Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday accused the Federal Government of planning to force students in public universities to pay N350,000 tuition fees per session.
The union’s Ibadan Zonal Coordinator, Mr Ade Adejumo, stated this when he addressed reporters at Oyo State Correspondents’ Chapel of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Ibadan, the state capital.
Adejumo was accompanied by the union’s chairmen at the University of Ibadan (UI), Mr Deji Omole; Osun State University, Mr Femi Abanikanda and Investment Secretary of ASUU at UI, Mr Ayo Akinwole.
The zonal coordinator said the objection of the union to the proposed tuition fee increase led to the collapse of 2017/2018 Renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement.
He said: “The union is again constrained to draw the attention of Nigerian public to an impending labour crisis in Nigerian universities as a result of insensitivity and non-chalance of the Federal Government to issues critical to the survival of the educational system.”
Giving a background to the crisis, Adejumo recalled that when the 2009 agreement was overdue for renegotiation, the Federal Government set up a team, led by Mr Wale Babalakin, to renegotiate with the union.
He said: “It is no longer news that the renegotiation, which the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu, promised was going to last for only six weeks, has broken down.
“The reason for this very unfortunate development will appall most Nigerians. First, the leader of government team, who was supposed to be an arbiter between the parties, assumed an arrogant attitude that sought to foist a predetermined mind-set of government on the union.
“The union was confronted with a situation where government is bent on imposing tuition fees, beginning from N350,000, on students in public-owned tertiary institutions.
“On the question of how the students will raise such money, the government’s answer is that it will establish an Education Bank, where students will access credit facilities and pay back on completion of their studies.
“The union, speaking from the background that education is the right and not a privilege of every Nigerian child, made frantic efforts to make pragmatic explanations on the negative implications and the non-feasibility of this scheme to representatives of government to no avail.”
According to ASUU, Babalakin has not dropped the proposed new tuition regime.
The union said it would resist the imposition of a fee hike.
It described the development as a ploy to deprive the poor of their rights to education, saying if the Education Bank is established, many students would not be able to access loans.
Adejumo recalled that the union, “after all avenues to seek the attention of government failed, went on a warning strike in 2017 to press home some demands”.
He said: “At the point at which the warning strike was suspended, our union signed a Memorandum of Action (MOA) with the government. The summary of issues in the MOA point to some actionable tasks on the side of government and the union to redeem the parlous state of the Educational sector in the country.
“Unfortunately, we are now back to where we started with the Federal Government’s failure to implement the agreements reached with our union in the MOA.”
Adejumo said the government had always agreed that the condition in the Nigeria university “is a serious state that needs urgent intervention”.
He added: “As a result, government agreed to pay a quarterly intervention of N20 billion into a dedicated account at Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pilot the revitalisation scheme. Unexpectedly, government has refused to pay the amount, which has now accrued to N2 trillion.”