by Oge Okonkwo
The federal government has approved the sum of N400 billion to be used for development of infrastructure in public universities within a period of four years as part of the efforts to transform the nation’s universities to meet international standards.
This improvement to the education sector in the country will be documented and made available today at the meeting of the Presidential Committee on the Implementation of the NEEDS Assessment in the universities with representatives of the unions in the sector.
The unions include Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
SSANU president, Mr. Samson Ugwoke, who disclosed this while addressing the National Executive Council (NEC) members at the weekend in Abuja, also hinted that the NEEDS Assessment Implementation Committee, chaired by the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswan, has raised N100 billion from donor agencies to tackle the challenges bedeviling the nation’s universities in the year 2013.
He listed the intervention agencies to include the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) among others.
Ugwoke said the N100 billion would be shared among 61 universities in various categories such as re-furbishing and renovation of lecture theatres, re-furbishing and renovation of laboratory/library and the renovation of hostels.
He specifically pointed out that N96 billion had already been released to the affected universities noting that the intervention fund, aimed at bailing out the education sector is different from the annual budgetary allocation to the various universities across the country.
“Let me give you a tip on what the NEED Assessment Committee is doing. The president has approved that within the next four years, N400 billion would be expended in infrastructure development of Nigeria universities, to transform the universities to world class.
“N100 billion has been raised by Suswan Committee and 61 universities have been penciled down as contained in the NEEDS Assessment Committee. These 61 universities will share the N100 billion in various categories which include re-furbishing and renovation of lecture theatres and lecture halls, re-furbishing and renovation of laboratory/library and the renovation of hostels.
“The second category is building of new hostels of international standard, self-contain rooms, the latest model in the world. That is the standard to be built in every university, and also the state-of-the-art laboratories, classrooms, lecture theatres and halls.
“The committee is meeting again on Monday (today), when the document will be out. This time around, it is not only by giving university money, but it will be closely monitored by government to ensure that the money is used to transform the universities, to bail universities out of the present situation and develop them to an international recognised university standard,” Ugwoke stated.
Speaking further, he assured the non-teaching staff members that none of them will be retrenched going by the NEEDS Assessment report.
He, however, warned that any attempt to lay off members of staff would be resisted by the unions in the sector.
The SSANU president said: “I can assure you that our members will never be relegated, they will never be sacked or retrenched, there is nothing like that in the terms of reference of the Presidential Committee on the Implementation of NEEDS Assessment.
“We have three presidents against one in that committee and we are doing our networking. Unless they want to close the universities, they dare not try to retrench or touch our members. because when we go on strike, it will be mother of all strikes, they know that. Not even vice-chancellors will cross the gate of the universities.”