Ever since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on an indefinite strike on July 1, 2013, over the failure of the Federal Government to fully implement the 2009 agreements entered into with the union, the representatives of the FG have at various times tendered largely unconvincing reasons why the government cannot honour the agreements. At different times, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala argued that the government has (or had) no money to implement the agreement; that honouring the agreements will result in breakdown in government; and that the agreements were reached without proper reasoning and thus need to be re-negotiated.
The most shocking of the government’s responses is the recent gaffe of the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku while fielding questions on a network Radio Nigeria programme on Sunday September 8, 2013. Mr Maku had claimed that as long as the government is combatting the scourge of Boko Haram, it cannot afford to increase the allocation to education thus implying that the funding of education is supposedly construed by the Jonathan administration as an opportunity cost for the guarantee of security in the troubled northern region. We find this reasoning not only insensitive but also utterly fallacious.
To put the records straight, the Federal Government has never complied with the United Nations’ recommendation of 26% budgetary allocation to education or even gone near it even before the upswing in terrorist activities in the North in 2009. The current allocation stands at 8.7%, 2012 was 8.43%; and 2011 was 6%. In comparison, allocation to education in other African countries far exceeds Nigeria’s. In Ghana, it is 31%; Cote D’Ivoire is at 30%; Uganda, 27%; South Africa, 25.8%; and in Kenya, it is 23%.
It is a blatant lie that funds that could have been used to resuscitate Nigeria’s comatose public education sector is what is being diverted into the seemingly fight against Boko Haram. Those funds were never appropriated to education in the first place. We believe that the most effective equipment against all forms of social disorder, terrorism inclusive, is quality education, public enlightenment and sensitization. The current model of earmarking billions of dollars in the name of amnesty payments to terrorists will only yield more terrorism. At best, the warlords will retire to enjoy their bombardier jets and encourage new ones to take over.
The Federal Government as well as the State governments must retrace their steps and change their attitude towards funding education. Government cannot repeatedly dole out financial largesse to football teams; pay millions of dollars in spurious security contracts to ‘repentant’ criminals; expend billions of dollars on bloated amnesty programmes; give out $200million to Nollywood; prepare to spend N600billion on another census; plan to spend billions of Naira on the centenary celebrations in 2014; and keep handing out several other unbudgeted monetary gifts only to turn around to claim proper funding for the education sector to fix the infrastructure decay and properly remunerate lecturers, will lead to a collapse of government. All Nigerians must arise to demand a change in the current equation.
In light of the above, we implore all Nigerians to speak up against the Federal Government’s deliberate nonchalance about ending the lingering ASUU strike and similarly add their voices to the call for a public hearing by the National Assembly to adequately reveal the rot in the Nigerian tertiary education system so that effective steps towards reforming the sector can be taken.
– IMPACT ORGANISATION, OAU.
(@ImpactOAU on Twitter).