The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, has emphatically stated that the Federal Government of Nigeria cannot withdraw its responsibility to fund public universities.
Prof Osodeke made these remarks during an exclusive interview on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily, on Thursday.
The ASUU President’s comments were in response to a recent statement attributed to the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, in which he hinted at the Federal Government’s intention to grant full autonomy to universities to explore new sources of financing their activities as a means to fund tertiary education.
Highlighting the constitutional mandate, Prof Osodeke emphasized, “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.'”
By referencing the Constitution, Prof Osodeke underscored the legal obligation of the government to provide funding for universities, and primary, and secondary education, dismissing any notion of retreating from this commitment.
While expressing caution about speculating on the government’s intentions, Prof Osodeke noted that if universities were allowed to operate independently, following the legal framework, there would be little cause for concern regarding funding.
“The only problem is that it is not judicable, that’s the only problem, so I said I don’t think this government from what we have seen is going to say we are going to hands off from university. But the autonomy is here, ignited in the year 2003 if we follow that law and allow it to run without interference from the bureaucrats, the university system would be fine.”
He further elaborated that by committing more substantial allocations to education, akin to practices in European countries, Nigerian universities would have ample resources to sustain their operations effectively.
Prof Osodeke firmly believes that granting universities autonomy in accordance with the law could lead to a more effective higher education system in Nigeria. Such autonomy would enable universities to make decisions independently, free from bureaucratic interference, and explore innovative avenues for financing.
In conclusion, Prof. Osodeke’s comments emphasize the critical role of the Federal Government in funding public universities as mandated by the Constitution. While advocating for autonomy, he envisions a future where Nigerian universities can thrive with the necessary resources, ultimately enhancing the nation’s higher education system.