An Abuja-based lawyer, Pelumi Olajengbesi has appealed to chief executive officers of banks and billionaire businessmen including Aliko Dangote, Femi Otedola, Abdul Samad Rabiu and Mike Adenuga to pay off the N1.1 trillion demands by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The lawyer said the Federal Government has displayed irresponsibility and nonchalance to resolve the lingering strike by ASUU since 14 February.
He, therefore, urged the 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.
Olajengbesi’s appeal to the high net worth citizens followed the remarks of Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi who said the Federal Government could not borrow N1.1 trillion to meet ASUU’s demands.
Reacting, Olajengbesi said: “The comment by Governor Dave Umahi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is uncharitable and insensitive to millions of students of public universities who have been at home for seven months now since 14 February 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 Revitalisation 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 $3.26 billion as of 30 September 2020, to $3.59 billion as of 30 September 2021, showing an increase of $330 million 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.
“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”.
Umahi said on Thursday, while receiving the Board of Trustees of Nigeria Police Trust Fund at the new Government House, Abakaliki, said: “I cannot see how we cannot sit down with our ASUU leaders and iron out this problem about the ASUU strike.
“I have read in social media and newspapers, how students got into trouble just by sitting at home or engaging in means of keeping themselves busy instead of being in schools. There is no way the country, Nigeria will go and borrow N1.1 trillion to meet ASUU’s demand. It’s quite unreasonable. Are their demands genuine? Yes, but we can start little by little.
He advised the Federal Government to begin by releasing fraction by fraction of the funds demanded by ASUU as a way of finding lasting solutions to the present educational challenge facing the country.