by Paul Osas
Benue state governor and chairman of the Federal Government’s Needs Assessment Committee for Nigerian Universities, Gabriel Suswam has said the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are part of the opposition that is holding the country hostage and are “determined to destroy the government”.
“That is all they are doing. There is nothing to it. Otherwise, the Federal Government has touched on all the requests that led to the strike by ASUU. They have no basis rather than playing politics with the strike and then holding the nation hostage and destroying the future of this country,” he said.
The governor was responding to questions during an interview by THISDAY newspaper.
He said “ASUU’s leadership is determined that PDP government must be brought down and the easiest way to do it is ensuring that every family is affected. And so, the Nigerian family will simply say, ‘look, to keep this government in place, our children will be out of school. So it is better that we kick this government out and bring another government.”
The Benue State governor, who had attended several meetings with ASUU on government side, said: “I feel that if it is not that they have introduced politics, you know people can’t say that they don’t have political leanings. ASUU’s leadership, we know where they are standing in this whole political process. They can’t deny that they are sympathising with opposition parties and they are determined to destroy the PDP government. That is what they are doing and it is nothing more than that.”
Gov. Suswam added that the nine issues raised by the academic union had been attended to, though not 100 per cent.
“I think that it is unfair. And I keep saying it that they have introduced politics into it. It’s purely political. There is no way that any person can say any other thing. It is just to portray the government in bad light so that people will say that you have a government that is not capable of keeping the children in school. That is pure politics. There is nothing more to it because if you present nine issues and all of them have been attended to, even if not attended to 100 per cent, at least you should appreciate that efforts have been made and you should say that it is okay because this has been done.
“There were a lot of issues that were presented. Constitution of governing councils has been done; they said they should help them set up pension administrator, N250 million was given to them; they said they wanted the properties of universities handed over to them, government said go and form companies and compete, we will do that. You know a couple of other things, the NEED assessment, an initial N100 billion has been distributed.
“The retirement age, they say they don’t want to retire at 65, it has been approved, all the academic staff in the university retire at 70. Earned allowance, out of N57 billion, N30 billion has been given.”
Not done yet, Gov. Suswam stated that academic staff of universities earn more than civil servants in this country.
“They have been paying that consistently and nobody is being owed salary. These are issues of allowance. This earned allowance; it is not every lecturer in the university that is entitled to it. So, why must it be a reason why you keep the children out of school? It doesn’t make sense and I am surprised most Nigerian are looking at this differently. If in a nation, the whole leaders of tomorrow are being kept out of school, then its means that in future, you can imagine the kind of leaders we would have,” Suswam added.
The Thisday interviewer however did not ask him if politics is also the reason primary school teachers in Benue have been on strike for almost a month now. The teachers say the governor has refused to pay them the minimum wage approved years ago.