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Buhari’s 2017 education budget: We are still in shock – ASUU

***Says, lecturers being paid half salary since Dec 2015
***Budget, grossly inadequate — ASUP

By Dayo Adesulu

LAST week Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari released the 2017 budget of N7.298t with the Ministry of Education expected to gulp N398.01b in recurrent expenditure. Besides, under capital expenditure, it was stated in the budget that the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) will get N92 billion and Education N50 billion. On the whole, a total of N540.01bn will be expended on education sector in 2017.

Basically, the Federal Ministry of Education is expected to adequately cater for the 36 federal universities, 25 federal polytechnics, 22 federal colleges of education and 104 federal unity schools.

In 2016,  the education sector which got N369.6bn from a total national budget of N6.07t was described as still the lowest since 2012. Thus, from N306.3bn in 2011, it moved  to N400.15bn in 2012, to N426.53bn in 2013, to N493bn in 2014, to 492bn in 2015, to N369bn in 2016. While this budget is for the federal level alone, it is still less than adequate for the essential development needed in the sector.

President Muhammadu Buhari (M) presents the 2017 National Budget to a joint session of the National Assembly at the National Assembly Complex in Abuja on Wednesday.

Again, in 2017 budget where stakeholders were expecting greater budgetary funding for education, considering the outstanding debt from the 2009 ASUU/FG Agreement and that of ASUP, the budget remains appalling to the reality on ground.

Enormous problems

The development had since generated reactions from concerned stakeholders, saying that the amount allocated to education was too small due to enormous problems bedevilling the sector. They predicted a tough year for the sector.

Statistics from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)  disclosed that Federal Government owes ASUU N124bn earned allowance from 2013 to 2016, just as it also owes the union  N495bn accumulated arrears.

On the whole, ASUU is expecting N619bn from the government which is higher than the education budget (N540.01) of 2017.

This is just as the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) is also being owed  N20.8 billion arrears.Reacting to the education budget, ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi in a telephone conversation with Vanguard described the budgetary allocation of N398.01bn  as a betrayal of trust, adding that ASUU is still in shock and still studying the budget.He said: “ASUU still finds it difficult to believe that education budget for 2017 is N398.01bn. We are still in shock with the allocation to Education because it is a betrayal of trust. We met with the Ministry and the point was that there would be significant improvement in the budget. ‘’If they now went as low as 4 percent, then we would know when we meet again, we will have issues with them.

“We are still studying the budget. We will respond comprehensively at the appropriate time. We are trying to do our analysis of the budget. The budget allocation will not be able to address any of our issues whether we are talking of short fall in payment of salary, arrears of salary or even the development of our facilities. As observed, the allocation is far from our expectation.”

Significant improvement

Contning, he said, “Even the Committee on Education in the National Assembly, assured us that they were going to improve on the last year’s budget. We told them that the allocation of education moved from 11 percent in 2015 to 8 percent in 2016, they assured us that we would see significant improvement in 2017. If they can come up with an allocation that is not up to 5 percent, they are not keeping to their words.

“They are not only owing ASUU per se, they are owing the university system. What they are owing cannot be fully estimated because of what I call the partial payment of salary. They have been paying us incomplete salary for almost a year now; since December 2015 till date. Many of us are being paid between 40-80 percent of our salaries. We are talking of 100 of millions to this effect.

Arrears of allowances

“Then our arrears of allowances. What government owes our members are in categories. They owe us in respect to short fall in salaries, earn academic allowances, they owe universities in terms of intervention fund that we fought for in 2013. Approximately, these are in billions of naira. I don’t think what the allocation can do with respect to all of these put together apart from Capital Recurrent Expenditure that they captured in the 2017 budget.”

On his part, the  President, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP,  Mr. Usman Dutse, speaking with Vanguard via WhatsApp lamented that the 2017 budget for education was inadequate considering the huge indebtedness of the government to the union.

He said: ‘’The amount allocated to education is grossly inadequate, if we consider the decayed infrastructure and back log of personnel claims in the form of Allowances, arrears of salary shortfall, unfunded promotion exercises and arrears of CONTISS 15 that is about N20b.’’He pointed out that other debt hanging on the neck of the Federal Government  was the NEEDS Assessment implementation.” He said: ‘’The NEEDS Assessment which is yet to be implemented will gulp about N652,591,641m. Thus, ASUP is expecting a total of N20.7bn from the government.”

He said that several agreements the union and the federal government signed in 2012 were yet to be implemented.He listed the agreements to include, non-implementation of CONTISS, poor state of polytechnics, under-funding of the sector and non-implementation of NEEDS assessment report on polytechnics, among others.He noted that having given the present administration more than one year to settle down and address their demands, it seemed that the government is not serious in addressing the matter.


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