The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has said he will clear all the backlogs that makes the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to embark on strikes.
This is as he lamented that funds meant for universities are not sent directly to them but go through government agencies who decide to do as they pleased with them.
Atiku spoke on Sunday at the Channels Television’s People’s Townhall meeting which also had in attendance his running mate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State.
He said: “I will increase the funding level as against what is currently obtainable because I’m a firm and committed believer in education.
“Secondly, I have undertaken to clear all the backlogs so that you go back to classes and students go back to school, but sometimes, there are invincible roadblocks.
“When the Federal Government releases money for universities, it doesn’t go straight to them but to another federal bureaucracy, and they may decide to do whatever before sending the money to whatever universities.
“I think that is the bottleneck. Why not remove the bottleneck, and whatever is due to the universities is paid directly?
“When I was Vice President, I visited several embassies and found that all the staff had not been paid for several months, and I even visited Togo that is ECOWAS headquarters. All these countries have a building and staff quarters as poor as they are, but Nigeria did not have.
“When I came back, I called the then Minister of Finance to ask all embassies to give us their budget, and when they did, we didn’t send the money through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but straight to the ministries. And that immediately eliminated all the backlog of salaries owed to our staff abroad.
“But then, the ministry didn’t like it; they kept fighting. However, you have to be bold to change some of the procedures currently obtained in the public service to get services delivered where they should. We will give NUC and universities what they need to operate direct.
“Of course, I pledge to increase our budgetary allocation, sadly, we are not spending as much as our educational sector is concern in Africa.”