The Acting Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki, last Monday, appealed to the Senate and House Joint Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFund for improved budget allocation to the Commission in view of the expansion in the number of universities it presently regulated in order to improve its capacity to assure quality in the Nigerian University System (NUS).

Mr. Maiyaki made the appeal during the defence of the 2024 budget estimates of NUC alongside that of all Federal Universities, where he stated that NUC needed the improved funding to discharge its core mandate of quality assurance of the Nigerian universities with 270 under its purview.   It would be recalled that to simplify the budget defence process for Federal Universities, the Joint Committee allowed the regulator, NUC, to present the budget on behalf of universities while the Vice-Chancellors carry out the perfunctory roles of listening. 

In his words: “We had at different fora with the leadership of the National Assembly made a case for this special attention to be paid to the NUC as regards improved allocation for Quality assurance activities with the increase of universities to 270 today from merely 13 during the 1970’s, thus increasing the role of the Commission and justifying this dire need. We desire that the envelope system should be done away with and tackled. Nigerian universities don’t just want to exist, but function effectively with the full compliment of support from the National Assembly.” 

The Acting Executive Secretary also spoke on the impact of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) on the universities, which had remained in the front burner among the agitations of  Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).  He pointed out that the issue of the IPPIS had continued to be a bottleneck to the smooth functioning of Nigerian universities. He described it as an anomaly for Vice-Chancellors to be running to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) for recruitment of academic staff in the universities which had led to shortage of staff in the system over the years, due to embargo placement on employment from the Head of Service.   

He added: “I know for new universities there is the need now to get them on board. For other Vice- Chancellors, budget is normal ritual. I know they have all made provisions for some few additional staff to cope with new courses, promotions and other issues.

Mr. Maiyaki expressed the gratitude of the universities to the legislators on improved overhead provisions, but said the university Vice-Chancellors wanted him to remind the distinguished Senators and Honourable members of the serious problem they were facing with the envelope system, especially with the pronouncement of the federal government to deduct 40 per cent of the Internally-generated Revenue (IGR), when they were yet crying for lack of funding of the system. He, however, commended the role of the National Assembly to government’s rescinding of the decision.

The NUC boss noted that the budget was in three phases, comprising of personnel cost, recurrent expenditure as well as capital budget. He stressed that the budget presentation was an annual ritual which the older universities were familiar with.

Mr. Maiyaki stressed that universities were going through several challenges and the Budget defence was a good avenue to discuss them before the joint committee. “Distinguished Senators and Honourable members, we have made a sincere budget presentation that covers the individual university’s area of needs.

He said the general challenge had remained the recurring issues of inadequate funding with the growing expenditure profile, especially on the costs of running diesel; related issues of inability of the universities to attract funds from external sources or even faculty due to IPPIS challenge; Shortage of academic and non-academic staff; brain-drain; threats to peace and stability of the campuses and academic calendar; governance impeding on the effectiveness of the universities and  proliferation of illegal universities, among others.   

The Acting Executive Secretary stated that the Commission on its part had been able to carry out its regulatory functions effectively due to prompt receipt of it’s budgetary allocations over the years. He therefore, called on the chairman as well as members of the Committee to do due diligence while deliberating on the budget so as to enable Federal universities properly fund their respective universities as that was the only means of funding, since public institutions were still subsidised in the country apart from regular TETFund interventions. He also solicited the joint committee’s  assistance towards making case for improved allocation to  the National Research Fund (NRF), which was a deliberate funding mechanism introduced in order to support universities towards research generation. He reminded the members that besides teaching, research remained one major component that make universities attractive in the global community.     

In his speech, the Chairman, National Assembly Joint Committee on Tertiary Education and Services, Senator Dandutse Muntari, agreed with the NUC and the universities about striking them out of the IPPIS platform as the current structure was counter-productive to the needs and peculiarities of the system. He acknowledged that a situation where the Vice-Chancellors had to run to the Head of Service for permission or waiver to employ academics was jeopardising the strategic place of the university as a universal enclave. He wondered what role the Office had to play in the recruitment of quality staff in the universities and in some cases people in special fields required as mentors to younger ones.  

The Joint Committee assured the universities that they would continue to support the system to meet global competitiveness in terms of improved appropriation so that they would maintain their mandate of production of quality graduates.

They noted that it would not be business as usual as they intended to do things differently in the education sector, which was what prompted the Senate and the House of Representatives   to set up nine Committees on Education, with over 70 Senators and 200 House members in them.  They decried the fact that the budget of Bayero University Kano (BUK), Federal University Dutsima and Federal University Duste and urged them to do so without further delay.   He charged the NUC as the bridge between government and the universities to do more in ensuring that quality was maintained in the system.

They had also earlier informed the NUC and the entire NUS that the joint committee would only be ready to receive their 2024 budget estimates and shelved the 2022 and 2023 budget performance defence since it would run until end of first quarter of 2024. They said the reason was to ensure that all remittances would have been received from the Federal Ministry of Finance by the universities, which then should give a clearer picture of how the budget had performed based on total receipts.    

Also in attendance was the House Committee Chairman on Tertiary Education, Hon. Abubakar Fulata, members of the Committee from Senate and House of Representatives, Vice Chancellors of Federal Universities and the NUC Acting Director of Finance and Account (DFA), Mrs Hauwa Amos.