Presidential promise to increase university funding

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly
pledged top priority for an increase in university funding,
and has instructed the National Universities
Commission and the federal education ministry to work
out how this might best be done. The populous country’s
leader is said to be disturbed by the poor performance of
Nigerian universities in rankings.
According to reliable sources, Buhari summoned officials
of the National Universities Commission and the
Ministry of Education to explain the reasons for the
absence of Nigeria in a recent ranking of top 1,000 world
universities. From Africa, only institutions in Egypt and
South Africa featured on the list.
Although the president was partly pleased that 28
Nigerian universities appeared on a ranking of top 100
institutions in Africa, he felt there could be more.
The officials informed Buhari that low funding was the
fundamental reason for the poor performance of Nigerian
universities, and the president decided that
strengthening university funding would be a top priority
of his administration.
His interest in the matter is both political and
diplomatic. Ahead of presidential elections earlier this
year, Buhari pledged in his campaign manifesto to
increase funding for education, to raise all levels of the
education system out of a state of decay.
The other reason is Nigeria’s quest for a seat in the
United Nations Security Council as Africa’s permanent
representative. It is well known that South Africa and
Egypt are also fiercely vying for the slot.
Buhari intends to showcase a functional and efficient
educational system – especially at university level – to
boost Nigeria’s campaign within the international
community to occupy an African place in the Security
Raising the education tax
Throwing light on the matter Suleiman Bogoro, executive
secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund or
TETFund, confirmed that the government had started
the process required to increase the current 2%
education tax, with which it supports TETFund, to
between 3% and 4%.
He said the education ministry had made this
recommendation in a comprehensive report to the
Once the proposal to raise the education tax had been
reviewed and parliament had begun amending the
TETFund Act to accommodate it, “the fund will play the
expected role to ensure that Nigeria’s universities
conform with international standards”.
The executive secretary noted that interventions by his
agency in the areas of research and development had
led to improved performances by Nigerian universities,
which he said had also impacted positively on their
ranking in Africa.
But Bogoro also confessed painfully that Nigeria was still
outside lists of the world’s top 2,000 universities. There
were only five African universities in the global top
1,000, three from South Africa and two from Egypt.
“If we increase the intervention fund and there is
patriotic application of the funds in priority areas, the
ranking of our universities will begin to compete with the
very best in the world,” he said.
Academics sceptical
Academics have greeted the news of the proposal with
mixed reactions, including scepticism. Many believe that
Nigeria does have the resources to increase education
funding to the 26% of government spending
recommended by UNESCO.
The Buhari administration should understand the fact
that great nations had devoted large chunks of their
money to funding education, said Dr Wale Suenu, a
senior lecturer in history and diplomacy at Lagos State
“An increase in the education tax to a paltry 4% will not
take Nigeria anywhere.”
Buhari should take his cue from South Korea, which was
underdeveloped and on a par with Nigeria in the 1960s
but now has the sixth biggest economy in the world
thanks to massive investment in education.
Despite the lean resources available, there were excellent
research findings from Nigeria’s universities – but the
world does not hear about them. This is the view of
Muhammad Kuna, a professor of history at Usmanu
Danfodiyo University in Sokoto, northern Nigeria.
“Nigeria’s internet system is one of the weakest in the
world,” he said, while publishing research and
information on the world wide web was an indicator used
by some rankings and was one of the reasons why
South African and Egyptian universities appeared in
global lists.
“Nigeria is still a sleeping giant,” he said. Buhari should
encourage the creation of efficient internet services on
campuses through public-private partnerships with
major ICT – information and communications technology
– companies to deliver fibre optic internet access, rather
than the current satellite connectivity.
“This proposed TETFund funding should give priority to
ICT development on campuses,” Kuna argued, adding
that devaluation of the Nigerian currency, the Naira, by
20% would wipe out the purchasing power public
universities would have in developing infrastructure.
Saliou Mohammed Bappa, a senior lecturer in the
department of theatre and performing arts at Ahmadu
Bello University in Zaria, is not optimistic.
Until corruption and embezzlement among government
officials and the top echelons of universities were wiped
out, he said, any additional funding would simply
disappear. “The Buhari administration must sanitise the
education sector so that funds can be judiciously spent,”
he told University World News .