*Bombing Of Oil Installations Will Choke Funding Of Education – Ikponmwosa | Independent Newspapers Limited
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*Bombing Of Oil Installations Will Choke Funding Of Education – Ikponmwosa

Efe Ikponmwosa
Posted: Jul 4, 2016 at 2:09 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

It is well established that improvements in education are associated with long-term improvements in economic performance. It improves overall skills and abilities of the workforce leading to greater productivity and contributes to economic growth. However, education appears to be threatened in Nigeria just as the economic base of the country is in limbo as the Niger Delta militant groups ceaselessly blow up oil installations. Associate Professor, Efe Ikponmwosa, a senior lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Lagos (UNILAG), in this interview with Oyeniran Apata spoke on its implications for the sector. Excerpts:

It is said that having educated workforce enables firms to take advantage of new economic opportunities, leading to improved performance. What impact will the crisis in the Niger Delta have on education?

The present serial bombings of oil installation and pipelines in the zone will obviously choke all sectors of the economy including the education sector.

Our survival as a country is rested on a mono-economy in the system, mono in the sense that we relied almost entirely on oil and gas money for survival. Over 80 per cent of our earnings are from oil and gas. With the burning of oil installations and pipelines in the Niger Delta, this will choke all sectors of the economy including the education sector.

And since the militants will not allow government access to the installations, the money coming to the government will be drastically reduced. When you destroy you have to spend money to rebuild and by implication the little money NNPC will be making for the country will be heavily burdened by overheads in order to get the system working again.

If the revenue drops it means what the government offices and agencies: states, local governments, health sectors it means they won’t be able to get what they are supposed to get.

So majorly, government with the little resources at its disposal will be grappling to pay salaries which are current expenditure. The capital expenditure in most cases will be put on hold.

Education at the basic level in public schools is free just as what is paid in government tertiary institutions is ridiculously low. Do you see a threat to learning with lean economic resources?

Now in a country where we say education is free where people are actually almost not paying in public schools, where will the administrator get the money to run the system? So, whenever they manage to pay salaries, the campuses will be in darkness, whenever there is a cut in public power supply, so if the campus is in darkness where will the university that does not have money to pay for fuel to run generators raised money to pay for other services.

By implication, essential services will be disrupted. Universities will also be without the water taps running when they are not able to pay Water Corporation because we are running more or less a free education system so to speak.

They will be unable to buy reagents for use in laboratories and buy equipment when the existing ones that are already old and worn out because the expected revenue or grants as it were will reduce. That is why in some schools, most of the constructions you see year in year out as uncompleted, were projects that commenced in 2012 intervention.

I have always been an advocate of appropriate cost of education. There is no way even in Europe, they only have reduced school fees. Nigeria is not in a position anymore to run free qualitative education. Education at the tertiary level will improve if they allow universities to start charging some fee that can be moderated.

I don’t see where parents will send their children to secondary where in a year they managed to pay as much as N300,000 to N500, 000 in a year and expect such child in University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowwo University to have a free education or not to pay anything,

We are just making a mockery of ourselves. Nigerian universities cannot out rightly boast of buying quality equipment without recourse to the ministries and that will take years to supply as well. And we want to compete with other world class universities in the world. It is not possible.

Unfortunately what is going on in the Niger Delta region will affect us adversely and I pray God gives us the wisdom to manage the hydra headed political problem facing the country at this period.”

It will be recalled that the immediate past administration approved and commenced the released first tranche of intervention funds as contained in the NEEDS Assessment report to bail out the nations university system from complete ruin. How will the destructions by the militants affect this and other funding programme?

You only give what you have because what you don’t possess you cannot give. That is one of the problems on ground. When the first tranche of the intervention fund to tertiary institutions was disbursed, Nigeria was selling oil at about $100 per barrel. Today what is the cost of oil per barrel?

This is in the region of $40 to $47per barrel. Yes, promises have been made by government concerning the intervention fund; however, it is unfortunate to note that the National Assembly members have not cut their own allowances, emoluments and overheads.

The simple truth is that the money Nigeria requires to fund projects and all sectors of the economy is not just there. The money spent on governance of the country is huge and extremely high.

The school should be able to manage their resources; if the government says look we are only paying your basic salary, go and earn your allowances and perfect other areas to run your schools. That is liberalisation.

If Federal Government says for instance that we are paying your salaries, all other overheads your school will take up the responsibility for that, the schools will now appropriately charge students and we will have a clear understanding that government is subsidising.

More than 90% of what the Federal Government gives to UNILAG, UI, OAU and other universities is spent on salaries and wages. It is only those universities that are located in prime locations and run some other programmes that are generating extra incomes that are doing well in these areas. There are federal universities that cannot afford to run the system on generators for 24 hours.

I have visited a university in this country that it is only when the Vice Chancellor is entering the institutions that the generating set roars. Why are they finding it difficult to run the system effectively? This is because the bulk of what comes to them from federal government goes into payment of salaries and wages. As soon as salaries are paid; what can N10 million do in the running of a university in Nigeria.

From the meagre sum of money; you are expected to buy diesel; you are expected to pay for water, buy petrol or diesel and pay for other services. That is why we are telling government to reconsider liberalisation. But, in situation where the rope that was released was still been knotted elsewhere and this had made growth and development become impossible.

If you agree to pay salaries and wages instruct them to manage other resources and let the universities use those areas where they have comparative advantage to make the difference.

Given the uncertainties in government earnings and fulfilment of government full implementation of the Academic Staff Union of Universities agreement vis-à-vis the servicing of the intervention fund?

What federal government has promised ASUU and the university system nationwide is a legitimate request made and agreed to implement.

There are so many problems; let the government pay because we cannot wait until we enter the grave that people will say he has overworked himself. I believe that there is need to cut overheads in many areas including the National Assembly in order to free some money for national growth and development. Free some money for the government to pay internal creditors like ASUU. Yes.

But, unfortunately with the situation in the country is government in a position to attend to all these needs and others in the various sectors of the economy.  May be government will drive us to the extreme again and everybody will say no to lectures in schools for children.

If you owe somebody you have to pay. Yes. We are one of government’s numerous creditors.

In the area of maintaining links with other institutions, how will paucity of funds affect linkages and partnerships and by extension research works?

What we have now is globalisation and bilateral agreement with a given sets of universities in the United Kingdom and other academic institutions around the globe.  It is expected that we will be able to do exchange programmes whereby academics from other parts of the world visits vis-a-vis ours going over there in exchange.

But if someone from Oxford University comes visiting and enters our laboratory that is virtually bare and without basic apparatuses, how will they feel. By implications they have come to Nigeria to waste their time.

That is why most Nigerian universities will even be ashamed to go into collaborations because when you enter into such collaborations you will find something in their universities to work with, but when they come they will not find basic things to work with.

Compare the budget of other global universities with is obtainable here; you will feel sorry for our desire to build world class institutions.

What effect will the poor economic situation have on access to tertiary education and by implication the student- teacher ratio?

The total population of Nigerian students vis-à-vis the population of qualified lecturers calls for concern. What we do is round-tripping where a lecturer teaches in UNILAG also has his or her name in other universities.

This is migration and round tripping in order to keep the system running. If my name appears in UNILAG in 2004 and appears in other institutions in 2015; that is simply round tripping. How can we help the government?

The question is that; is the government ready to help itself? We have missed it by running institutions on free education at the university level. When government realised that they could not manage basic education again licences were given to private investors. Now, the government has also given out licences at the tertiary level of education.

The private schools are charging at least N500,000 and above as minimum tuition fee. What students pay for in universities are: light, services, medicals, laboratory and other sundry charges that amount to N20,000. A student whose parent pays N300,000 is brought into the university to pay N60,000 at entry level and subsequently N20,000 in year two to five.

This has made nonsense of the education system. We are not being honest with ourselves because we are hiding behind a political party and dodging being labelled as the party that introduced this and that in Nigeria. That explains why the bulk of our students are not serious.

When you pay for something appropriately there will be likelihood of complete seriousness from the beginning to the end; you will seat up. If they want to help the students; where are the loans and scholarship boards? Where are they today?