Chris Ngige,, minister of labour and employment, says albeit two of his youngsters who are American residents were affected by the strike set out upon the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), he might have permitted them enjoy “free education” in the US.
ASUU, on Wednesday, “conditionally” suspended its nine-month-old strike, following a decision by its national executive council (NEC).
On March 23, 2020, the union embarked on an indefinite strike over non-implementation of agreements and resolutions reached with the federal government in 2009.
Speaking when he featured on a Channels Television programme on Wednesday, Ngige said he will not give ASUU the opportunity to embark on such a prolonged strike again, considering the effect on the country’s education system.
“I will not give ASUU the opportunity to embark on strike again. I have three biological children that suffered from this imbroglio we find ourselves. I have about 15 people on scholarship in Nigerian universities,” he said.
“My three biological children are here in Nigerian universities. They even went to secondary school here. Two of my children are American citizens. I have the option of leaving them to go there and enjoy free education and so on, but I didn’t. I’m committed. I’m a parent, I’m involved.”
Although, Ngige claimed that he could have allowed his two children enjoy “free education” as American citizens, checks by TheCable showed that there is no university in the US that is “free”.
According to College Board, a non-profit organisation which conducts research on universities, the average fees for US universities for the 2020/2021 academic session are as follows: $10,560 for public four-year in-state; $27,020 for an out-of-state four-year programme in a public institution; $3,770 for two-year in-district students in public colleges, while those enrolled for a four-year programme at a private non-profit college pay $37,650.
However, the prices vary, “depending on the institution and where it is located”, and many full-time undergraduate students “receive grant aids that help them pay for college”.
The labour minister also noted that it would be unfair to conclude that the current administration has failed in the education sector, especially in the funding of public universities, considering that the price of crude oil depreciated when it assumed office.
Ngige said that the previous administration that signed the 2009 memorandum of agreement with ASUU did that because the price of crude oil was within the range of $100 and $120 per barrel with a production of 2.2 million barrels a day.
“If you say this government failed to do A or B, that would not be fair. Two reasons: Number 1; if I were part of that government at a time, we will know that this is not doable, but you don’t also blame them. At that time, oil was selling at $120 per barrel to $130 per barrel,” he said.
“When it was not good, $100 per barrel with a production of 2.2 million to 2.5 million barrels a day, we were overshooting our OPEC quota, but as soon as this government came in 2015, me and you were here when the price of oil nosedived to, at a point, $27 per barrel. Even during COVID, it went down to $15 per barrel.”
When asked if the federal government will meet the conditions stipulated by ASUU to avert another indefinite strike, Ngige said the agreement was structured for a win-win situation.
“We will not get there, because we have structured the agreement in such a way that it is a win-win situation for everybody. For example, the revitalisation, we have given government 31st January to pay that,” the minister explained.
“We have also opened the window that by the end of February, we will sit down again and review all these situations.”