The minister said this on Friday in an interview on Channels Television.
ASUU has been on strike since February 14 over government’s failure to implement their demands on salaries and allowances of lecturers, and improved funding for universities.
Responding to a question on the “manner” the federal government has handled the strike issue, Keyamo said ASUU’s demands are related to overhead cost, and that the federal government doesn’t have the funds to implement the union’s request.
The moment they went on strike, we intervened. What is the manner again beyond that? The moment they declared the strike, even before the strike began, we called them to a meeting,” he said.
“What manner is more than that? It’s not that we left them to go on strike first and we were sleeping, and three months later, we said ‘can we start talking?’ The moment they declared, we immediately called them and said ‘let us start talking’. And as the talks started, they still went on strike.
“You cannot allow one sector of the economy to hold your jugular and blackmail you to go and borrow N1.2 trillion for overheads, when our total income is about N6.1 trillion, and you have roads, health centres to build, and other sectors to take care of.
“They have heard me; they have the clear picture. We are putting our cards on the table face up. We’re not hiding anything. The proposal ASUU is talking about is N1.2 trillion.
“Meanwhile, even their former N412 billion was 50 percent of the total wage structure of the federal government — and ASUU alone was taking that. And now, they’re saying N1.2 trillion. So, our cards are on the table face up.
“I’ll tell the parents and everybody to go and beg ASUU. Like the president said the other time, those who know them should appeal to their sense of patriotism. Do you want me to kneel down on air as a parent also? I can kneel down on air and beg them. It has come to that point.
“Let them go back to classes. They are not the only ones in Nigeria. They are not the only ones feeding from the federal purse. The nation cannot grind to a halt because we want to take care of the demands of ASUU.”