The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has accused the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of being unrealistic with their demands.
Keyamo stated on Friday that the government cannot borrow money to pay the striking university lecturers when other sectors of the economy also need attention.
“You cannot allow one sector of the economy to hold you down and then blackmail you to go and borrow N1.2 trillion and our total income is around N6.1 trillion and we have roads to build, health centres and other sectors to take care of,” the minister said.
Featuring on ‘Politics Today’ programme on Channels Television, Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), noted that the government had done its best and appealed to Nigerians to “beg” ASUU.
According to Keyamo, ASUU should be begged to shelf their strike so the members can return to work, students can resume studies and the nation’s public universities can be re-opened.
The Minister specifically called on parents and guardians whose children and wards are affected by the ongoing industrial action to appeal to ASUU to call off the lingering strike.
“I will tell the parents, everybody to go and beg ASUU like the President said the other time, those who know them should appeal to their sense of patriotism. The nation cannot ground to a halt because we want to take care of the demands of ASUU”.
CAMPUS GIST reports that ASUU has been on strike since February 14, 2022, and has vowed not to resume until the federal government meets their demands.
Some of their demands include improved welfare for lecturers, revitalisation fund for public universities, implementation of the 2009 agreement, and adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) against the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
But Keyamo said that the university lecturers were not the only ones in Nigeria that depends on government’s purse to feed, insisting that the demands of ASUU were unrealistic at this time.
“The moment they went on strike, we intervened, what is the manner again beyond that? Even before the strike began, we called them to a meeting, what manner is more than that? It’s not like we left them to go on strike first and we were sleeping, as the talk started, they still went on strike,” Keyamo said.
“Let them go back to classes. They are not the only one in Nigeria. They are not the only ones feeding from the federal purse. The nation cannot grind to a halt because we want to take care of the demands of ASUU.
We are facing critical financial challenges at the moment. The UTAS presented for scrutiny failed completely. Besides, if the government answers ASUU it would give room for other layers to make unnecessary demands. How can you have a government with different types of its employees developing different methods by which they should be paid? Only an irresponsible government would consider that.
“The situation we are in now involves everybody. Nigerians should appeal to ASUU to go back to class. Parents should also beg the Union. It has got to that level. The prolonged strike is unnecessary,” Keyamo insisted.