The Executive Secretary National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed last week led vice chancellors of Federal Universities to appear before the National Assembly Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Education to defend their budget proposal for 2020.
In defending the NUC’s budget first, Prof. Rasheed stated that the roles and responsibilities of the Commission had continued to expand with the supervision of 172 universities made up of 45 Federal universities, (which include the two additional Federal Universities of Agriculture, Zuru, Niger State and Federal University of Medical Sciences, Otukpo, Benue State, though yet to fully become operational), 48 State and 79 Private universities. The commission also has about 104 affiliate institutions as members of the wider Nigerian University System (NUS), under its purview.
He stated that the major component of NUC’s capital was spent on hiring Professors in the universities for Accreditation of programmes and monitoring exercises in the Nigerian University System (NUS).
He explained that in the current fiscal year, NUC’s budget receipt from its capital and overhead allocations had been quite low, with the performance based on the releases put at 50 percent for Overhead Costs and the Personnel Costs 72 per cent and up-to-date since the salaries payment come through the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
Presenting the entire budget outlay of the NUS, the Executive Secretary highlighted that the budgeting which was based on the envelope system had been making universities and the three Inter-University Centres (IUCs) budget performance restrictive.
He noted that the peculiar challenge of universities and allied institutions had not been addressed in every budget cycle of the federation, thereby not allowing the system have as much as was required to take care of its needs.
He added that the issue was worsened by the delay factor in releasing budgets while in most cases the budgets were not even released.
For instance, Professor Rasheed told joint Committee that the universities had only received 10 per cent of their entire allocation for 2019, while NUC got 19 per cent so far.
The lull in capital releases had stifled the capacities of the universities to generate useful research and commercialise same as electricity which was needed had continued to swallow a major part of the university’s resources. What was regarded as IGR, he stressed might be redefined as Development levy or service charge as these monies were used to provide municipal services to students and the university community. While agreeing on the need for financial audit, he requested the Committee to first understand the nitty-gritty of the said fund and decide later on what to call the IGR.
To address these challenges, NUC hoped to have a retreat with universities where issues of alternative funding would be explored as well as the need to promote the ideals of Triple Helix, which advocate academia, government and industry linkage in order to facilitate the patents and use of research products of the universities.
Commenting on the NUS budget, the Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVC) and Vice-Chancellor, Bayero University funding, he said , most universities were allocated as low as N100million as capital budgets, with actual releases itself erratic.
Allocations of Overheads to universities were also done by the federal government not on the basis of the case presented by each institution, as they get slightly in the region of N100 million, which was not enough to settle huge monthly electricity bill and other utilities.
The CVC Chair lamented that matters were even worse in the area of releases as some months were usually skipped.
In their separate remarks on the budget, the Chairman Senate Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFund, Senator Baba Ahmed Kaita raised issues on the level of IGR utilisation by universities especially on why they should have the powers that appropriate and spend the revenue generated.
He also harped on the need for the academia to challenge themselves to other viable alternative sources of funding to address the research needs of the industry and society other than agonizing on it.
The House Committee Chair on Tertiary Institutions and Services, Hon. Aminu Suleiman Fagge said the Joint team was working within a set deadline given to it to deliver, as the nation desired to return back to the January-December Budget Cycle.
He, however, agreed with the NUC and the universities that a follow-up meeting would be required to deepen discussions on issues of IGR and how to make research outputs relevant to the economy.
The Joint Committee said that while it was not averse to genuine demand to upscale allocations of universities due to their peculiar nature, it was however demanding for Forensic Audit of IGR of universities to ascertain the funding gap and determine how to allocate same.
At the presentation were Vice-Chancellors of all the Federal Universities, some registrars and their Bursars as well as the Chief Executives of the IUCs and their finance officers.