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INTERVIEW: ’Government, unserious about education’ – Nasir Fagge, ASUU national president 

Government has proposed to inject between N100 billion and N400 billion into the university system as part of deal to meet the 2009 agreement between ASUU and federal government, how true is this?

Yes the figure you mentioned was for three years. It was part of the proposal government put on the table to fulfill the funding requirement of the 2009 agreement. The money was meant for the revitalization of the university system. That is just one aspect. There is the Pension Fund Administration. But there are also issues like the retirement age of professors, transfer of landed properties to Universities to enable them form an effective landed property holdings company, proceeds which would further be used to upgrade university infrastructures; the setting up of research and development council, provision of research and teaching facilities in the universities.

Your union seem to have come down hard on the National Universities commission, why is that?

The problem with NUC is that they are pursuing issues that are outside their mandate. For instance, there is gradual erosion of university autonomy. This is because NUC is taking over the powers of University council and senate. Recently, NUC came up with a decision which was not subjected to national discourse on banning of past degrees in the Nigerian universities. Also recently, NUC came up with the decision to carry out staff audit. Councils as employers have the powers to carry out functions like that. We also noticed that NUC is busy organizing conferences instead of allowing universities to handle that in fact another thing is that NUC is now organizing graduation ceremony. It seem like the people managing NUC do not really understand the functions of the body. Part of the agreement we signed was the need to review the NUC Act. And I am sure that these have been forwarded to the National Assembly. We also made a proposal to review the act on national minimum standard in education. This one is yet to be forwarded to the National Assembly.

What ratio would you say government has fulfilled in all the conditions?

Government only implemented the review of retirement age of lecturers in the professorial cadre from 65 to 70. Government also reinstated governing councils. Apart from this two, government has not really made any effort to fulfill the conditions enshrined in the MOU signed in 2012. We have been able to determine the funding requirement for university system to immediately address the needs of the university. After the NEEDS assessment report was submitted in July 2012, we are surprised that one year after government has been unable to implement the recommendations in the report.

Does the NEEDS Assessment include measures as to how the funding could be sourced?

The assessment made recommendations on how government can easily tackle the immediate needs of the university system. But it seems that government is not genuinely interested in it. The NEEDS Assessment actually proposed that we draw the funding from the excess crude account. The reports addressed all public universities; that is federal and state. The conviction of the committee that carried out that work is that since both state and federal government draw from the excess crude account, the money could as well be used to address both federal and state universities.

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