• Union alleges intimidatio, infiltration of rank
Toba Suleiman and Omon-Julius Onabu
Believing that the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has paralysed studies in public universities in the country is being sustained because the children of influential people in the country are ensconced in the private universities, some members of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) are already contemplating attack on the private universities as a way of compelling the federal government to take a more urgent action in resolving the stalemate between ASUU and the government.
The students, operating under the umbrella of the NANS also staged a peaceful protest in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, to register their displeasure over federal government's alleged insincerity.
Speaking at the gathering Thursday, Mr. Steven Adara, a student leader in Ekiti State University (EKSU), noted that those in government and some prominent Nigerians were not helping the matter, as they were in the habit of sending their sons and daughters to private schools and overseas.
"We will mobilise ourselves and ensure that we disrupt academic activities in most of the private schools, because it is the sons and daughters of the affluent that are in these schools," he said.
Armed with placards with various inscriptions, the students flayed the federal government for its failure to honour the agreement it had with ASUU since 2009, saying agreements were expected to be honoured in good faith.
The students expressed their displeasure to what they described as a continuous recession in the standard of education since Dr . Goodluck Jonathan emerged as the president of the country.
Speaking on behalf of the students, Mr. Asefon Sunday, the Director of Action and Mobilisation, NANS, South -west pointed out that between 2000 and 2011 that the Nigerian government earned about N48.48 trillion from the sale of oil alone against N3.10 trillion earned between 1979 and 1999.
He added that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in 2012 financial year alone realised the sum of N5.12 trillion as revenue generated from tax paid by the masses.
"With this tremendous upswing in the revenue at the disposal of the federal government, one would have expected such to translate to commensurate improvement in the quality of Nigeria's public education as well as other social services.
He further condemned the inability of the federal government to budget a reasonable amount of money to education sector as recommended by UNESCO which is 26 percent of the country's total budget.
Asefon noted that some countries with smaller Gross Domestic Product (GDP) like Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Morocco and Botswana had their budgetary allocations to education sector.
According to him, the allocation to education has been oscillating between 31 per cent, 20 per cent, 23 per cent, 17.7 per cent and 19 per cent, 8.5 per cent in recent years. .
The students equally urged the state universities like Ekiti State University (EKSU), Lagos State University (LASU), Osun State University,Olabisi Onabanjo University to slash their school fees immediately.
Meanwhile, the ASUU has accused the federal government of resorting to acts of intimidation and blackmail in its efforts to frustrate and break the ranks of the country's universities' academic staff, whose indefinite strike was over eight weeks old.
This is even as ASUU vowed to deal with blacklegs that could emerge among its members who the government might recruit in its alleged desperate effort to divide the union and intimidate it into abandoning the ongoing nation-wide industrial action.
In a joint statement presented by its zonal coordinator, of the Benin Zone of ASUU, Dr. Sunny O. Ighalo, said: "The strike has indeed moved into a critical phase where government is now applying the instrument of intimidation and blackmail and other gimmicks to undermine the struggle.
"The purported disbursement of the N130 billion to universities arising from the meeting of Pro-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors was aimed at breaking our ranks and is not acceptable to our union."
It noted that Nigeria was rich enough to afford what the union asked for based on the universities’ 'Needs Assessment Report', which actually put the financial resources required to overhaul the nation's university system at N1.5 trillion.
"We believe Nigeria has the resources needed to revitalise our universities and save the nation the disgrace of having to send our children to less endowed countries for university education."
"While N500 billion minimum is expected, going by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of January 2012 for the revitalisation of universities, government claimed that it distributed N100 billion (20 per cent) to the universities," it further said.
The body noted that it would not compromise on the indefinite strike, saying "the federal government should demonstrate integrity" and honour to the letter the agreement it entered into without duress. "What makes a person or an organisation - including governments - honourable is honouring an agreement freely made".
The union leaders swore to continue the strike and advised the federal government to consider returning to the negotiation table with ASUU on how to fulfill the extant agreement signed between it and the union.