The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has said it is ready to meet with the incoming administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to find a lasting solution to its incessant face-off with the government only on one condition — the government must show determination to handle education issues with the seriousness they deserve.
Speaking in a chat with Vanguard on Monday, the National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, however, said if the Tinubu administration would go the way of its predecessor, then the final nail would have been put on the coffin of tertiary education in the country.
He said: “We can meet and are ready to meet with the incoming government if they would show more seriousness and willingness to accord education the pride of place it deserves.
“They just have to go many steps higher than what we have now. We hope they would see the need to give education top priority and save it from collapse,” he said.
On the steps to resolve the issue of withheld salaries and other matters in contention with the outgoing government, Osodeke noted that no significant progress has been made.
“We called off our industrial action about six months ago because of the pronouncement by the court, but up until now, the matter is still dragging at the court.
“It was easy and quick for them to get us to suspend the strike, but it has taken ages for the matter to be resolved by the court. Out next hearing date is May 2, this year.
“They are using bureaucratic bottlenecks to let the matter drag before the court. A number of things they said they would do, they have not done them.
“Anyway, their time is almost spent,” he stated.
Commenting on the N320 billion intervention fund that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, said it would release to higher institutions this year, Osodeke said there was nothing spectacular about it.
” It is an intervention fund and it is also statutory as it is from the 2.5 percent Education Tax TETFund collects from the profits of public quoted companies.
“Even that TETFund is in existence is courtesy of the struggle by ASUU. The government has not said anything about the N470 billion it promised to include in the 2023 budget and the year is almost halfway now,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students, Joint Campus Committee, NANS JCC, Ondo Axis, has said it will report any misuse of the N320 billion special intervention fund to be given tertiary institutions by TETFund, to anti-graft agencies.
It has therefore warned the management of the beneficiary institutions to judiciously apply the funds.
This was contained in a press statement issued yesterday by the Chairman, Comrade Akinola Elijah and the Public Relations Officer, Comrade Okeniyi Elijah.
“We strongly believe this is a significant opportunity for schools to upgrade their facilities which will further enhance academic qualities and activities on campus. NANS Ondo JCC wishes to commend the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) for its sincerity of purpose in line with the anti-corruption campaign of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, by announcing the figures to be disbursed to each university, polytechnic, and college of education.
“Information at our disposal reveals each university will receive the sum of ₦1,154,732,133.00, while each polytechnic and college of education will get ₦699,344,867.00 and ₦800,862,602.00 respectively.
“This is the highest disbursement to each beneficiary institution since the inception of TETFund.
“NANS Ondo JCC is, however, sending a strong note of warning to the managements of Ondo State institutions to consider utilizing these funds effectively and judiciously for the development of our schools and other academic-related activities.
“In view of this, NANS Ondo JCC will be setting up a task force basically to ensure that the funds are not diverted and mismanaged. The committee will be engaging the EFCC and ICPC should we suspect any financial misappropriation of the said fund by any school management.
“We strongly believe that the disbursement of such a significant amount avails schools the opportunity of solving a few of the major challenges facing our schools, which include but are not limited to outdated facilities, poor infrastructure, inadequate academic resources, and security mechanisms among others which will lead to improvement in the quality of education and equally provide better opportunities for students to succeed upon graduation, with an assurance of not been half baked graduates.
“Furthermore, following the release of the TETFUND intervention fund, we are once again urging and warning all school managements in Ondo State to refrain from considering increments in school fees as a means of generating funds for the development of schools. As it will be vehemently resisted by our leadership.
“We are not unaware that the purpose of this intervention fund is primarily to improve the education sector and address basic challenges faced by schools, to reduce the burden of high school fees paid by students and their parents.
“It should be noted that many of our students have dropped out of school as a result of high school fees which is most capable of discouraging students from pursuing higher education, especially the self-sponsored, vulnerable, and less privileged students, which could have a negative consequence on the education sector.
“This laudable success is due to sustainable efforts aimed at expanding and increasing the efficiency of collection of the education tax and the gracious approval of Mr President for an increase in education tax from 2.0% to 2.5% in the year 2021.
“Finally we are imploring the president-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to consider sticking to the UNESCO recommendation that 26 per cent of the national budget be spent on education, even as we do not doubt his committed and sincere love for education development in Nigeria.”