Universities across the country may witness strikes in 2024 due to the small budget allotted to the education sector and poor remuneration, the Academic Staff Union of Universities has said.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, Prof. Emmanuel Oshodeke, explained that during the campaign and election earlier this year, President Bola Tinubu promised to increase the Education sector to at least 15 per cent or over.
Similarly, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation also recommended for member states, a 26 per cent benchmark allocation for the education sector.
He complained that Nigeria was the country with the least remuneration for professors, globally.
Oshodeke, however, said that ASUU was dejected when the 2024 education budget was announced to be N2.18tr or 7.9 per cent of the budget.
He reiterated that it was the same figure during the Buhari government, adding that not much progress would be made in the sector; if the budget was not increased.
Oshodeke advised the government to meet with the cabinet members and increase the budget to 15 or more.
“With this seven per cent education budget, nothing will change in the sector, it is just as we had during Buhari’s time. Tinubu during his campaign promised to increase the education budget but nothing.
“However, there is still a chance for him, to change. But if no improvement on this and our other demands, by next year, we will mobilise our people and we can’t stay like this because Oyo State has 15 per cent and Enugu State budgeted 32 per cent for education, but FG is giving less than eight per cent.
“He can still increase it, they should liaise with the executives and come out with a budget that is not less than 15 per cent as he promised during the election.”
National president, The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Dr Anderson Ezeibe, also told The PUNCH “It is demoralising to see the allocation follow the same trend as in the past.
“The sectoral allocation for education is less than eight per cent and can barely provide solutions to the multifaceted problems in the sector. The allocation is inadequate and falls short of the expectations.”
While speaking on the japa syndrome, which he said had led to an overwhelming brain drain in the university system, he advised the government to increase the salaries of lecturers, pay the backlog of Earned Allowance and withheld salaries.
Osohodeke added, “They should increase lecturers’ salaries, and the increment of retirement age, will enable lecturers to produce more PhDs, but the government is not interested in the system. They should separate lecturers from civil servants.”
He also complained about the lack of international lecturers in the tertiary institutions in Nigeria, saying, “For you to be well-ranked, you have to get lecturers all over the world to come lecture in your system. We pay the least remuneration to professors, globally.
“Professors in Nigeria earn between $200 to $300 a month but when such a professor moves to Rwanda, he earns $3000.
“The government should allow universities to run on its own, they should sign the agreement with Nimi Briggs. They can do all these if there is willpower.”
Ezeibe, added, “The only way to stop the japa syndrome and save our sector from brain drain is to improve funding for the education sector, improve the wage structure to meet at least the African average, and restore governance in the sector to global standards. By doing these, our academics who are leaving will stay back as they will be better motivated.”