N100b varsity funds idle as ASUU strike lingers

More than N100 billion to fund special intervention in tertiary education remains idle for four straight years as schools have failed to access them, says Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).

The special-intervention funds, called “high-impact”, targets physical and infrastructure development and upgrade in teaching and learning environment in Nigerian universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.

Since 2009, up to N84.4 billion has been allocated for the intervention, but “up to 50% of schools have not accessed the funds,” said TETFUND chairman Musa Babayo, who also criticised lecturers for their continued strike while funds lay untouched.


Big default

In breakdown of funding, N16b is due to polytechnics, while N12b is due to colleges of education.

But least 21 schools, including first- and second-generation universities and the Nigerian Defence Academy, are among institutions that haven’t accessed special intervention funds totalling some N35billion this year.

University of Calabar, with N4.2 billion in unaccessed funds, Anambra State University, with N4.1b, and University of Lagos, with N4.3b, are among the largest defaulters, according to a summary submitted to the education ministry.
Others are:
·        University of Ibadan, N2.7b;
·        University of Benin, N1.6b;
·        University of Nigeria, N2.8b;
·        Obafemi Awolowo University, N2b;
·        Ahmadu Bello University, N2.2b;
·        University of Jos, N3b;
·        University of Port Harcourt, N3.1b; and
·        NDA, N972 m.
·        University of Ilorin, N2.8b;
·        University of Maiduguri, N1.1b,
·        Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, N2b;
·        Bayero University, N2.3b;
·        Benue State University, N2.3b;
·        Usman Danfodio University, N2.8b,
·        Niger Delta University, N2.2b;
·        Kebbi State University of Science & Technology, N3.4b;
·        FUT Yola, N2.8b;
·        FUT Owerri, N1.6b.
Addressing university pro-chancellors and managers of institutions who met in Abuja on Tuesday, supervising minister for education,  Nyesom Wike, said: “These institutions have to give satisfactory answers for us to know what is their problem and which areas we can help.”


More waste

In coming months, the minister is expected to unveil intervention for 2014, and the TETFUND programme has collected over N207b already meant for this sector, which could join the pile of intervention money going to waste if universities fail to build their capacity to use the funding.

“It is not in the interest of the society that these funds should be lying idle,” said Wike, adding that universities would have to consider.

Other than infrastructure, the high-impact funding also covers sponsored local or foreign training for some 6, 800 lecturers—including some 3,000 PhDs and 3, 786 for masters’.

The project account for TETFUND finance is invested in treasury issues and Federal Government of Nigeria bonds and managed by the Central Bank.

Investment yields return to the project account, increasing funding for interventions.
“Here we are with so much money to spend, and the institutional managers, for whatever reason, are unable to access these funds,” said Babayo. “It is important for us to begin to look at demand instead of supply side.”

Strike grounds

The revelation about unaccessed funding comes as ongoing strike by university lecturers cross the 100-day mark.

Among issues listed as grounds for the strike is inadequate funding for university infrastructure, research and development.

TETFUND questioned the continued strike in the face of intervention funding going into tertiary institutions—a N3b research fund, a N5b book development fund and yearly allocation of N3b to universities, N1b each to to polytechnics and colleges of education.

Babayo said it was in “public interest” for ASUU to end its industrial action, insisting it was a moral responsibility to “know where our rights begin and end.”

“If the most informed and most intellectually powered group within the Nigerian federation can be oblivious of this fundamental fact, then we have a lot of work to do,” said Babayo.

But Academic Staff Union of Universities said, in its response, that TETFUND and federal government should know why universities are unable to access intervention funds.

TETFUND, which started out as Education Trust Fund, was “supposed to be an intervention agency” and not a major funding line for universities, ASUU president Nasir Fagge told Daily Trust in an exclusive interview.

He said the billions mentioned to be available for fund annually for universities were simply interventions and “it doesn’t solve the problem.”

“Intervention cannot and will not replace major source of funding. That’s what we are talking about,” Fagge stated.

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