presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, says he will tackle the impasse between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government head-on if he’s elected president. .
Recall that the union embarked on an eight-month strike which ended in October, it has, however, since been at daggers drawn with the Federal Government over unpaid salaries, arguing that its members will make up for the lost time in the classroom.
Speaking on the imbroglio, Atiku gave the academics an assurance of clearing the backlog of salaries during his appearance at The People’s Townhall organised by Channels Television in Abuja on Saturday.
“I’m going to increase the funding level (of education) as against what is currently obtained, no doubt about that because I am a firm and committed believer in education.
“I have undertaken to say, ‘Whatever backlog – we are going to clear all the backlogs and make sure that you go back to classes and students go back to school,” he said.
The former vice president acknowledged the “sometimes invisible roadblocks,” explaining that when the Federal Government releases money for the universities, it does not go straight to the universities.
According to him, the funds are channelled through “another federal bureaucracy” that “might decide to do whatever they want” before the monies are sent to the individual universities.
“Why not remove the bottleneck?” he asked. “Whatever is due to university A, B, C, D, send it directly!”
“I was told of a story where, of course, some funding for universities was stalled at the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC): ‘NUC, what do you want to operate?’ (This) much. ‘Universities, where do you want to operate?’ (This) much.’ You give them directly. Why do you have to go through NUC?
“As I’ve said, I’ve pledged to increase the funding of education as far as our budget is concerned. Sadly, we are not even meeting our counterparts in West Africa. They may be poorer than we are, but we are not spending as much, as far as the educational sector is concerned.”