By Muhammadu Sabiu
The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, has emphasised that the Federal Government of Nigeria is constitutionally mandated to fund universities in the country.
This statement comes in response to recent remarks made by the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, regarding the autonomy of universities in seeking alternative funding sources.
Prof. Osodeke highlighted that the provision for federal funding of universities is enshrined in the country’s Constitution.
He specifically referenced Section 18 of the Constitution, which explicitly states that universities, along with primary and secondary education, are to be provided for free by the government.
“There is no way the Federal Government of Nigeria would say they would not fund public universities because it is there in the law. It is there in the Constitution; look at Section 18 of the Constitution; it says ‘university, primary, and secondary are free,” asserted Prof.
Osodeke. However, he acknowledged that while the constitutional mandate exists, the issue lies in its enforceability.
The ASUU President noted that despite the legal obligation, the provision is not judicious, making it difficult to enforce.
In response to recent discussions about the government’s granting universities more autonomy to explore alternative funding mechanisms, Prof. Osodeke expressed skepticism about the government’s intent.
He stated, “I don’t think this government, from what we have seen, is going to say we are going to hands-off from university.”
He further emphasised the disparity between Nigeria’s education budget and its gross domestic product (GDP), describing it as one of the lowest in the world.
This financial imbalance highlights the crucial role of government funding in sustaining the quality and accessibility of higher education in the country.
As the debate over university funding and autonomy continues, Prof. Osodeke’s remarks serve as a reminder of the constitutional duty of the Federal Government to provide financial support to universities and the importance of addressing the challenges facing the education sector in Nigeria.