Labour kicks against proposed sale of unity schools
Worried by the statement allegedly credited to the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, proposing the auctioning the 104 Federal Unity Colleges (FUCs) to private enterprises and the State Governments, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to distance himself from the ill-motivated policy.
In a press statement signed by its Secretary-General, Alade Bashir Lawal, the union expressed shock that the anti-people education policy pursued by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) under President Olusegun Obasanjo but vehemently resisted by millions of Nigerians is what the Kaduna state governor is urging President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressive Congress (APC) to start all over again.
“We advise President Buhari to be wary of the likes of El-Rufai who wants to push him to enter into a collision course with the entire citizenry by embarking on this very unpopular policy barely four months after he assumed office.
“Besides, the Kaduna State Governor himself should concentrate on carrying out programmes that will uplift the living standards of millions of Kaduna State citizens particularly the poor masses who roam the streets of Kaduna and its environs in search of means of livelihood instead of embarking on self-centred agenda that will make qualitative secondary education a commodity only for the rich in the country,” the Union emphasized.
It recalled that because of the divisive ethnic and religious politics in the First Republic which still exist today, the then Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa, in1966 conceived the Unity Schools idea as centres for nurturing and inculcating a sense of oneness and national virtues into Nigerian children as well as teachers and other workers in the Unity School system from all parts of the country while at the same time serving as models for secondary education in Nigeria.
“Thus, in 1966, the Balewa administration set up three Federal Unity Colleges, one in Warri for Western region, another in Sokoto for Northern region and the third one in Okposi for Eastern region.
“Today, the Federal Unity Colleges in Nigeria are 104 and records at the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO) clearly show that students of these schools excel in examinations set by the two bodies when compared with other secondary schools in the country,” the Union said.
Besides, it argued that the Federal Unity Schools are one of the few institutions such as the Armed Forces, the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), etc, that are still existing to instill national consciousness and unity into the citizens and to auction such schools to private individuals or the State Governments is to continue to sow the seed of disunity in the country.
It wondered how the state governments that cannot pay the salaries of civil servants and whose own secondary and primary schools are in shambles should be handed over the 104 FUCs that were being run efficiently by the Federal Government.
“Do El-Rufai and the sell the Unity Schools campaigners want to finally kill secondary education in Nigeria?” the Union asked..
ASCSN recalled that when Barack Obama was elected the President of the United States of America in 2008, he built more secondary schools in different parts of that country to expand the frontiers of knowledge. What El-Rufai is advocating is the spread of hunger, disease, illiteracy, mediocrity and mass poverty.
“Instead of urging President Buhari to sell the Federal Unity Schools to state governments and private individuals, he should be encouraged to build more of such colleges to accommodate millions of children who cannot find admission into existing secondary schools.
“At any rate, why can’t these individuals (El Rufai inclusive) including old boys and old girls, of the FUCs build their own secondary schools? Why are they bent on ripping where they did not sow? The truth of the matter is that those clamouring to take over the Unity Schools at give away prices under the guise of Public Private Partnership (PPP) want to convert the vast expanse of land in the Schools as well as the state of the art structures there into their private property and turn them into hotels, shopping malls, etc, for their selfish interest,” the Union said.
Besides, it noted that, during the campaign by President Obasanjo and his then kitchen cabinet led by Dr. Oby Ezekwesili and El-Rufai to sell the Unity Schools to their cronies, most of the host communities including their traditional rulers told the government clearly that it would have to remove the buildings in the colleges because they would take back their land, which was donated in the first instance for public good.
The Union, therefore, urged President Buhari and the APC not to key into the dubious and unpatriotic project of El-Rufai because it would certainly heat up the polity and pitch the people against the Government.
To this end, it urged the trade union movement, the civil society groups, market women and men, prominent conscientious Nigerians, the patriots, royal fathers, and the broad spectrum of the populace to prepare to resist this second attempt by the privileged few to convert the collective wealth of Nigerians into their personal estates and thereby mortgage the future of Nigerian children.
The Kaduna state’s governor while speaking at the Founders Day programme organized by the King’s College Old Boys Association on Friday September, 18, 2015, had called on the Federal Government to auction the 104 FUCs to private businesses and the State Governments.