Fixing Nigeria’s University Funding Paralysis

The Honourable Member of the House of Assembly is not really far from reality. In September 2021, I wrote: “ Yes, expect the privatization of some federal universities before the end of this decade! In Abia state, the state abandoned a college of education and weeds are now schooling therein!” Of course, the Honourable member was sparing the polytechnics; not sure that is possible.

The biggest risk in Nigeria’s university system is that the government can just give up and then ask BPE (the privatization agency) to open schools for privatization. And once ASUU goes on a strike for that, the government will abandon schools as the Abia state government did with its college of education.

Our schools need to be better funded but funding is not the only solution. In Rwanda, I met the minister of education (was there as a professor from Carnegie Mellon University on a work related visit) and saw how they merged most universities into one system, saving  $millions by cutting out bureaucracy.

Imagine a scenario where in Southeast Nigeria, we have only UNN with FUTO as its Engineering college, UNEC its Business college, Umudike as its Agriculture college, etc. Magically, you save millions by weeding out many pro-chancellors, vice chancellors, chancellors, etc. You do the same in the northern part with ABU Zaria anchoring; SW, etc.

Largely, we can have only 12 federal universities in Nigeria! What we have now makes no sense because we do not have the funds to run such a system.

Government has no funds

Whether we like it or not, Nigeria doesn’t have the funds to fund our federal university system as we have it now. The labour minister has made it clear.

“Mind you, it was promised by that administration and they promised to kickstart the payment and they paid N200 billion which they borrowed from TETFund. They did not take it from the federation account. That payment spiralled even into 2016, to our regime.

“Government now said we don’t have the money to pay for it. This was the agreement in 2016 to 2017 but we will find a way by which we can fund the universities and revitalise infrastructure

“I am hoping that ASUU should do the right thing and contact their members on the renegotiations that we have had in the last two weeks.

“First, the issue of earned academic allowances, we have agreed, given a timeline to the NUC to go back to the old template used in working out the 2021 earned academic allowance – 10.8 per cent of personnel cost.

“We want them to go back very quickly and use that same formula and get us what we are supposed to pay in 2022. That is agreed by everybody,” he said.

-Tekedia

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