By Femi Falana
As the President of Nigeria and the Visitor to all the federal universities in Nigeria Dr Goodluck Jonathan should be worried over the prolonged industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. However, in his media chat last Sunday the President stunned Nigerians when he did state that “President John Rawlings of Ghana shut tertiary institutions for one year and nothing happened”. Does that mean the public universities may be closed for one year?
While blaming the ASUU for engaging in politics in prosecuting the strike the President claimed that the Federal Government could not afford the money being demanded by ASUU. As Counsel to the ASUU I do recall that Dr, Jonathan as Vice President contributed to the resolution of the strike embarked upon by the ASUU in 2009 which culminated in the signing of the 2009 FG/ASUU Agreement.
At that time the ASUU was not accused of playing politics! Regrettably, the Federal Government has, for some inexplicable reasons, refused to implement the terms of the Agreement with reference to the improvement of the working conditions of academic staff and the provision of intervention fund to revamp university education in all the federal universities.
Since asuu has repeatedly embarked on strike for over two decades to draw public attention to the refusal of successive governments to fund university education in the country the the university teachers cannot be accused of plotting with disgruntled politicians to embarrass the Federal Government. In fact, it is the Federal Government which has recently politicised university education by establishing 12 new universities in one fell swoop.
Up till now there is no law in place to back the establishment of any of those institutions. As there is no fund to run the new universities the President Jonathan recently coordinated the extortion of over N5 billion from government contractors for the take off of the federal university at Otuoke, the President,s hometown.
The President’s mother was also reported to have donated a hostel to the Otuoke undergraduates. It is hoped that such gestures would soon be extended to the remaining 11 universities by the President. Otherwise he stands the charge of being accused of discrimination!
Having regard to the increasing wave of official corruption in the country the official claim that the federal government is not in a position to fund the federal universities cannot be taken seriously by Nigerians. In fact, it is public knowledge that the federal government funded corruption in the fuel importation sector to the tune of over I trillion in 2011. The huge fund did not include the $7 billion worth of crude stolen yearly by oil thieves operating on the high seas. Yet, President Jonathan has continued to insist that the allegation of official corruption in Nigeria is over exaggerated!
In the last three years the Jonathan Administration has drawn down the savings of more than $20 billion to less than $4 billion while it is piling up huge foreign loans. Through the AMCON the sum of N5 trillion ($30 billion) was released by the CBN to bail out the banks that were run down by the agbero bourgeoisie. Two weeks ago the Central Bank of Nigeria disclosed that $7 billion loan had been made available to the same set of banks.
Apart from engaging in the illegal business of changing dollars in the Federation Account to naira the CBN could not have earned $7bn from any other business. The CBN has also set aside intervention funds for agriculture, aviation, industry, etc running into several trillions of naira at the disposal of the pampered members of the ruling class.
From time to time, the CBN governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi donates billions of naira to institutions and victims of terrorist attacks. The sum of N10 billion was donated to the Othman Dan Fodio University on August 19, 2013 by the CBN Governor. Since there is equality before the law the CBN should donate N10 billion to each of the other federal universities within the next SEVEN DAYs or face a legal action.
In view of the foregoing it is submitted that given the political will the federal government cannot complain of inadequate funds for revamping the universities. The Minister of Finance and the coordinator of the country’s economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has made President Jonathan to believe that the economy would collapse if the federal government implements the 2009 FG/ASUU Agreement.
Did Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and Mr. Sanusi not say that the economy would collapse if the illegal price of N141 per litre of petrol was not sustained? When the Nigerian people forced the federal government to reduce the price to N97 did both voodoo economists resign like their counterparts would have done in the Bretton Wood institutions?
Since those who are destroying the Nigerian economy have not deemed it honourable to call it quits President Jonathan should pluck up the courage to sack them without any further delay. The impression should not be created that the ASUU strike has been allowed to drag on because top government officials have their children and wards in private schools at home and abroad.
The plan to invite former President Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene in the crisis should be discarded. There was a time the universities were shut down for 6 months under President Obasanjo. Instead of providing funds to run the universities President Obasanjo and his Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar illegally awarded licences to themselves to establish “private” universities and proceeded to fund them with public money looted from the Petroleum Trust Development Fund.
The federal government should urgently reorder its priority and provide adequate funds to restore the lost glory of our universities to enable asuu to call off the strike.
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