Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has called the state of the educational system under former President Muhammadu Buhari “catastrophic.”
Since no government had ever granted the education sector as little as 5%, Professor Osodeke claimed that the former President Buhari’s administration was the worst thing that had ever happened to the nation.
He also expressed shock that some lecturers had not received their wages in about 30 months and that some had not received the compensatory adjustment that had been provided in approximately two years.
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard, the head of ASUU gave President Bola Tinubu advice to make sure the minister of education he chooses is someone who understands what education entails.
Asked to rate the Buhari’s administration in terms of funding of the education, he said, “It was catastrophe, that was the worst that even happened to this country. There is no regime that had given five percent to education but he did and even that five percent was not monitored.
“As I speak today during that regime, university of Lagos, University of Ibadan, Ife, ABU get just eleven million per month for overhead cost. Meanwhile my university (Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia State) spent more than twenty million on diesel a month, UniLag should spend not less than fifty million to one hundred million on diesel a month but the government just gave eleven million, here they gave five million and it’s hardly released.
“The take home pay of one Senator is more than if you combine (University) Ibadan, combine (University of) Ife together, the take home of one Senator is more than what you have in those universities as overhead cost, how will that run? That’s why we have the problem we have today, nobody is interested.”
Further asked what kind of minister of Education he would recommend to Mr. President, he said, “Such a minister should be somebody who knows what a university is and who knows what education is. Two, it should be somebody who will have the interest of Nigerian pupil, young boys and girls at heart. Three, the person should be somebody who must have his family in Nigerian university system, secondary and primary schools not somebody whose child is outside, you go and do matriculation and convocation there but you don’t have a child here.
“So those are some of the things that should be considered in appointing the next minister of education. A person who believes in Nigeria and not those who believe that Nigeria does not exist, we must go abroad. You have headache you go abroad, a president had toothache, he ran abroad for treatment.”
Fielding question on the expectations of ASUU in the present administration, Professor Osodeke said, “if you have watched, most of the past leaders have really not given the attention to the education system for growth. That is why we are having these problems especially the issue of funding.
“If you check in West Africa, Ghana, Cameron even South Africa, no country gives less than 15 percent of their budget to education but last year, we got 5.3 percent and it has never gone beyond 10 percent in the past ten years.
“So that’s the critical issue. In the early 60s and 70s, the regional government especially the western region was giving 30 percent. In some countries, they give up to 30 percent because of the importance of education, but here we don’t regard it. Do you know why? Because the children of those who should ensure that it is done are not in the country.
“The first six months of last year we paid 600 million US dollars as tuition fee, to UK universities. If you multiply that, it is more than two hundred billion naira. That is what we have been saying, put in education every year to revamp it but they are not interested. So that is the reason we are having this…
“Those who run the ministry of finance, ministry of education, all their children are abroad. So they don’t care what is happening here and the implication is very clear. Why our students are rushing outside the country, not even students from Benin Republic want to come here. While our lecturers are rushing out of the country, no lecturer from any angle even from West Africa wants to come to Nigeria.
“When I was a student in Rivers State University of Science and Technology, there were lecturers from five countries teaching in my department, Sri Lanka, Philippine, Poland, Ghana and Nigeria teaching in one department but today you don’t see any foreign one. To also compound it, they are trying to push the Nigerian system bureaucratic system into the civil service which does not happen anywhere in the world.
“The university has a law and that law states how a university should be run. Thank God that the National Industrial Court gave a judgement that something like IPPIS should not apply to university.
“So those are the problems we are having. When you go round these universities today, there are many of my colleagues who have not earned salaries from three to 30 months because of IPPIS. There are some people their consequential adjustment of 2019, the arrears that was paid two years ago, many of our colleagues have not got theirs.
“They just paid some and left the rest, the money has been swindled. So that is the problem we are having with the system. So our advice to this regime is, allow the universities to run on their own, provide the fund that should come from government, the fund from TETFund should be well managed. Today, it’s being managed by politicians. It should be restructured in such a way that it should be well managed that every university get what is due to it.”