Following the resumption from the 8-month strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) is currently being confronted with judgement debt to the tune of N22.5 billion, making it impossible for its management to power the campus.
This revelation came to the fore on Friday by the Executive Secretary, the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, during the 2023 budget defence of the commission and all universities before the Joint Senate and House Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFUND, which was monitored by DAILY POST in Abuja.
To simplify the budget defence process for Federal Universities, the Joint Committee allowed the regulator, NUC, to present the budget on behalf of the universities while the Vice Chancellors listened.
Prof. Rasheed expressed the gratitude of the universities to the legislators on overhead provisions but said the Vice Chancellors wanted him to remind the Senators and honourable members of the serious problem they are facing, especially this year because of the strike for eight months of the academic calendar.
According to him, “eight months is equivalent to an academic calendar in every country. So, one session is virtually lost, but the implication is that one session will now run far beyond one calendar year. It will run between 16 to 18 calendar months, depending on the situation.”
However, in ABU Zaria, he said, it may run for two sessions, because they have reopened, but they cannot do anything because everything ABU had was taken away under garnish order and given to former staff.
“The sole administrator, in 1996 sacked some staff and they went to court. Nearly 30 years later, the court said ABU should pay N22.5 billion, and the Central Bank removed that money. That was the money ABU could use to function.
“I know ABU was not happy when the strike was called off because it will be exposed. It was hoping that it will continue to take cover under the strike. But once the strike was off, it has to reopen. It only reopened in name, saying they can start in January.
“The truth is that they have only N5 million in the main account, and they need a minimum of N70 million to N80 million for electricity alone.
“That is one peculiar case we know, but in general, the rising cost of diesel and electricity is placing serious burden on universities. Our overhead for universities, none is given up to N12 million to N14 million per month. They are given average of N10 million and no university, big or small, spend less than N30 – N40 million in a month. Lagos spends an average of N80 million in a month.
The ES, NUC also disclosed that four new universities, two for medical science and two for science and technology have not been collecting salaries, including their vice chancellors, adding that the 2023 budget is now making provision for them.
“The four new universities two for medical science and two for science and technology so far have no budget; they have not been collecting salaries including the vice chancellors themselves.
“I know for new Universities, there is the need now to get them on board. For other vice chancellors, budget is a normal ritual. I know they have all made provisions for a few additional staff to cope with new courses, promotions and other issues.
The NUC ES shocked the lawmakers when he said, “in NUC’s budget we have a problem. We had additional money given to us that we didn’t request, but I later went to finance to find out because our budget was always hovering around N3 billion with about N2 billion for personnel, about N700-N800 million for capital, about N700 million for overhead.
“But last year we saw additional N12 billion given for World Bank projects” adding that the World Bank projects are not processed through this mode, through World Bank mode”.
He said his finding at the Federal Ministry of Finance showed that as of today, over N6 billion has been released, “but we are not touched a Kobo, and we are not going to touch a kobo of that money because we do not think it is not part of what we are to spend. And in 2023, we see even more coming to us, and it unsettles us.
“When my is N700 million and I see N12 billion under capital, it unsettles me. I don’t know what it is for and it’s not something I can spend. I don’t know; I’m not complaining. We can house it, but at the end of the year it will disappear”.