President Muhammadu Buhari has said he is personally pained by the frequent closure of the nation’s public universities.
Mr Buhari, who said this on Saturday during a media chat to mark Nigeria’s 62nd independence anniversary, appealed to the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to return to classrooms while negotiations on other unresolved issues on the union’s demand list.
The president said: “I must confess that I am very pained by the recurring disruption to our tertiary education system and I am using this Independence Day celebration to re-iterate my call for the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to return to the classroom while assuring them to deal with their contending issues within the limits of the scarce resources available.”
Mr Buhari said his administration has made appreciable progress in redressing “these issues that have been lingering for over eleven years.”
He said the government will continue to mobilise resources “both internationally and nationally towards funding education to ensure that our citizens are well educated and skilled in various vocations in view of the fact that education is a leading determinant of economic growth and employment generation.”
The strike by ASUU has crippled all academic activities in all Nigerian public universities since 14 February.
The development has led to agitations among Nigerians and particularly students under the umbrella of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).
The lecturers are demanding better pay, improved conditions of service as well better funding for the university system as contained in several agreements it has had with the government.
The failure of the government to implement the agreement led to ASUU to declare an initial four week strike and has continue to extend it until 29 August 29 when it extended it indefinitely following the lack of resolution after several meetings with the government.
The government referred the dispute to an Industrial court and filed an injunction for the lecturers to suspend its strike while the matter is being heard by the court.
The court granted the order and ordered ASUU to suspend the strike but the union has appealed the judgement the judgement applied for a stay of execution.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the House of Representatives has attempted to broker peace between the executive arm of government and ASUU.
At a meeting on Thursday, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, promised to forward details of the meetings to the President for a decision.