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We Agree That Lecturers’ Salaries Should Be Reviewed, Says Nigeria’s Deputy Education Minister Sununu

“If you ask what I want, I will tell you that what is currently ongoing fits what I want.”

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has raised the alarm over the mass resignation of lecturers from Nigeria’s universities. With Nigeria’s Minister of State for Education, Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu, completing over 100 days in office, ASUU points to poor working conditions, delayed salaries, unpaid allowances, inadequate infrastructure, and a sense of diminishing hope as key factors leading to the exodus of educators in search of better opportunities.

The union disclosed that numerous departments and units across Nigeria’s public universities are grappling with significant staff shortages due to the departure of lecturers. ASUU firmly rejects the proposed student loans scheme as a solution to the crisis.

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has announced plans to host the 67th edition of the meeting of the National Council on Education (NCE).

In an exclusive interview with ARISE News, Minister Sununu reflected on his tenure and shed light on the administration’s Renewed Hope Agenda for education. He emphasised the importance of addressing various issues in the education sector through a comprehensive roadmap. The roadmap, developed by a team of eight members within an eight-week timeframe, comprises 13 thematic areas targeting challenges in basic education, out-of-school children, infrastructure, and tertiary education.

Dr. Sununu acknowledged the challenge of inaccurate data in Nigeria, citing discrepancies in counts of out-of-school children by UNESCO and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBE).

The ministry is working with a baseline of 13.5 million out-of-school children and collaborating with organisations to address factors contributing to school dropout rates.

Responding to the issue of mass resignations, Dr. Sununu acknowledged the severity of the brain drain, exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19. He stressed that the government is actively engaging in post-COVID-19 crisis management, with a commitment to initiating dialogues with education-related unions and associations. 

He recognized the urgency of addressing the brain drain crisis and emphasised the government’s commitment to bringing new hope to the average Nigerian through policy reforms stating

,”We agree that salaries need to be reviewed. Our immediate action upon assuming office was the formulation of a new salary structure, and presently, we are engaged in negotiations with the Federal Ministry of Finance to facilitate its implementation. While we do not claim that this will address all concerns, it signifies the government’s impact, sensitivity, and responsiveness. We are attuned to the hardships faced by our citizens, and steps are being taken to bring relief.”

On the contentious topic of student loans, He stated, “We are in a democratic setting that allows freedom of expression and also the government to be responsive and listen to what the general public is saying. If you ask what I want, I will tell you that what is currently ongoing fits what I want.”

Minister Sununu expressed support for the ongoing initiatives, assuring the public that grants and loans are being made available to students. He added, “I assure you that all will be done to assure you that students have ease of access in getting the student loans.”

As Nigeria grapples with the challenges facing its education sector, the dialogue between the government and stakeholders becomes crucial in shaping the future of the nation’s academic landscape.

Kiki Garba