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ASUU strike: FG to spend N100 billion on varsities infrastructure

By The Citizen
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As part of efforts towards to addressing part of the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that lead to the lecturers going on strike, President Goodluck Jonathan is to flag off projects worth N100 billion in various universities across the country by the end of August or first week of September, it has been disclosed.

The ASUU has been on strike in the past few weeks over welfare issues and decaying infrastructure in the universities.

Briefing State House correspondents in Abuja yesterday the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, who heads the Universities Needs Implementation Committee, said that the projects are towards resolving the ASUU/FG crisis and ensuring adequate provision for the needs of universities in the country.

According to him, the projects will start with the selection of universities across the six geopolitical zones where the president will to go and flag off projects worth about N 1 billion at a particular university.

'Once that is properly coordinated at least we will see results, and if the President flags off these projects, worth N100 billion across universities, which will be inclusive of lecture theaters, classrooms and hostels, I’m sure you know that the state of hostels and classrooms in our universities is appealing and the President is determined and has given us this assignment to make sure that, that is done immediately.'

'It will start with the sum of N1 billion and we set up a small committee which will report back to the bigger committee on Tuesday for us to be able to select universities across the six geopolitical zones where the president will decide to go and fag off projects worth about N 1 billion and intend that that should be the end of this month or first week of September, because there are processes that needed to carried out for us to achieve that.'

He went on: 'Already we have called all the funding agencies and we have been holding meetings with them. What we are trying to do is that all the monies that agencies in their individual capacities be harnessed together so that it will be well coordinated so that we know that this is how much the federal government is spending on our institutions on a yearly basis.'

'But as it is now, nobody knows apart from the budgetary money, which is passed by the National Assembly, nobody actually captures what is being expended by TETFund, NITTDA, CBN amongst others. All of these agencies I’m mentioning intervene in education, probably with the consent of The federal government, so we need to put all of that together, so that people will be aware of how much is being expended.'

On why the strike is still on, he said:  'That is even one of the reasons why ASUU is even on strike. Having said that, I want to say that the negotiation with ASUU, in the next one or two weeks, we should be able to arrive at something that will  necessitate them calling off the strike, once we are able to agree with them on all issues that they have raised.'

'So far they are only two outstanding issues, the NEEDS assessment and the earned allowances. The NEEDS assessment which I’m handling, we have virtually concluded, I think by next week, it will be definite. The earned allowance, the SGF is still holding meeting, I believe that in the next one week, given the seriousness of the issue, we will be able to come to some level of agreement with ASUU, which will probably lead to call of the strike. I’m not saying they are calling off the strike, we have to agree on these two remaining issues.' He added

'We met yesterday; you know that I chair the NEEDS Assessment Implementation committee of the universities, which is different from the aspects that SGF is handling. We met extensively yesterday and achieved some substantial results.'

'We are meeting again on Tuesday next week and we have set up a committee with ASUU inclusive to go back and look at the NEEDS assessment document and get out some projects that the president will immediately flag off between now and September.'

'You know the report encompasses virtually all the deficits in terms of infrastructure, covering instructional materials to the universities. So it is a document that we can’t start it at the same time, it is something that we need years, and I tell you, if every year there is a commitment on the part of government to be providing money, I believe we will be able to give our universities a new lease of life.'