By Emeka Okafor
Pelumi Olajengbesi, an Abuja-based lawyer, has made a passionate appeal to influential Nigerian billionaires including Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Abdul Samad Rabiu, Mike Adenuga and others to urgently intervene in the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
He said rich Nigerians should intervene in the crisis, which he claimed is almost crippling the nation’s education, by paying off the N1.1 trillion being demanded by ASUU for the revitalisation of Nigerian universities.
Olajengbesi pointed out that it was clear that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government was not ready and interested in resolving the crisis.
ASUU, the apex body academic staff in Nigerian universities, had been on strike since February 14, 2022 owing to FG failure to honour agreement reached on the revitalisation of the nation’s higher institutions.
The lawyer also berated the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, over his comment that the Buhari’s administration cannot borrow N1.1 trillion to defray the Revitalization Fund and the Earned Academic Allowance owed ASUU.
Olajengbesi explained that Umahi’s comment was a clear testament that the FG was not ready to address the concern of striking lecturers.
He said, in light of the government’s failure, called on captains of industry to rise to the occasion just as they did during the COVID-19 pandemic when their financial intervention contributed immensely to Nigeria’s fight against the dreaded disease and its economic implications.
“The comment by Governor Dave Umahi of the All Progressives Congress is uncharitable and insensitive to millions of students of public universities who have been at home for seven months now since February 14, 2022 when ASUU embarked on an industrial action this year.
“It is reckless for the governor to say that the present administration cannot borrow N1.1 trillion to defray the Revitalization Fund and the Earned Academic Allowance owed ASUU. Whereas, the APC government has embarked on a borrowing spree since 2015 with Nigeria’s debt to China increasing from $3.26bn as of September 30, 2020, to $3.59bn as of September 30, 2021, showing an increase of $330m in one year. The figure has definitely risen in the last one year.
“The APC government must know that education is at the core of any development. Spending loans on phantom White Elephant projects and train is counterproductive without building the mind. Any infrastructural development without human capital development is nonsense.
“Having demonstrated its unwillingness to end ASUU strike despite the billions that Umahi’s APC received in the recent primary elections, good-spirited Nigerians can only appeal to business magnates like Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Abdul Samad Rabiu, Mike Adenuga, as well as bank chiefs to come to the rescue of the common Nigerians whose children have been out of school for seven months this year and nine months in 2020 whilst politicians send their children to schools abroad.
“The philanthropists should please answer the call of the nation for youths to return to classrooms as some of them may be lured into crimes as a result of idleness. One of Nigeria’s greatest resources is its vibrant youth bulge and this population should be harnessed for productivity and not left to rot away”, Olajengbesi said.