Dr. Wale Babalakin, Chairman of the negotiating team with the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, has opened up on the ongoing industrial action of public universities.
Speaking as the chair of the Federal Government negotiating team, Babalakin said one of the reasons for the ongoing strike is the refusal of the lecturers to be held accountable for funds released for the development of the education sector.
“There should be no compromise about funding education. The lecturers believe N2 trillion must be spent, but where does it come from? And for every amount of money invested in education, there must be a way of measuring the effect,” he said.
“In 1974/75, the University College Hospital in Ibadan was the fifth rated in the Commonwealth. So if we decide to put money into UCH, we must sit down with the leadership for Key Performance Indicators. But ASUU says no; that it is the neoliberal tendencies of Babalakin. The kind of funding we are talking about is not a bonanza. But what ASUU wants is a bonanza.”
Babalakin denied the allegation that the negotiating team had recommended a tuition of between N350,000 and N500,000 for university students, stating that “the Committee has not recommended school fees”.
“We don’t have a mandate to impose school fees. As of date, we have not mentioned the issue of school fees. It is just a figment of the imagination of those who said it,” he said.
“Everything we agreed on was jointly signed. The reform of the education sector must start now. Nigeria must have a sound education system. Nigeria must have a well-funded education system.”
On the issue of indigent students, Babalakin said the committee recommended the establishment of a students loan scheme and Education Bank, noting that students could obtain loans from any of the two and pay back after graduation with low interest rate.
“No Nigerian should be deprived of sound education because of his circumstances. All students must stay on campus and this must be affordable. The travails of students must stop,” he said.
He also denied claims he was planning to establish a private university, which ASUU identified as the reason why he was frustrating negotiations with the lecturers.
“I have an idea of what it takes to fund a university, but I can’t afford it,” Babalakin said. “I have no plans to start a private university as at now.”