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Atiku Denies Plan To Handover Fed Varsities To States After Backlash


Atiku Denies Plan To Handover Fed Varsities To States After Backlash

Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP has recanted his earlier statement that will hand over federal universities to states if he becomes president next year.

The PDP presidential hopeful had received backlash for the comment he made at this year’s Nigerian Bar Association, NBA conference in Lagos on Monday, that he will allow state governments to run federal universities for efficiency if he emerged winner in next year’s presidential election.

Election pundits insist that the contest will be a three horse race between him and Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi of the All Progressives Congress, APC and Labour Party, respectively.

Atiku spoke amidst the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU over unpaid allowances and salaries by the federal government. The six months strike has paralysed academic activities in the nation’s ivory towers, even as distrust parents are worried that their children could remain at home much longer if the parties failed to break the deadlock.

Atiku said, “One of the fundamental reforms I have in my policy document is to encourage the private sector as far as the development of the country is concerned — both foreign and local. It is very essential because the federal government does not have the resources to do all the things that they want to do.”

“The only way is to make sure that a conducive environment is available for the local and foreign investors to participate in the development of our country, whether it is infrastructure, education, and healthcare.

“I had an argument with a university professor from Federal University, Lokoja. He said he read in my policy document that I intend to devolve, in other words, to return education to the states. How dare I do that?

“I said: ‘Mr professor, do you realise that the first set of our universities belongs to the regional governments?’ He said, ‘yes’. I said ‘who are the successors of the regional government?’ He said: ‘the states’.

“I said the children you send to America or England, who own those universities? Mostly the private sector. So, why is it that you think we cannot do it here? We don’t have the money.”

His comment apparently was not well received by not a few Nigerians who said many Nigerians will be denied higher education if that is done, because university education will even become more expensive than it is currently, and will be taken out of the reach of the average Nigerian.

The PDP presidential candidate has now come out to say he was misquoted, and that he has no plan to do that.

According to a statement by his spokesman, Paul Ibe, the former vice president said he was taken out of context. He described the report that he will allow states to run federal universities as misleading.

The statement said: “What the PDP presidential candidate referred to was his plans for a phased devolution of power to the federating units.

“The report in some sections of the media is, therefore, a misleading and false account of what transpired when the PDP Presidential candidate fielded questions as a panelist at the opening ceremony of the NBA conference.”

The statement added further,” Atiku Abubakar merely recalled his engagement with a university professor where he argued that the United States of America shared similarities with the first set of universities in Nigeria which belonged to the regional governments and noted that with proper planning and phased devolution of power, federal universities that have now become unwieldy could be made to work better under the component federating units.

“He also maintained that education would remain in the concurrent list under his administration when elected”.

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