Members of the Nigerian Senate took side with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over their ongoing industrial action nationwide.
On Sunday, ASUU announced the commencement the strike over poor funding of Nigerian universities and alleged plan by the federal government to increase students fees and introduce an education bank.
Just about 24 hours after the strike kicked-off, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said the federal government does not have the financial power to meet the demands of the union.
He said the crash in the prices of oil globally has affected Nigeria – which he said, had dire consequences on all sectors of the economy, including education.
A senator, Shehu Sani (PRP, Kaduna Central), on Wednesday, however described the strike as a national problem. He explained that since 1992, Nigerians have been faced with strike after strike which have led to repeated shutdowns of universities.
He also stated that the issues raised by ASUU “are genuine.”
“The federal government needs to fund public quniversities. The issues raised by ASUU is in the best interest of education in Nigeria and is also in the best interest of the young people.
“Our universities need adequate funding. Our universities need adequate attention.
The strike should not be seen as an act of confrontation but an attempt by ASUU to bring to the spotlight, the plight of public universities in Nigeria.
“Public universities have been underfunded and sometimes people wonder whether the universities we have are simply glorified secondary schools. This action should be an opportunity for each and every one of us to draw the attention of the authorities that are concerned to fund universities, to listen to ASUU and to see that the issues which they raised, are squarely addressed,” he said.
While lamenting that the nation cannot afford to have its public universities closed, he called on his colleagues as well as the federal government to attend to the demands of ASUU as he said, their position is in the best interest of Nigeria.
Mr Sani’s comments were sequel to a point of order by Barau Jibrin (APC, Kano North) who said constant strikes have been the determinants of the relationship between ASUU and the government during past administrations.
Mr Jibrin stated that in the true spirit of its good intention towards ASUU, the federal government in the past two days, promised to release N20 billion to the union.
Describing the nation’s academy as fragile, he stressed the urgent need for the federal government and the union to resolve through dialogue, all the contending issues and arrive on a common ground of understanding.
In his remark, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said it is important that government honour agreement that has been reached as soon as possible so the strike can be called off.
He also urged ASUU to bear in mind, the
interest of all Nigerians and ensure that they find an amicable solution to the issue.
The lawmakers, thereafter, resolved to urge the federal ministry of education and its labour and employment counterpart to urgently resolve all the issues that are in contention in order for ASUU to call off the strike.