Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the weekend accused the Federal Government of conspiring with owners of private universities to de-market public universities.
It added the conspiracy had occasioned the proliferation of private varsities and deliberate underfunding of public universities owned by Federal and State Governments.
ASUU President Abiodun Ogunyemi said this in Ilorin, Kwara state capital during a town and gown meeting with stakeholders on union’s ongoing strike action.
He said: “The issue is a calculated attempt to de-market public universities, by the owners of private universities together with Nigerians rulers.
“There is also this attempt to underfund these public universities to make them surrender. Discerning minds should know that we cannot divorce the assault on public universities today from the general trend in the society (which is ‘government has no business in business’).
“What we are seeing today in the education sector is a reflection of what is happening in the larger society.”
Ogunyemi said ASUU position on the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) remains the same.
“IPPIS has created so much tension that Nigerian government has elevated it above our main demands. We have been rejecting and still rejecting IPPIS because it violates university autonomy.
“IPPIS means that before any vice chancellor can bring in a new lecturer that a university desperately needs, the vice chancellor will go and seek clearance from the accountant general of the federation and possibly the head of service. We think we have gone beyond taking Nigerian universities back into the ambit of civil service,” he said.
He added: “Our situation in Nigeria is programmed to discourage investment in public institutions particularly the education and health sectors so that the private ones can thrive.
“Today we even hear government saying that public secondary schools will be privatised. At least we heard a junior minister say that one last month; that unity schools that were not performing will be privatised. A minster once tried that but because of the resistance of stakeholders including that of ASUU. We in ASUU stood our ground and identified with other stakeholders and insisted that to privatize unity schools will sound their death knell.
“We are challenging the FG that education should be handled as an investment for the future of the country. Education being provided by government is not a favour but doing what is necessary. The challenge we have today in the education sector is huge. This is because we can see the irony of our situation that private universities are almost outnumbering public universities. That is the universities owned by state and the Federal Governments.
“ASUU believes that education is the greatest weapon we have to transform our society; education is the strongest weapon to equip our youths with skills, knowledge and values that will make them useful not just to themselves but to our society.
On ASUU’s over five- month strike, the ASUU helmsman said: “By 2009, after much pressure ASUU signed agreement with the Federal Government. That agreement was supposed to be renegotiated by 2012, 2015, 2018 and after that 2021, which means by now we should be talking about fourth or fifth negotiations; but as at today we have not been able to renegotiate it once.
“There are four major areas in that agreement that we have been talking about. They include funding, condition of service, university autonomy and academic service and other matters.
“In the last ten years budgetary allocation to education has not gone beyond 10 percent, which means even that agreement that we should have been reviewing today has not only been set aside, it has been totally ignored.
“ASUU members’ salaries have remained in the same salary structure since 2009 till date. That has been the fate of Nigerian university lecturers because of the impossibility of this renegotiation of the agreement reached in 2009.”