By Hammed Shittu
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the weekend berated the perceived attitude of the federal government of allegedly conspiring with owners of private universities to de-market public universities in the country.
The union said such development had occasioned the proliferation of private varsities and the deliberate underfunding of public universities owned by both the federal and state governments.
Speaking at a town-and-gown interactive meeting with stakeholders on the ongoing strike of the members of the union held at the African Hall of THE University of Ilorin, Kwara state, the ASUU President, Professor Abiodun Ogunyemi, said: “I want to state that the issue is a calculated attempt to de-market public universities by the owners of private universities and the Nigerian leaders. There is also an 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 that the 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.
“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 that the government wants public secondary schools to be privatised. At least we heard a junior minister saying such last month that unity schools that were not performing well will be privatised.
“A minster once tried that but because for the resistance of stakeholders, including ASUU. We in ASUU stood our ground and identified with other stakeholders and insisted that to privatise unity schools will sound their death knell.
“We are challenging the government that education should be handled as an investment for the future of the country. Education, being provided by government, is not a favour but a necessity.”
He added: “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 out numbering public universities-universities owned by the federal and state 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 the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), Professor Ogunyemi asserted that the decision of the union remains the same.
“IPPIS has created so much tension that the Nigerian government has elevated it above our main demands. We have been rejecting IPPIS because it violates the 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.