Controversy Over N1.3tr Fund For Nigerian Universities | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Controversy Over N1.3tr Fund For Nigerian Universities

Posted: May 7, 2015 at 5:07 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Under funding of the Nigerian public university system remains an issue that has over the years resulted into steady decline and rot that characterized learning at tertiary institutions in the country. To redress the situation that had resulted in the mass exodus of young Nigerians to seek further education abroad, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) and other pressure groups in the education sector resulted to strike actions. It is on record that lack of commitment by successive administrations agreement willingly signed between the government and the unions had resulted to 19 strike actions between 1992 and 2013. Recently, ASUU condemned the Federal Government’s failure to release the sum of N1.3tr meant for the revitalisation of the nation’s universities beyond the N200bn released for 2013, as the first batch of the money. There was no money released in 2014, and the first quarter of 2015 has come and gone with no money for the universities from the government. In this special report, Sylvester Enoghase, Sola Alabadan, Andrew Airahuobhor, Phillip Oladunjoye, Apata Oyeniran,  Emma Okwuke, Bamidele Ogunwusi, Abel Orupke and Olamide Bakare  examine the various issues surrounding the non-disbursement of the fund meant for the nation’s  universities, and other issues affecting the tertiary education sector in the country.

The Effect of Poor Quality Education

“I can boldly posit that poor quality of education is detrimental for productivity in the job market. Furthermore, such an unproductive job market is injurious to the economy. The extent to which one may argue on the danger of poor education to the overall society is a food for thought for readers”.

Ayodeji pointed out that the question at this moment is, “should employers then, go all the way to pay for quality education for students especially at the post-secondary level?”

To buttress his point, he said that Prof. Will Roberts and six other professors at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, who recently wrote a newspaper opinion in solidarity with their striking students, will answer this question in the affirmative.

Ayodeji said that these professors in their opinion argued that the university is no more than a training ground that employers are lucky enough to get employees to pay for, adding that the employees in this case are the students of the today who will no doubt become employees after they graduate and that with this, technically, students are already on the job, they argued.

According to him, “My answer to the question is also, “Yes, employers should start taking responsibilities in the funding of higher education in Nigeria”. If poorly educated graduates are continually produced, employers bear the brunt; well-educated graduates are the employers’ gain. Presently, top employers with deep pocket in Nigeria already re-train graduates before they are hired. For example, the Dangote Industries established the Dangote Academy, which re-train graduates for 12 months before they are employed”.

To drive home his point, Ayodeji quoted the Head of Dangote Academy, Haruna Adinoyi, who said, “most of our graduates are not employable”, adding that Nigeria’s largest oil corporation; Shell also run similar 12 months programme called the Shell Intensive Training Programme (SITP) for fresh graduates before they can be considered for employment.

Ayodeji said that these are organisations, which are obviously established to maximise profit and that as a result they would have preferred to transmit the money spent on these re-trainings into their annual profit balance, if it were not necessary and crucial for their successful operations.

Summarising, he said, “If quality education is important for quality job performance and by extension the economy; if majority of students in our higher educational institutions are largely unable to access quality education; if this lack of quality is partly but significantly hinged on poor funding occasioned by low earning by the public institutions, perhaps employers, particularly the ones with deep pockets who are major beneficiaries of education should consider paying for higher education”.


 Dilemma of decaying infrastructure in Nigerian universities

The Federal Government last year announced the establishment of new universities. These new universities are coming on board at a time when a National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS)-assessment of the universities in 2012 reported massive decay of infrastructure, near absence of or obsolete learning aids and very low capacity of teaching staff at virtually all levels of university education. It is surprising that the government, rather than address these needs, has gone on to complicate the problem by these additions to the number of universities.

Similarly, the National Universities Commission (NUC) has licensed several private universities based on the population of prospective applicants for admission.  The driving force of the decisions of the NUC has been the need to broaden access to university education regardless of the consequence on the quality of university education.

In the end, several public and private universities have consistently failed to meet the requirements for accreditation by the NUC, putting students in dire situations.  A case in point was the crisis at the University of Abuja over the fate of its Science and Engineering students.  The University had lost the accreditation to offer those courses and is at a dilemma on what to do with the students who had spent some years on the programme. Thus, the proliferation of universities without substantial financial and human resources has contributed to the poor state of infrastructure in the universities.

The NUC had granted licences to universities without upholding the tenets of the national policy on education as they relate to tertiary education. Today, Nigerian universities are largely mere degree or certificate awarding institutions.  Poor research and library facilities, non-functional instructional and infrastructural facilities have had adverse consequences on the quality of teaching, learning and research.

A lecturer in the department of agricultural engineering, Obafemi  Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Dr. Babatunde Ogunsina believes that government intervention and focus on the sector would go a long way to address many problems in the country.

Even though he admitted that the outgoing administration had failed to do what is necessary by providing the funds needed to revitalize the sector, he urged the incoming administration to take a rather holistic look on the sector by ensuring that the funds are made available for the provision of good infrastructure.

He said” There is no gainsaying the fact that education sector in Nigeria is in a state of ruins. It is on record that the sector has suffered years of neglect for so long. For decades, education sector suffered a lot of decadence. It has become a free for all. For me, I think if we want our graduates to compete with the counterparts in other countries of the world, something urgent need to be done to address the state of our infrastructure.

“Besides, government must begin to see education as serious business as doing so will help to address the myriads of problems affecting us as a nation. It is pertinent that the incoming administration gives education the needed priority by making sure that they invest heavily. Until that is done, I don’t think any meaningful progress will be made.

“We need to have the right infrastructure that would equip our graduates to the extent that they will have to compete with graduates from other developed countries. Although, most of the graduates in Nigeria are half baked, that is not to Say that there are no exceptional ones. Even in private universities where there is a misconception of necessary breeding, we still have some exceptional students there.

“But the point I am trying to make is that if there is no right information, infrastructure, we may not get the graduates trained in a manner that put them at par with their counterparts elsewhere. For instance, it is just like having a foundation that is weak, no matter how gigantic the structure, whether it is like the Cocoa House in Ibadan, it will collapse. For me, I think if we continue in the same direction that we have been doing, we may be running a vicious circle. I believe if this incoming administration can attend to the sector, it would have great bearing on other areas of our economy. As a matter of fact, it would stem the tide of corruption”.

Except for the new ones, the average public university in Nigeria is at least three decades old. Unlike old wines that mature with age, however, facilities in these tertiary institutions seem to age as the year passes, with many vice-chancellors promising to upgrade them.

However, Nigerian universities have seemingly remained among the worst in the world. Recent reports portray a general lack of infrastructural facilities. An average public university in Nigeria lacks basic infrastructure like regular water supply, electricity, and standard accommodation for students.

In many instances, toilets that serve the students are in bad shape as many do not have running water. Lecture rooms and offices are in need of refurbishment. Libraries are poorly equipped and are short of modern books and equipment. Laboratory equipment is obsolete and inputs for teaching are in short supply.

Roads and buildings on many campuses are in a state of disrepair. It is therefore not surprising that the products of these institutions often fail to rise up to the occasion when put to task. Indeed, many of them never had the opportunity to acquire the skills that their certificates claim they possess.

To be sure, students and academic staff have always drawn attention to the poor infrastructure in the universities.  A protest against poor facilities by students of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, led to the death of some students while several others sustained serious injuries. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has also decried this state of affairs in their many protests and strikes. Yet there is no evidence that a concerted effort is underway to address the situation in a fundamental way.

Several stakeholders in the universities are implicated in the rot in the university system, especially as it relates to infrastructure.  For instance, although the ASUU has struggled to protect the universities and forced the government to properly fund universities, these funds are sometimes poorly managed. Corruption among university bureaucrats and administrators is similar to what obtains in the civil service and politics. Their symptoms are manifest in the dilapidated and poorly delivered buildings and other infrastructure.   Many university administrators care more about maintaining their jobs and enhancing their financial wherewithal than protecting the integrity of the university system.  Hence, embezzlement of allocated funds has become no less rampant than what obtains in the political world apart from the volume of resources involved.

According to Dr. Muyiwa Ladega, a former university don, the rate with which universities have proliferated has been alarming given the limited access to funds.  “One of the benefits of staying inside a Nigerian university campus is electricity and water which though not constant is supposed to be better than what obtains outside. That was the case in the early 80s when we moved in but from the 90s it became something else”,  Ladega added.

Timothy Adekunle, while recounting his university experience said:  “In most cases, the university management as usual continues to play the ostrich with its head in the sand which is not unusual. Leadership at all levels has failed in this country, from the top to the very bottom. There was a central pumping station which was provided with a dedicated generator we were told. Later on we discovered that the central science laboratory was also connected which makes a mockery of the word dedicated. No water and we call a guy who parades himself as the chief engineer – that one says the pump is a three phase one and the public electricity has only 2 phases on. He tells us the generator will be switched on but alas two days after there is still no water so we decide to sink our own borehole and supply our next door neighbor to the right water since the pipes flow from ours”.

Recently, Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, (UNILAG), Professor Rahmon Bello, while delivering the second annual memorial lecture  in honour of the institution’s immediate past vice chancellor, Professor Adetokunbo Sofoluwe, said the recurring problems associated with the Nigerian university system have been attributed to long neglect and inadequate funding.

Delivering the lecture titled, “Funding of University Education in Nigeria: Trends, Challenges and new Directions,” the VC noted that one major effect of inadequate funding of university education in the country has been academic instability arising from strikes that virtually paralyze university education each time the strike lasts.

Dissatisfied with the development, he added that all the unions in the university system, whether for staff or students, have all contributed to this at one time or the other.

He said, “It is sad to note that from 1992 to date industrial strikes by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) alone have led to public universities being closed down for long periods of time, sometimes for a whole academic session.”








He lamented that  many Nigerian universities are fast decaying in infrastructure, stressing that all the resources required for the education production process are also in short supply, such as lecture halls, laboratories, students hostels, library space, books and journals as well as office space which are all inadequate.

Regretting that the country’s funding of the sector still fall far below the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommendation of 26 per cent of the annual budget, the VC lamented that only about 8.34 per cent of the annual budget is allocated to fund education in Nigeria.

Speaking further he said the NEEDS Assessment report on universities clearly showed the rot in the system particularly in the infrastructural decay, stressing that this had persistently led to crisis between ASUU and the Federal Government.

Making reference to smaller economies in the continent where education is given priority and well funded, Bello said funding of education and university education in particular falls far short of reckoning.

According to him, funds released for overheads and capital requirements are grossly inadequate and do not meet the reality of the needs, adding that universities will enjoy relative autonomy and become more focused if it receives funds per student in its institution and the funds will be more efficiently utilized for the core businesses of the institution.

“There is need to consider changing the university funding pattern from bulk release to tying it to studentship to improve efficiency in the use of the fund.”

Speaking further he said the Federal Government has to date maintained a policy of no tuition fees in all federal universities, stressing that students are only allowed to pay for service charges for accommodation, health services among others.

“Government believes that it has a duty to provide qualified Nigerians with free university education. It has to date maintained a policy of no tuition fees in all federal universities. The students are only allowed to pay for services, charges for accommodation, health services and so on,” he added.