Date Published: 03/29/10
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Free, quality education is a right, not privilege
26 March 2010.
WE REJECT 2010 BUDGET
WE DEMAND 26% BUDGETARY ALLOCATION TO EDUCATION
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hereby rejects the 2010 appropriation bill passed by both houses of the National Assembly as it fails to address funding of vital social services most especially education. We therefore call on the Acting President Goodluck Jonathan not to sign the 2010 appropriation bill into law until the allocation to education is increased up to 26% as recommended by UNESCO.
According to a breakdown of the budget, the sum of N295.3 billion representing about 6.4% of the budget has been allocated to education. While we recognize that this sum is slightly bigger than President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua’s initial proposal, which was N249 billion (6%), we still insist that the budget is totally unacceptable to Nigerian students on the following basis:
One, the 2010 budget was increased by about N529 billion above the original amount sent for approval by the President. Every progressive minded Nigerian would have assumed that this large sum added to the budget would go into funding vital social services like education and health. Unfortunately, this large sum is not reflected in allocation to the education sector and neither is it reflected in the allocation to heath and other vital sectors. Instead, there have been steep increases in allocation to non-productive sectors and white elephant projects like the constituency projects of National Assembly members, fictitious debt servicing, etc.
Secondly, the sum allocated to the education sector fall short of the UNESCO recommendation of 26% as well as the funding requirements contained in the agreement signed between the federal government and staff unions (ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT) on October 22, 2009. According to the agreement, the Federal government is mandated to allocate a total sum of N497.5 billion to the education sector as a step towards meeting the UNESCO recommendation of 26%.
Also, the sum of N529 billion with a capital component of N97.2 billion is not enough to confront the challenges of development in the education sector. We ask, how many standard libraries can N97.2 billion build? How many laboratories can it equip? How many hostel and lecture theatres can it construct in a situation where most of the infrastructures in our schools today are in different state of atrophy?
Fourthly, this budget will lay the basis for increment in fees in tertiary institutions thus pricing education out of the reach of poor Nigerians. Already, the recent fee increases in University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) and other institutions were carried out in anticipation of the 2010 budget and expected cut in government funding of education. Now that the budget has been passed, most authorities of public institutions will latch on it to impose fee hike on students.
We accuse the National Assembly and the Federal government of sharp practices in the preparation of the budget thus shortchanging the Nigerian people and students. We also condemn members of the National assembly in particular for being insensitive to the plight of Nigerian students and poor parents who are struggling to make ends meet and cannot afford the rising cost of tuition fees occasioned by government under funding of education.
According to the Chairman of Senate Appropriation Committee Senator Iyiola Omisore, the N529 billion added to the budget was occasioned by “correspondences and proposals” from the executive “calling for fresh adjournments”. Since we can see no reflection of this addition in the allocation to education and other vital sectors, we therefore demand that the Chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee must reveal to the public the alleged correspondences and proposals from the executive calling for adjustment in the budget and the areas proposed for adjustment. We strongly suspect that the 2010 budget has also succumbed to the fate of previous budgets which include lobbying by Ministries and MDAs, bribery, huge allocation for constituency projects in order to buy over law makers etc. For instance, what is the justification for increasing the allocation to the National Assembly from N9billion to N16.19 billion for capital expenditure and N118.78billion to N138 billion for recurrent expenditure? At the same time, the stunning revelation of the former Minister of Environment, John Odeh during the budget defence session of how N850 million was mysteriously added to the budget of his Ministry without his knowledge shows the kind of dirty deals that goes on between the National assembly and the Executive during budget preparation. Up till now, no one has been fingered or prosecuted for this fraud.
If the 2010 budget is well analyzed, it will be realised that Nigeria will in this fiscal year run a huge budget deficit of N1.521 trillion not because government spending on vital sectors improved but because spending on white elephant projects, fictitious debt servicing and irrelevancies increased.
We urge the federal government to meet our demands. However if our demands are not met, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) shall embark on mobilization for lecture boycott, protest, demonstration and other forms of mass actions until the following demands are met.
- 26% budgetary allocation to education
- For every Governing Councils and Senate to be composed of elected representatives of staff and student Unions in order to ensure accountability of all resources and for the smooth running of the schools.
- Immediate reversal of the astronomic fee hike in University of Ado Ekiti (UNAD), Ambrose Alli University (AAUA), Polytechnic of Ibadan, Lagos State College of Health Technology (LASCOHET).
- Implementation of FG/ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT agreement of October 22, 2009.
- Payment of N40, 000 Cost of Studying Allowance (COSA) to all Nigerian students to take care of cost of textbooks, feeding, transport and accommodation.
- Provision of free and functional education at all levels.
- Reinstatement of Akinola Saburi, Orgumah Andrew, Muyiwa Aderibigbe and Ayo Ademiluyi in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife who were victimized for their opposition to Management anti-students’ policies.
- Public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy under the control and management of the working masses of Nigeria.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Chinedu Bosah
National Coordinator National Secretary