Chris Ngige, the minister of labour and employment, says the demands by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are not impossible for the federal government to meet.
He spoke on Thursday in Abuja during a reconvened meeting between ASUU’s leadership and the federal government.
According to NAN, Ngige reiterated the FG’s commitment to revamp the educational system in the country and assured that public universities would not be abandoned despite dwindling resources.
The minister said the federal government would be happy to concentrate its limited resources in areas that will produce results.
“ASUU is not asking for things that are impossible. They are not asking that we give our head or blood,” he said.
“They are interested in getting good working conditions for their members and for the public university system to be conducive for teaching and research.
“If the private sector can bring excellence to our universities, the government can as well do the same. So, working hand in hand with ASUU as we are currently doing is a model we must keep.
“We will not be going to war with ASUU all the time. We can do constructive engagement. If there is something that government can do and it says it can’t, I am here to say no, you can because I am privy to some information.
“So, we will give the public university system a pride of place, so that when next global assessment is done, we will get more Nigerian universities in the first 1,000 in Africa.”
ASUU had also called for legislation mandating the children of public office holders to school in Nigeria.
The union had embarked on a nearly nine-month strike in 2020 over the unmet demands by the federal government.
Last August, it had threatened a fresh shutdown after lamenting FG’s non-implementation of some signed agreements that prompted the strike’s suspension which included increased funding for public varsities.
Speaking further, Ngige described himself as a firm believer in Nigeria’s public university system.
“That is why my children are there. I didn’t send them to private ones. One graduated from Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Awka, and my daughter, from UNILAG,” the minister added.
“My third child will also come out possibly next month from a public university again. I don’t believe that public universities are going to be abandoned.
“We cannot do so. If we abandon them, the children of not-too privileged or not-too rich will not go anywhere and education is the civilisation we need.
“If any group of government workers or public officers will be on the side of the public university system, I am the number one. I also attended a public university. I attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).
“I didn’t go to the USA when my classmates were going there. The government will do its own side, despite lean resources.”
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