by ‘Jola Sotubo

Despite the efforts of the government to persuade them to end the ongoing strike, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has refused to budge.

The body, yesterday, rejected the N130 billion the Federal Government disbursed into the country’s ailing university system in an attempt to persuade striking lecturers to go back to work.

The President of ASUU, Nasir Isa Fagge, stated their stance on the matter in a letter written to Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State who is also the Head of the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS)Assessment.

According to reports, the union insisted that based on the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement and the January 2012 Memoranda of Understanding, MoU, signed by both parties, what was due for 2012 and 2013 was N500 billion, not N100 billion.

The letter reads:

“We observe that the Committee is so far mentioning only N100 billion. If the implementation is to be related to the funding requirements in the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement and the Jan 2012 MoU, what is due for 2012 and 2013 is N500 billion not N100 billion. Only the provision of this sum will meet the immediate needs of the universities.

“Our Union is very apprehensive of the manner in which the sources of the initial N100 billion to be used for the stimulation of the process are shrouded in secrecy. We believe that monies that already belong to the university system should not be blocked and recycled.

“This will not only be counterproductive but will brew even deeper crises in the system. ASUU will not accept this.

“We are also concerned that a clear procedure or process for assessing the funds by the universities is yet to be defined. This concern is even more germane, given the statement of the Chairman of the Committee (during the last meeting on Monday, August 19, 2013) that the committee is taking some documents to the Due Process Office.

“We hasten to add that while due process must be followed, it is the sole responsibility of benefitting universities to respect all the provisions of the Procurement Act. The meaning of your Committee going to the Due Process Office is that it is the one that will be responsible for awarding contracts.

“We want to make it clear that this will never be acceptable to our union. We believe that monies meant to fund projects in universities should be sent to the universities, just as it is the practice with TETFund.”

The union condemned allocation of construction of 2,500 bed space hostel for N1billion, instead of 3,000 bed space for N1.2 billion.

“We are worried that instead of allocating N1.2 billion each to construct 3,000 bed space hostels to the 10 Category 1 universities, N1.0 billion for 2,500 bed space hostel to the 16 Category 2 universities, N500 million to construct 1,250 bed space hostels in the 12 Category 3 universities and N250 million each to construct 625 bed space hostels in the 13 Category 4 universities, the secretariat has changed that to constructing 1,400 bed space hostels in 25 universities at the cost of N2 billion each. We see no rationale in this.

“Expending N50 billion to construct 35,000 bed space hostels across 25 universities will be ridiculously scandalous since the same amount can be used to construct 125,000 bed space hostels across 51 universities. The standard cost of building a bed space ranges from N200,000.00 to a maximum of N400,000.00.

“This is even more worrisome, given the tangential suggestions made by the chairman that only monies for refurbishment will be sent to universities, while the rest will be handled centrally,” the union said.

The union also condemned the exclusion of 22 universities from the allocation for refurbishment of laboratories and libraries and three universities from the allocation for refurbishment of lecture theatres and lecture rooms.

According to ASUU, 24 universities are denied allocation for construction of libraries and laboratories, while two are denied allocation for construction of new lecture theatres and lecture rooms. 26 universities are denied allocation for construction of hostel.