Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Minister of State for Education, has insisted that it is difficult for the Federal Government to meet some of the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) due to the prevailing economic situation of the country.
Reacting in an interview to the fresh notice of industrial action by ASUU, Nwajiuba said the country is struggling to govern Nigerians with less than $70 million income daily, noting that there are various competing interests for the Federal Government to address.
When asked if ASUU should still be patient with the government, the minister said it depended on the style of the demands.
“It depends on the style of the demands; some of them are what the government can do now, some can be what the government can do later,” Nwajiuba told the Punch.
“I’m sure you’re aware of the revenue base of the country – 1.5 million barrels are sold. It is difficult to run the lives of over 200 million people with less than $70m a day in earnings. It is amazing that the President has managed to keep the country afloat.”
According to the minister, anybody who is conceiving another strike barely four months after calling off a 10-month industrial action is damaging the lives of students
He stated that ASUU should remember that government is a continuum, noting that the same issues and negotiations will still continue under another government.
He added that the union should press for their demands reasonably rather than always using the strike option, stating that the downing of tools has had an adverse effect on the tertiary education sector.
“Whoever is conceiving a strike after being on a strike for close to one year is damaging the studentship because government is a continuum. Even if we are not in power today, another government, as the case may be, will be there.
“Whoever is in power will continue to engage with any union. But that shouldn’t stop the country from functioning because the rest of the country are the ones you put at risk.
“I have never supported strikes. However, I believe people should press for their demands as responsibly as possible. It is the responsibility of the government to continue to engage them.”