Dave Umahi, Chairman of the South East Governors Forum, says the Nigerian government cannot borrow N1.1 trillion to meet the needs of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has been on strike for more than five months.
This is as the President Muhammadu Buhari administration continues to take on loans to services the country’s growing cost of governance.
Nigeria’s national debt increased to N41. 6 trillion in the first quarter of 2022 from N39. 56 trillion at the end of December 2021, placing tremendous pressure on debt servicing.
However, the Ebonyi state governor questioned the validity of the striking lecturers’ demands while receiving a delegation from the Nigeria Police Trust Fund led by Dr. Ben Akabueze in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi capital, adding that their demands were quite unreasonable.
He agreed that the lecturers were not making the demands for selfish gains further suggesting that the demands of the striking lecturers should be met in bits.
“There is no way Nigeria will go and borrow N1.1tn to meet ASUU’s demand, it’s quite unreasonable. Are their demands genuine? Yes. But we can start little by little,” the governor said.
“There must be a commitment on the side of both parties that look, ‘ASUU is not asking for this to take to their houses’ so to say. It’s asking for it for our children, to better the infrastructure, to better the lecturers and the students. Yes, but we can start with a fraction of that and then have a programme that will run on the platform of sincerity to address all the lots.”
He also called on varsities lecturers to show some level of understanding so the strike can end.
“So, it is important for ASUU to show some understanding and for those who are negotiating on the side of government to also show some understanding,” he added.
“Let’s meet ourselves halfway and then open the schools to save the fate of our children.”
His remarks follow criticism leveled at President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for donating N1.14 billion to the Republic of Niger to aid in the acquisition of some operational vehicles.
Many believed that the President should have used the donated funds to meet part of the request of the aggrieved lecturers that have been on strike since February.
Recall that a document released by David Hundeyin, a social media influencer, detailed how President Buhari approved the release of N1.14 billion for the purchase of luxury security vehicles to be donated to the Niger Republic.
The Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, defended the government’s decision by pointing out that the President reserved the right to make choices that would benefit Nigeria and insisted that “this was not the first time the country has provided such interventions to her neighbours.”