Striking lecturers call for rise in budget in Nigeria

April 25, 2003

Nigeria's 37 state universities have remained closed since the start of 2003 as a result of industrial action by the 12,000-member Academic Staff Union of Universities.

The union is angry over the failure of the government to increase funds. It said the share of the budget allocated to education - 1.83 per cent - made the industrial action "inevitable".

"In 1999, 11.2 per cent of the federal budget was devoted to education. In 2000, it was 5.61 per cent. Last year it came to 5.20 per cent and this year the federal government proposed about 1.83 per cent of the budget to education," Dipo Fashina, ASUU's president, said.

The academics wanted 26 per cent of this year's budget to be devoted to education.

Peter Okebukola, executive secretary of the National University Commission, said that since the start of the Obasanjo administration in May 1999, the government had increased funding of tertiary institutions. He cited the rise in salaries of university teachers, the increase in capital projects and the establishment of yearly scholarships for about 50,000 students.

Mr Okebukola did not comment on the ASUU demand that the government should implement the Unesco formula.

According to reliable sources, the government would not give in because it would open the door to demands from other sectors of civil society who insisted that 30 per cent of oil earnings should be spent on servicing Nigeria's 4,600 billion naira (£22 billion) debt.

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