The Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) has rejected plans to introduce the payment of tuition fees in the Nigerian Universities of about N350,000, while supporting the call by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) for a new minimum wage.
ASUU Zonal Coordinator, Kano Zone, Mahmud Muhammad Lawal, made this known on Wednesday in Kano during a press conference organised at the end of the union’s zonal meeting over the looming crisis in the Nigerian University System.
According to him, the plan to introduce the unimaginable sum of N350,000 as tuition fee is nothing but a calculated attempt by some persons to destroy the nation’s public universities, a move, he said, the union will resist vehemently.
He said: “Let me make it clear to you that it is in our constitution that education is a right and public good, therefore, the Nigerian state has the responsibility to provide qualitative and sound education to its citizenry.
“The move is aimed at destroying our public universities.They want to rob the poor man the opportunity of obtaining a degree, because we all know that such a huge amount will force many out of schools.
“The union will not accept that. We want the government to meet up to the educational needs of the people by releasing funds into the sector and creating enabling environment for learning and not introducing systems that would prevent an average Nigerian from obtaining education”.
Lawal decried the living conditions of Nigerian workers, whom he said are underpaid considering the cost of living in the country and as such ASUU as an affiliate of NLC supports the struggle for new minimum wage for the workers as it is almost seven years since the last increase.
He stressed that the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act 2011 recognised that Minimum wage should be reviewed after every five years, but said however that the condition of Nigerian worker is appalling and dehumanising because average worker in the country is not paid a living wage.
He lamented that for over two years now, government has deliberately delayed the process of negotiating a new minimum wage for workers, saying that the development has apparently undermined workers productivity and efficiency.
Muhammad also expressed displeasure over failure by the Federal Government to honour the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two parties concerning the 2009 ASUU/FGN Agreement.
He said however that issues such as the release of N20 billion revitalisation fund for public universities in the country, release of the forensic report on earned academic allowance, the release of Nigeria University Pension Management Company (NUPEMCO) as well as issues of poor funding and proliferation of the universities are yet to be addressed.
Reacting to whether the union would embark on strike anytime soon, the zonal coordinator said the union is exploring every possible means of pushing home its demands but would have to use every necessary means at its disposal and the industrial action if that is the only available option the government listen to.