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

Posted: May 4, 2015 at 12:01 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 Oyediran ,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.



Challenge of underfunding university education

A consultant to UNESCO and a visiting Professor at the Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia, Professor Peter Okebukola sums up the parlous state of the university education sector in Nigeria thus; “In the universities, we have challenges regarding teachers number and quality as large proportion of our lecturers do not have PhD. The Federal government committee on NEEDS assessments revealed that these deficiencies are prevalent in many universities.

Giving a graphic account and description of the condition in most universities in the country, he said many Nigerian universities are like glorified secondary schools when compared with other universities in the world.

Identifying funding as one of the biggest challenges facing the education sector especially at the tertiary level; universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education, he stated that the paucity of enough adequate funding speaks volumes of why none of our universities is ranked among the first thousand in the world.

This, and a host of other challenges bothering on the need to upgrade the standard of learning, improved access and probably put in check the annual pilgrimage of among Nigerian school leavers in search of higher education in other lands.

Establishment of the FG/ASUU Re-Negotiation Committees

In December 2006, the then Minister of Education, Dr. (Mrs.) Obiageli Ezekwesili, on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), inaugurated the FGN/ASUU Re-negotiation Committee.

The FGN Re-negotiation team led by the then Pro-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Deacon Gamaliel O. Onosode, and the ASUU team was led by the then President of ASUU, Dr. Abdullahi Sule-Kano.

Having reaffirmed the need to address the identified rot in the University System, as evidenced in dilapidated infrastructure and poor conditions of service for all categories of staff, the two sides met and commenced negotiations.

At the meeting, the ASUU Team submitted a position paper titled “Proposals for the Re-negotiation of the 2001 Agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria/Governments of State that own Universities and the Academic Staff Union of Universities” which reflected the views of ASUU on various issues in the 2001 FGN/ASUU

Representative of the FG also presented paper titled, “Government Negotiating Team Position Paper for 2006 Negotiation with Academic Staff of Nigerian Universities”, which was a response to ASUU demands.

Prior to the withdrawal of the Ilorin 49 Lecturers, the committee agreed that the essence of the Re-negotiation was:  to reverse the decay in the University System, in order to reposition it for greater responsibilities in national development; reverse the brain drain, not only by enhancing the remuneration of academic staff, but also by disengaging them from the encumbrances of a unified civil service wage structure; to restore Nigerian Universities, through immediate, massive and sustained financial intervention; and, to ensure genuine university autonomy and academic freedom.

However, the concurrent nature of the sector left the mandate of the re-negotiation team with a proviso as it concerns the standard of education at both state and federal institutions.

“Whereas the Agreement is directed towards ensuring that there is a viable university system with one, rather than a multiple set of academic standards; and whereas it is recognized by the Negotiating Teams that education is on the Concurrent List and by this Agreement, the Federal Government does not intend to, and shall not compel the State Governments to implement the provisions of the Agreement in respect of their Universities, it is however recognized that the State Governments shall be encouraged to adopt this Agreement, as benchmarks, if they are to operate within the goals of achieving the same sets of academic standards for their institutions within Nigeria’s

With funding as central to the crisis in the tertiary education sector, other issues the two teams put on the agenda include; conditions of service, University Autonomy and Academic Freedom.

Challenges facing the system

Due to long period of neglect to develop the system as the growing desire for higher education continues to grow, the system suffered unsuspecting downward decline. The university system and the tertiary education sector in general became a place where students receive lectures under trees, overflow of classes and steady failing infrastructure.

The resultant effects are overcrowded lecture halls, inadequate number of faculty staff against the rising student population, lack of qualified personnel with Doctoral degree as minimum qualification for teaching.


The Re-negotiation Committee, in order to arrive at the funding provisions stated below, took serious cognizance of the widely acknowledged fact that: The key to the survival of our country in the 21st Century lies in its ability to produce applied and theoretical knowledge in science, technology and the humanities; and the task of revitalizing and accelerating the development of the Nigerian University system to become internationally competitive can no longer be delayed, more so, if Nigeria is to become a leading economy in the world within the next ten years or so as desired by the Government.

On the basis of the data collected, and their analysis through a rational and scientific procedure, the following funding requirements were projected for a quick and effective remedy of deficiencies in the programmes and facilities, and for a systematic upgrading of programmes and facilities that would rapidly advance Nigeria’s knowledge production for development.

Funding Requirements for Revitalizing the Nigerian University System: 2009 -2011

It was agreed to recommend that: all regular Federal Universities shall require the sum of N1,518,331,545,304 (one trillion, five hundred and eighteen billion, three hundred and thirty-one million, five hundred and forty-five thousand, three hundred and four naira (only for the period 2009 -2011 as follows:

Each State University shall require N3, 680,018 (Three million, six hundred and eighty thousand and eighteen Naira per student for the period 2009 – 2011.

These amounts include Recurrent and Capital Grants, and are based mainly on the disaggregated returns from the universities.

According to the union, the goal of this negotiation is to put Nigeria in a strong position to become a knowledge based society that will be able to compete and survive in the 21st Century.

To achieve this, the entire education system requires massive funding at all levels. While non-budgetary sources have a role to play, and there must be continuous efforts to identify and use them prudently, the major source of funding education for national development is through budgetary allocation from State and Federal Governments.

Resultant effects

The result of the neglect by authority soon took its toll on the tertiary education as students and lecturers became confused. The obvious fact is the inability of the system to absorb and meet the yearning demands for higher education in the country.

Former Minister of Education, Professor Rukayyatu Ahmed R’ufai puts the carrying capacity of the nations universities in 2014 at little over 450, 000.

The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, (UTME) listed candidates seeking admission into Nigeria’s tertiary institutions in the following categories: University, Polytechnic/Monotechnic, College of Education (CoE) and Innovation Enterprise Institutions (IEIs). Innovation Enterprise Institutions are institutions approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria to provide a veritable alternative route to higher education.

A 2013 figure shows that Nigeria had 40 federal universities, 38 state universities, 50 private universities, 128 polytechnics and monotechnics, 117 Colleges of Education and 57 Innovation Enterprise Institutions, bringing the total number of tertiary institutions to 430.

With university education as the most preferred among Nigerian youths, the carrying capacity of 112 universities in 2014 was 450,000 representing about 30.13 per cent of 1,493,611 applicants. Thus, the admitting capacity was 30.13 per cent of the total number of applicants.

In the 2011/2012 session, five universities were added, bringing the number to 117, 500,000 carrying capacity and 1,503,933 admission seekers.

However, in 2012/2013, 11 universities were added bringing it to 128 with 520,000 admission spaces. In that year, a total of 1,735,729 applied for UTME. According to National Universities Commission report of 2011/2012, most of the universities in Nigeria exceeded the allotted admission quota.

The reality today

The Association of American Colleges and Universities, America has 2,680 accredited universities, just as Scotland has 1,419, Wales 1,011. India, with a population of over a billion has over 177 world class standard universities. China has 1,983 institutions of higher learning as at June 2009, as disclosed by the Ministry of Education.

Also, China with 1.4 billion people has 1,983 universities, India with 1.2 billion people has 177 universities, United States with 318 million people has 2,680 universities compared to Nigeria with about 178 million people and just 128 universities.

Agitation for establishment of more universities brings to mind the issue of proper funding, corresponding infrastructure and facilities and corresponding number of lecturers to serve the needs of the growing population of students.

The low carrying capacity of local universities has resulted in many Nigerians estimated about 500,000 in Ghana alone to seek for higher education and in other parts of the world.

This is also evident in the foray of large number of foreign universities staging education fair in the country. Is it on record that Nigeria ranked high in the number of foreign students in Canadian, United Kingdom, Russia, South Africa, and other universities in other countries around the world.

Making reference to poor funding of the system, Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos (UNILAG) during the last 2013/2014 convocation announced to the surprise of all that all the university receives from the Federal Government is a token of N10million for payment of salaries and overheads at the institution.

He stated that the nature of the swampy surrounding land on which the institution is located has made infrastructural development a little difficult as it costs more to build houses on swamp than on a dry land.

Incoming government, ASUU and funding

The level of mistrust that existed between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other staff unions of other tertiary institutions is best imagined.

This had resulted in the union calling out its members consistently for 21 years of the nation’s independence.

It is on record that lack of commitment by successive governments in the last 25 years on an agreement willingly signed by the government in 2009 had resulted in the endless strikes that had set it on collision course with government 19 times from 1992 to 2013.

As the attempt by the outgoing government of President Goodluck Jonathan failed again to resolve the issues raised by the union in the interest of a better university appears hits a brick wall again, expert said the incoming administration must comply.

It will be recalled that part of the agreement the Federal government willingly signed in 2009 with the union include:

However, the impending assumption of office of a new administration under the Rtd. General Mohammadu Buhari has raised concern by stakeholders in the university system and among Nigerians on what may likely become of the nagging unresolved d demands and its full implementation.

Speaking with Daily Independent on the issue of the new administration inheriting the challenges facing the sector, a University don, Professor Chidiebere Onyia in a reaction said the negotiation will be a litmus test for the incoming administration.

He stated that it is critical for the government not to go the way of its predecessors by not sending wrong signals to the citizens as reneging on government commitment to quality higher education.

“The negotiation leading to the settlement of labour disputes between the current administration and ASUU is going to be an important test for the incoming administration in so many ways.

“First, General Buhari has built a campaign that emphasizes eradication of corruption in every aspect of the Nigerian public and private sector. Education has been perceived by some critical stakeholders as a sector with marginal performance when compared to the resources invested in the past 6 years.

“To that effect, it is critical that the new president avoids engaging ASUU in a way that might be perceived as reneging on government commitment to the quality of higher education in Nigeria.

Responding to the position of the outgoing administration on the grounds of government’s inability to foot the huge bill, he said the union’s demand is modest to say the least.

He added that and any move to renegotiate the agreement contrary to expectations to improve faculty quality and infrastructure upgrade will clearly show that the new administration does not appreciate the very precarious situation Nigerian higher education system is in.

“The new administration must show good faith by channeling resources to improve scholarship in our higher education. As long as faculty especially new faculty do not appreciate the essence of research and setting global trends in industry and society, we will continue to see students that cannot match their contemporaries in creative and innovation  thinking.

Lamenting on the low morale of faculty personnel he advised the government to, “appreciate that higher education faculty are not motivated and do not in some cases see a need to increase the standards especially when they think they can go undetected.

“As you know the damage is further down the line when we expect a level of performance in both the work environment and society that these graduates with good paper degrees are not equipped to deliver.

“The issue with higher education reform is the thinking going into the haphazard strategies that are presented as solutions to a highly complex problem. The ASUU agreement in summary is not the panacea but a starting point that must be thought through from end to end,” he added.