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Where would Tinubu’s demand for 40% from varsities have led us?




If Bola Tinubu’s government had not retraced its steps on Friday, it would have set the stage for another kind of trial of its resolve to persistently stifle Nigerians economically. With inflation at 27 per cent and food inflation at over 30 per cent, it is sure that Nigerians would have been in for another variant of economic privation if the government had gone ahead to implement the 2020 Finance Act it first set its foot on doing. The Act says there will be an automatic deduction of 40 per cent of gross internally generated revenue (IGR) of federal universities and other partially funded institutions. The coming of this law was escalated through a circular issued in December 2021, one year after its passage. Now, at this inauspicious time of our economic life, President Tinubu tried to thread where the Buhari government carefully avoided. A letter was sent to all concerned institutions that the deduction policy would take effect from November 2023.…CONTINUE READING

Like fuel subsidy removal, this was also delicately kept like a primed gun for the Tinubu government to implement. And, his Minister of Finance, Mr Wale Edun, approved the implementation of the 40 per cent deduction and directed the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mrs Oluwatoyin Madein, to fire the shot. Aunty Toyin acted as directed and the reverberations of this shot were felt nearly everywhere. The directive is also still causing ripples and these would soon get to Nigerians when the universities have fully digested the impact of this Finance Act 2020 and its innocuously benumbing Section 62.

I had an Aunty Toyin. She was known to many in Samonda, Ibadan; Awomukwu, Ikwuano; Mount Olivet Grammar School, Bodija, Ibadan; and the University Teaching Hospital (UCH), Ibadan as Rose. To her husband, her in-laws, and their circles, she was known as Chika. She was my dear Aunty Toyin until cancer took her and our many dreams away at such a young age. I still nurse the scar of Aunty Toyin’s brutal yanking off, but because of what I knew that elder sister of mine to be − her life and its tremendously positive impact, I have always loved people named Toyin. Aunty Toyin Madein, the Accountant-General of the Federation, would have been up for serious ‘dragging’ when the ripples of this deduction policy would have got to us. I would not have liked to see that. But, surely, she would have been on the lips of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the College of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) and some other people even though she was only directed to put already set machinery in motion.

ASUU and the other unions in Nigerian universities might have coalesced. The coalition would also have had the support of the component or similar unions in polytechnics, colleges of education, and other institutions of higher learning. They would come together to fight a common enemy: The government that had asked them to remit 40 per cent of their institutions’ receipts to the coffers of the Federal Government. That policy is like snatching from the poor to add to the wealth of the rich. Even with its reversal, this policy is a matter of life and death for the concerned institutions, and there are reasons to contend that if the government does not take the right, insightful steps on this issue, it will be a long-drawn war.

The Committee of Vice Chancellors and ASUU had reacted and COEASU reacted and so are some parents who are still watching how this would have impacted them. When ASUU was talking about “funding of universities”, “university autonomy” and other issues that border on quality tertiary education in Nigeria, Nigerians did not see the agitation by ASUU as anything beyond “salary increment for university lecturers”. This matter would have opened another battlefront in the Nigerian education system and poor Nigerian students would have been the ones to suffer its consequences. ASUU’s Professor Emmanuel Osodeke said: “Universities are not revenue-generating agencies. So, 40 per cent of the subsidised money students pay for hostel accommodation, medical school, identity cards, lab coats, and chemicals in the laboratory should still be shared with the Federal Government? This is an extreme. Will the presidency ask the National Assembly or the NNPCL to give a return of 40 per cent?”


COEASU and the senior staff association in Nigerian colleges of education SSUCOEN had also roundly condemned the approval of the policy by the Tinubu government. Aunty Toyin is, unfortunately, but expectedly, on the lips of all of these unions. They maintain that she issued the circular – she was the one that pulled the trigger! The point the colleges of education made was that the policy “absolutely makes no sense because education should not be ‘partially funded’ rather, is supposed to be fully funded by the Federal Government which established the institutions.” They noted further that “despite the progressively vanishing support from the Federal Government that set them up, colleges have managed to survive and live up to the demands of their mandate of training teachers for this country by devising several means including denying staff and students of most of their entitlements to survive and operating under excruciating teaching and learning environment.”

All of these unions had angled for a showdown with government. How determined was the Tinubu administration for this matter? It would not have gone easy for both the administration and the generality of the Nigerian public; the idea to watch extravagant government snatch from the hands of a man who barely gets. The agba, l’owo meri posture of the government will still not go down well should the battle begin. Vice chancellors, rectors, and provosts would not have been on the battlefield or at the battlefront if academic staff unions had decided to take the gauntlet initially thrown down by the government of Tinubu. But surely they would have been somewhere at the ringside, obviously in the corner of the lecturers because this would have been a fight for their life and that of their babies – their institutions.

However, it is shocking that the section of the Finance Law which makes this provision had eluded the various unions in institutions of higher learning when the National Assembly was making the law. Or, is the law part of the body language which has kept Nigeria and Nigerians in perpetual perplexity? Why was this provision not an issue before the passage of the law and its assent? It can be inferred that some people saw an opportunity to take from what the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) or others in that mould are doing for Nigerian tertiary educational institutions. It is indeed a season of miracles.

The Federal Government told us that reforms are difficult and painful but necessary. However, their fruits are sweet and enduring. Okay. But why would we not take the Federal Government with a pinch of salt when we have seen that they do not practice what they preach? If there was a semblance of reform at their own level as leaders, the government would not have needed to tell us to flow with them before we do. Nigerians are that understanding. We have not seen reforms at the top where our resources are freely plundered, and this negates their preachments.


If this government is indeed serious about making more money, they can look in the direction of the NNPC Limited which recently reported and indeed lamented mind-boggling episodes of crude oil theft in the country. The company said it experienced 117 episodes of crude oil theft in just one week. Fix this and make money. Leave the struggling educational institutions. The continuing unfettered theft of our oil would eventually kill whatever dream the NNPCL had as a company and as a contributor to the Nigerian coffers.

The Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) also recently advised the Federal Government. The type of suasion given by a NEITI, an agency which should know, is described by the Yoruba as ‘making incisions on the occipital region of the head (sín won ni gbééré ìpàko)’. With such incision, a man is given a picture from which he is expected to take whatever meaning he gets from it. NEITI through its boss, Dr Orji Ogbonnaya, said in 11 years, Nigeria lost 620 million barrels of crude oil. A whopping 620 million barrels of crude oil translates to N16.3 trillion. N16 trillion will do a lot for the country. That amount would fix our educational institutions and leave some money for the opulence and frolics of our unfeeling lords.

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