If the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other sectors in the country insist on the total resolution of their problems, government activities in the country risk eing shut down, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, yesterday, said.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting yesterday, Maku noted that the federal government had spent a lot on the development of tertiary education across the country.
Maku, who said the government wants to forge a good working relationship with the union appealed to ASUU to have a rethink on its demands by taking into consideration the fact that there are many competing demands on the federal government from other sectors.
Maku blamed the paucity of funds at the moment on activities of Islamist insurgents in the northern part of the country, on which he said the federal government is spending a huge amount of money to restore normalcy, stating that much would have been done to upgrade the education sector if not for that.
“If we say every particular problem we face in this country, we will not work until it is resolved, then I’m sure there is no sector that will work,” Maku stressed, pointing out that if all unions insisted on solving all their problems, the country would stop working.
“We are partners with ASUU. We are friends. They are our patriots and we understand the critical role that the university teachers are playing to create a new society that we are hoping to have.
“But at the same time, this is the reality that we need to look at and we have to put the nation first,” the Maku said.
He acknowledged that every sector required more from the system “but the truth is that there are limitations and from the limitations we have, we believe that ASUU really needs to have a rethink and ensure that we reopen our universities because we are feeling the pain of our children being at home and this indeed is completely avoidable.”
According to Maku, government’s attempt in 2010 to increase public salaries by 53.4 per cent left a huge deficit in the annual budget, but despite that, it had made giant strides in improving tertiary education.
“I just want to say that it is unfortunate that our students are still at home. It is very sad because the federal government has done so much in the last three years for education,” he said, listing the completion of 37 projects in the University of Benin, multiple ongoing projects in the University of Port Harcourt, University of Jos, as wellas many polytechnics and colleges of education that have been funded.
“Government has priorities. Education remains the number one priority and will continuously remain the number one priority of a developing country like Nigeria.
“There is no way we can avoid it, the quality of human capital is going to determine the future of our country. But at the same time, when you look at the environment today, we are dealing with the question of power, railway that had broken down years ago.
“We are dealing with the issue of roads, of creating the enabling environment for industries to prosper. There is no area today that you touch that you do not have some urgency for government to deal with,” he said.
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