Ba­bal­akin: FG Alone Can’t Fund Univer­sity Ed­u­ca­tion

Urges ASUU to re­turn to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Olawale Olal­eye

Fol­low­ing last week’s com­mence­ment of a na­tion­wide strike by the Aca­demic Staff Union of Uni­ver­si­ties (ASUU) over lin­ger­ing fund­ing is­sues, Dr. Olawale Ba­bal­akin, SAN, yes­ter­day said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment could not af­ford to fund univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion alone. Ba­bal­akin stated this yes­ter­day in La­gos dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at his of­fice.

The se­nior lawyer is the chair­man of the Im­ple­men­ta­tion Mon­i­tor­ing Com­mit­tee of the Agree­ments en­tered into be­tween the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment of Nige­ria and the var­i­ous unions of the Nige­rian uni­ver­si­ties, namely ASUU, Se­nior Staff As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­rian Uni­ver­si­ties (SSANU), Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Aca­demic Tech­nol­o­gists (NAAT), and Non-Aca­demic Staff Union of Uni­ver­si­ties

(NASU).

Ba­bal­akin dis­missed as false the of­ten talked about 26 per cent ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing ad­vice by the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion (UNESCO). He said the so­lu­tion to ef­fec­tive ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing lied in the es­tab­lish­ment of a stu­dents’ loan scheme and, by ex­ten­sion, an ed­u­ca­tion bank, which will avail stu­dents of loans for their ed­u­ca­tion and other im­me­di­ate needs.

He also dis­closed that when they once con­fronted ASUU to pro­vide doc­u­ment show­ing that UNESCO ac­tu­ally pegged bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion for ed­u­ca­tion by de­vel­op­ing coun­tries at 26 per cent, the as­so­ci­a­tion was un­able to sub­stan­ti­ate its claim, a sit­u­a­tion which fur­ther con­firmed that the lie was cooked up to put gov­ern­ment in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. Be­sides, he said such an ad­vice would have been im­pos­si­ble in a de­vel­op­ing so­ci­ety with un­sta­ble econ­omy, ask­ing what hap­pens in a year that the gov­ern­ment is un­able to make pro­vi­sion for 26 per cent due largely to the in­sta­bil­ity of the econ­omy.

While ask­ing the ASUU lead­er­ship to re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble in the na­tional in­ter­est, Ba­bal­akin said an an­nual bud­get of N2 tril­lion on ed­u­ca­tion alone was largely un­fea­si­ble, con­sid­er­ing other com­pet­ing so­cial needs, like health, in­fra­struc­ture and se­cu­rity. This makes the need to jointly work out a more plau­si­ble so­lu­tion to the lin­ger­ing cri­sis im­per­a­tive.

Ac­cord­ing to Ba­bal­akin, “Our po­si­tion as a team is that Nige­ria de­serves and should have qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. This must not be com­pro­mised as a re­sult of in­ad­e­quate fund­ing, which has been the sit­u­a­tion in the last 30 years. We also be­lieve that no Nige­rian should be de­prived of univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion be­cause of his/her fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stance. This po­si­tion is con­sis­tent with that of the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Muhamamdu Buhari.

“Go­ing by the fig­ures pro­vided by ASUU, Nige­ria re­quires over N2 tril­lion per an­num to fund univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion. This fig­ure ex­ceeds, in value, the to­tal amount of money avail­able for all cap­i­tal projects in Nige­ria, in­clud­ing health, in­fra­struc­ture, se­cu­rity and oth­ers.

“No doubt, if the money was avail­able for univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion, as ASUU has in­sisted it is, the gov­ern­ment will have no dif­fi­culty in spend­ing it on univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion. How­ever, as it is, gov­ern­ment can­not ig­nore all other ar­eas of ex­pen­di­ture that re­quire fund­ing.”

Ba­bal­akin said it was in ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the fi­nan­cial re­al­ity that the Na­tional Coun­cil on Ed­u­ca­tion “has di­rected that stu­dent loan schemes be set up by the var­i­ous state gov­ern­ments. It has also sup­ported the idea of an ed­u­ca­tion bank, which would pro­vide soft loans for stu­dents seek­ing to ob­tain univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion.”

He said, “We do not know where ASUU got the fig­ures that it has been ped­dling around the whole coun­try. How­ever, the in­con­sis­tency in the fig­ures is glar­ing. While Pro­fes­sor Lawan Abubakar, the ASUU zonal co­or­di­na­tor for Bauchi, stated in his ar­ti­cle pub­lished in Pulse News on 3rd Oc­to­ber 2018, that our com­mit­tee has pro­posed N500,000. 00 (Five hun­dred thou­sand naira) per an­num as tu­ition fees to be paid by univer­sity un­der­grad­u­ates, the ASUU zonal co­or­di­na­tor for Ibadan, Dr. Ade Ade­jumo, stated in the Punch news­pa­per on 3rd Oc­to­ber, 2018, that our com­mit­tee was plan­ning to im­pose tu­ition fees of N350,000.00 (Three hun­dred and fifty thou­sand naira).

“Aside from the fact that our com­mit­tee has no power to im­pose fees on stu­dents, we are at a loss re­gard­ing the source of the said fig­ures. How­ever, the con­tra­dic­tion demon­strates clearly that the fig­ures are in­cor­rect and should not be coun­te­nanced by any­one.”

Ba­bal­akin urged well-mean­ing Nige­ri­ans to ap­peal to ASUU to re­turn to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble and re­solve is­sues based on ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion and ver­i­fi­able data.

He stated, “We re­main com­mit­ted to a per­ma­nent res­o­lu­tion of the re­cur­rent in­dus­trial dis­putes that have mil­i­tated against the progress of the Nige­rian univer­sity sys­tem. We are de­ter­mined to en­sure that Nige­ri­ans re­ceive proper ed­u­ca­tion.

“As we had stated in our pre­vi­ous com­mu­ni­ca­tion on this mat­ter, we be­lieve that ne­go­ti­a­tions are best done on the ta­ble rather than on the pages of the news­pa­pers, hence we have been very re­luc­tant to re­spond to the cam­paign of our co-ne­go­tia­tors.”

ASUU, last week, com­menced a na­tion­wide in­dus­trial ac­tion fol­low­ing the in­abil­ity of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to re­spond to its de­mands.

The union ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of not im­ple­ment­ing the Me­moran­dum of Ac­tion signed with it and de­clared that the strike would be to­tal as all fed­eral and state var­si­ties would join the strike.

The union made the an­nounce­ment af­ter its Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil meet­ing held at the Fed­eral Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Akure, last Sun­day night.

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