam's Special Adviser on Media and Public
Affairs, Dr Cletus Akwaya, said the meeting unanimously adopted a
report of its technical sub-committee, which had earlier carried out
the distribution of the funds to each of the beneficiary universities
based on a criterion adopted from the Needs Assessment report.
Suswam explained that the benefitting universities have been charged
to use their share of the N100 billion to address the gross deficit in
critical infrastructure on their respective campuses.
He also said the distribution of the funds was done in a fair and
equitable manner based on a properly defined criteria, adding thata
representative of ASUU participated in the technical sub- committee
that made recommendations to the main committee.
"Our committee will present the spreadsheet of the projects to Mr
President for his approval after which the funds would be released to
the governing councils of the benefitting universities after meeting
with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Minister of
Education," he said.
Suswam renewed his appeal to ASUU to call off the ongoing strike in
the interest of the nation.
According to him, most of the issues that gave rise to the industrial
action have been substantially addressed by the federal government.
He specifically referred to the contentious issue of the earned
allowances for which the federal government has approved N30 billion
for immediate release to the universities to enable them paytheir
staff members after due verification of the various claims of their
However, ASUU at a press conference in Lagos, yesterday, rejected
government's ongoing efforts to meet its demands, saying they have
been mere palliatives that are not enough to make it suspend the
The union, therefore, said it was withdrawing from further
negotiations with the federal government because it had not been
sincere in implementing the 2009 agreement between the two parties and
the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) both parties signed in January
last year.
ASUU had resorted to a total strike on July 2 following the federal
government's reluctance to honour the terms of the 2009 agreement.
ASUU President, Dr. Nassir Faggae Isa, told reporters at the news
conference that the federal government should commence with the
implementation of the 2009 agreement rather than making a dubious
statement of supporting universities with N100 billion.
According to him, "Government has declared that it will not pay
university academics their earned allowances, which accumulated from
2009 to 2013. Rather, it is talking about providing N30 billion to
assist various governing councils of federal universities to defray
the arrears of N92 billion owed to all categories of staff in the
university system . It was a sinister 'take it, or leave it' threat of
grab the crumbs or starve to death."
He added that since the signing of the MoU, the government had not
demonstrated enough sincerity to show that it was ready to fulfil its
obligations to the teachers.
He explained that the union considered last Monday's meeting, which
ended in a deadlock, and other recent positions on the matter by
government bewildering, embarrassing and highly unacceptable and it
would therefore stop further negotiations with the federal government.
"ASUU cannot believe that the agreement, the MoU and the Needs
Assessment report undertaken and endorsed by the highestpublic
officials in the land, would be so blatantly ridiculed by the same
people. We are opting out of the Suswam committee becauseit is as if
the government team are using the strike to enrich themselves," the
union president said.
He expressed concern that the federal government that had within the
last three years supported private concerns such as airlines and banks
with trillions of naira from the public vaults as bailouts,is suddenly
turning around to say it has no funds to conscientiously revitalise
its own universities.
"Available information indicates that the Suswam committee was used as
smokescreen to deceive ASUU, Nigerian students and their parents, as
well as other unsuspecting members of the public on the purported
released N100 billion for the implementation of the Needs Assessment
report. First, government plans to divert theyearly allocations to
universities by TETFund to make at least 70 per cent of the N100
billion. This is unacceptable to ASUU. It is like robbing Peter to
pay Paul, since the idea of revitalisationtook full cognisance of the
intervention role of TETFund ab initio," Isa said.

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