N200b Universities Revitalization Fund: Fagge Dismisses Rift Rumor Within ASUU Executive
National Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Nasir Fagge, has dismissed claims that the N200billion released by the government to the universities is tearing the union apart.
He was responding to a SaharaTV crew in Lagos recently at a congress of the Joint Action Front (JAF), where he described Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as a tool in the hands of the World Bank to inhibit Nigeria and Africa’s development as a way to perpetuate their own business interests.
Dr. Fagge pointed out that the ASUU executive will not be using its sole discretion to disburse the funds, but will be working in tandem with a government team to determine the level of needs at the various institutions, and will collaborate with the government committee to ensure judicious use of the money.
“I think it’s a rumor that there is disagreement among ASUU executives,” he said. “What I’m aware of is that government has also in collaboration with ASUU set up a committee that is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the N200 billion is disbursed to Universities.”
He said that committee will also monitor and ensure that the money is properly used.
“I know that committee has met about thrice and another meeting is going to take place this month and I am confident that at that meeting the committee will finally disburse the funds”.
Following the release of the first tranche of funds, the ASUU leader said Nigerians must work to ensure that the government releases the rest of the funds in the interest of improvement of education in the country.
“Before we suspended the strike action, we insisted that not only do we sign a document with government but we should have a third party in the interaction.
“The president of NLC was there to witness whatever we signed with government. So our own conviction is that it behooves Nigerians to make sure that government does what is right in this matter,” he said.
Regarding what changes Nigerians should expect to see in Nigerian universities and how soon the changes may be expected, Fagge said what is key are the requisite funds to make the improvements happen, adding that the universities will order their individual priorities and needs.
“Now our conviction is that once the money has been disbursed to these universities on the basis of needs, the universities will commence addressing those priority issues in the system. And we expect that that will set a foundation towards addressing the problems.
“But like we said, government on its own decided instead of implementing this thing in four years as in the earlier MOU, government is now taking six years. So what it means is that six years from 2013, we’ll be talking about 2018, we should be able to, because for each year government is to make available 220 billion for the universities.
“We are hoping that if this first tranche is put in, we would begin to see dramatic improvement in the system. But like I said the most important thing is that that committee must make sure that that money is judicially utilized,” Fagge stressed.
On his criticism of Okonjo Iweala, Fagge said he is not impressed by economic statistics but by the impact of such data on the citizens.
“I am not an economist so I cannot tell you whether or not Nigeria is broke,” the ASUU chief said. “But I’m a human being and I can discern. Going into the country and especially going to local communities I see poverty. If our economy is growing we should have no business with poverty among our people and that is my own yardst!ck for judging that we really have a problem in the country.”