From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Sonny Echono, has justified the anger and grievances of university lecturers, under the umbrella of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), who have been on a nationwide strike for over a month.
He, however, assured that the Federal Government was committed to finding a permanent solution to the frequent industrial disharmony in the university system.
Speaking to journalists and staff of TETFund after taking over the affairs of the agency as Executive Secretary in Abuja, yesterday, Echono, lamented that industrial actions by university lecturers over time had negatively affected the nation’s tertiary education system, including the global ranking of Nigerian universities.
He said most of the things ASUU was demanding from government, had been granted, particularly those within the purview of the Federal Ministry of Education.
“However, there are one or two issues which has to do with lots of funding which the government is working on. There’s no doubt about the fact that ASUU is right in its anger and grievances, hence they choose to shut down the universities in protest.
“We really need to treat our teachers better, give them living wages instead of what they currently get. I can fully relate the anger of ASUU members, particularly the issue of welfare package. The welfare package is poor and really need to be reviewed and we are working on that.” Echono solicited ASUU’s understanding and consideration to the numerous financial challenges faced by government and which has affected financial allocation to different sectors of the economy.
“ASUU has made numerous demands and they are being considered and worked upon. In fact, I am heading to the NUC now to attend a meeting that has to do their demands. So, the government is seriously committed to the cause of resolving issues that have affected our tertiary education badly.”
The TETFund new boss said there was need for massive investment in the education industry lauding TETFund for doing “marvelously well in the past few years and will continue to do more to better our tertiary education system.”
He said the major factor that had affected the ranking and internationalization of Nigeria’s university system is the quality of faculty and exchange programmes in the schools.
“If we have foreign lecturers and students in our institutions, it will greatly improves our scores and chances of being counted among the top universities in world. But no foreign lecturer or student will come in an unstable system,” he said.