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N55 billion budgets for 14 universities: How Nigerian state universities are poorly funded

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FINDINGS by The ICIR show that only N55 billion was allocated to 14 state universities by their state governments across 12 states in 2018. This amount comprises both the recurrent and capital expenditure of the universities. 

In comparison, N46 billion was earmarked for the three premier universities – University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria and Ahmadu Bello University – in their combined 2018 budgets.

Across the border, the State of Missouri in the United States budgeted N83.2 billion ($229.4million) to four high schools in Columbia school district in 2018, according to National Center of Statistics. This amount is far higher than the combined budgets of the 14 state universities in Nigeria.

The state universities are Delta State University, Ambrose Ali University, Edo University, Kaduna State University,Kano University of Science and Technology, Umaru Musa Yar’dua University, and Adekunle Ajasin University.

Others are Ondo State University of Science and Technology ,Ondo State University of Medical Sciences, Yobe State University, Kogi State University, Ekiti State University, and Nasarawa State University.

State governments have continued to create universities without proper funding of existing ones. Between 2010 and 2018, 12 state universities have been established with some states creating second university or even third university.

Ondo State has three universities but budgeted less than N2 billion for the three universities.  Adekunle Ajasin University’s 2018 budget is just N200 million. The other state university, Ondo State University Science and Technology has N1.2 billion while the third university in the state, Ondo State University of Medical Science is N500 million.

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Other state universities are also facing poor funding.

Ephraim Iliya, a non-teaching staff at the Department of Microbiology in Imo State Universty, Owerri, decried the poor state of facilities at the school, attributing it to the meager fund received from the state government which is spent mostly on overhead and administrative costs.

“The funds received from the state government are mostly spent on administrative costs because there is no existing physical structure that has been in place in the last five years. The lecture halls are so crowded with students that the actual number of students exceeds the capacity of the school,” Iliya said.

Despite the failure of  the Imo State government to fund the state’s university, the state announced last year the inauguration of another new institution known as Eastern Palm University. At the inauguration of the university, Governor Rochas Okorocha said that the structure on ground for the university exceeded that of any other university at the point of takeoff.

The benchmark recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) specifies that governments should set aside at least, 15 – 20 per cent of their total budgets for education. State governments in Nigeria do not comply with this recommendation as most state-run tertiary institutions are weakened by inadequate funding.

As much as the existing state universities are poorly funded, the National Universities Commission (NUC), does not seem to have any problem with the creation of additional state universities.

Ibrahim Yakassai, NUC’s Director of Information, who spoke to The ICIR, said he did not think that the proliferation of states universities was a problem. “We need more universities in the country than we currently have to address the problems of overcrowding in our universities,” he said.

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“If you check the records, you will see that the number of people applying to get into higher institutions has increased.  So, I don’t think there is anything wrong with building more,” he said.

Yakassai  acknowledged that the problem is not the creation of additional universities by the states but poor funding of existing ones. “The major problem is poor funding to these schools. If that is addressed, then everything is settled,” he said.

Not everyone agrees with Yakassai. Mahmud Abdulsalam, a student of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai,Niger State, was skeptical about state governments’ commitment to ensure high standard in the newly established schools because of their poor track record in maintaining existing ones.

Kingsley Amatawenze, the convener of the Readers Square, a Benue State-based non-governmental organisation said, “the state government cares less for the state of these schools after they’ve been created. They would rather build an empty school to score cheap political points rather than equip an already established school to function optimally”.

Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation

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