President Muhammadu Buhari says unions in tertiary institutions are complicit in corruption in the education system.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike since February 14 over demands bordering on allowances and salaries of lecturers.
The president said those who are on prolonged strike — in reference to ASUU — are no less complicit in the corruption in tertiary education.
The president said this in statement issued by Femi Adesina, presidential spokesman, on Tuesday.
He said corruption in education sector continues to undermine investments, while critics downplay funding by focusing only on budgetary allocations, urging a more comprehensive re-evaluation of expenditure.
The president, who declared open the Fourth National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector at the State House, noted that measuring financing of education sector should include total education budget of each year by both federal and state budgets and other financial commitments in their totality.
The Summit was organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF) and Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
“This year’s summit will mirror how corruption undermines educational policies, investments and create an unfriendly learning environment for our youths,” he said.
“Incessant strikes especially by unions in the tertiary education often imply that government is grossly underfunding education, but I must say that corruption in the education system from basic level to the tertiary level has been undermining our investment in the sector and those who go on prolonged strikes on flimsy reasons are no less complicit.
“The 1999 Constitution places a premium on education by placing it on the Concurrent List, thereby laying the responsibilities of budgeting and underwriting qualitative education on both the Federal and State Governments.
“The total education budget for each year is therefore a reflection of both federal and state budgets and should be viewed other financial commitments in their totality.
“The allocation to education in the federal budget should not be considered via allocation to the Federal Ministry of Education and also academic institutions alone, but should include allocation to the Universal Basic Education, transfers to TETFUND and refund from the Education Tax Pool Account to TETFUND.”
The president noted that the aggregate education budget in all 36 states of the Federation and that of the Federal Government, combined with the internally generated revenues of the educational institutions themselves were also subjects that require attention of critics of government funding of education.
“In line with the National Policy on Education, this administration has been implementing the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme to provide a free balanced meal per day for each child that attends public primary school in order to encourage school enrolment and facilitate accesses to universal basic education,” he said.
“To mitigate the impact of security challenges on our schools, I signed the Safe Schools Declaration ratification document in December 2019. The Federal Ministry of Education followed up and developed the Minimum Standard for Safe Schools document in 2021, all part of the Safe Schools Initiative. The Safe Schools Initiative is an expression of government’s commitment to continue to work towards the protection of students, teachers and the school environments.”
He expressed concern on the manifestation of various forms of corruption in the education sector.
“Government and stakeholders in the educational sector are concerned about the manifestation of various forms of corruption in the education sector,” he said.
“I am aware that students in our universities for example, use different terminologies to describe different forms of corruption they experience on our campuses. There is sorting or cash for marks/grades, sex for marks, sex for grade alterations, examination malpractice, and so on.
“Sexual harassment has assumed an alarming proportion. Other forms of corruption include pay-roll padding or ghost workers, lecturers taking up full time appointments in more than one academic institution, including private institutions, lecturers writing seminar papers, projects and dissertations for students for a fee, and admission racketeering, to mention only the most glaring corrupt practices.”
Buhari commended the ICPC for investigating and prosecuting sexual harassment as abuse of power in educational institutions.
“I approve and encourage them to continue to do so,’’ he noted.
The president said the government will continue to fund education within realistically available revenue, urging stakeholders, including the media to equally advocate for transparency in the amount generated as internally generated revenue by educational institutions and how such funds are expended.
“Corruption in the expenditure of internally generated revenue of tertiary institutions is a matter that has strangely not received the attention of stakeholders in tertiary education, including unions,” he added.
“I call on stakeholders to demand accountability in the administration of academic institutions and for unions to interrogate the bloated personnel and recurrent expenditure of their institutions. Let me also implore the Unions to work with government to put faces and identities to names on the payroll.”
The president also said the government will continue to guarantee access and establish minimum benchmarks for quality education.
“Due to declining resources, government cannot bear the cost of funding education alone. I task our academics to attract endowments, research and other grants to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education similar to what obtains in other countries,” he said.