2023 Budget: Buhari Proposes More Money For Education, But Allocation Still Below UNESCO Recommendation

President Muhammadu Buhari’s proposed 2023 budgetary allocation to education is the highest he has made to the sector since he assumed office in 2015.

The proposal, however, is still less than half of the percentage recommended by the global education agency, UNESCO, for expenditure on the sector.

In the budget, which was presented to the joint session of the National Assembly in October, the president proposed N1.79 trillion for the sector, representing about 8.8 per cent of the total N20.5 trillion proposal.

The allocation is above the N1.18 trillion or 7.2 per cent of the total budget that he presented in 2022.

Until the latest proposal, the highest allocation to the sector in percentage terms under the administration was the 7.9 per cent allocated in 2016.

The increased allocation is not unconnected with the president’s pledge to increase the country’s annual spending for education by 50 per cent “over the next two years and by 100 per cent by 2025.”

Mr Buhari made the pledge in July 2021 at the global summit on education in the United Kingdom.

But while the allocations have continued to rise in terms of the percentage of the total budgets when compared to the previous years of his administration, they still fall short of the 15-20 per cent recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

At the 2021 edition of the global summit on education co-hosted in London by the then United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and then Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr Buhari promised to ensure that Nigeria meets the UNESCO international benchmark, after years of failure.

Mr Buhari was among 19 heads of state and government who pledged to increase their education spending. He promised to increase Nigeria’s education expenditure by 50 per cent over the next two years and by 100 per cent by 2025, towards meeting the 20 per cent global benchmark.

Mr Buhari’s pledge is contained in a document titled “Heads of State Call to Action on Education Financing.”

Following the pledge, Mr Buhari increased allocation in the 2022 budget from N742.5 billion in 2021 to N1.18 trillion. Although this represented only 7.2 per cent of the total budget, it was a significant jump from the 5.68 per cent allocation in the previous year.

The president has further increased the percentage in the 2023 proposed budget.

Given the president’s promise of at least a 50 per cent increase over the previous year’s allocation, at least N1.77 trillion was estimated for allocation in 2023. But his proposal slightly surpasses the amount at N1.79 trillion.

A review of the proposed 2023 budget shows that N1.08 trillion was allocated to the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) and its agencies. Of the amount, N239 billion was allocated for capital expenditure, while N706.5 billion and N52.8 billion were allocated for personnel and overhead costs respectively. Allocation to the ministry is significantly higher than the N875 billion proposed in the 2022 budget.

The agency responsible for education at the grassroots – Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), was allotted N149.7 billion, which includes N95.3 billion for personnel and N54.5 billion for capital projects. In 2022, the president proposed N108.10 billion for UBEC.

Also, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) will get N248.3 billion in transfers, according to the proposed 2023 appropriation bill. However, this is less than the N306 billion it got in 2022.

Meanwhile, in a service-wide vote, the president proposed to spend N470 billion on public tertiary institutions. He had earlier promised to pacify the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) with the amount.

In the budget, N170 billion was proposed for salary increment and N300 billion as revitalisation fund. It is unclear if this covers all the tertiary institutions – including polytechnics and colleges of education – or is just for the universities.

Efforts by this reporter to get clarifications from the relevant authorities were unsuccessful as the enquiries sent to the Director of Press at the FME, Ben Goong, were not replied as of the time of filing this report.

Nigeria’s annual public spending on education as a percentage of total budget since President Buhari presented his first budget proposal in 2016 has moved between 5.68 per cent and 8.8 per cent.

In 2016, Mr Buhari allocated N369.6 billion or 7.9 per cent of the total budget to education, N550.5 billion or 7.4 per cent in 2017, N605.8 billion or 7.04 per cent in 2018 and N620.5 billion or 7.05 per cent in 2019.

In 2020, the allocations fell to N671.07 billion or 6.7 per cent, and N742.5 billion or 5.68 per cent in 2021, before rising to N1.18 trillion or 7.2 per cent in 2022.

However, experts in the education sector said the allocations are inadequate.

A co-founder of an education-focused civic technology organisation, EduPlana, Oriyomi Ogunwale, said the challenges facing the sector make the increases inadequate.

Mr Ogunwale said for a country facing challenges like the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, insecurity, dilapidated school facilities and an increasing number of out-of-school children, “not meeting the (UNESCO) standard will further increase the dangers facing access to quality education for every child and deny the country the opportunities of her huge human capital.”

The President of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Audu Amba, shared the same view. In his speech at an event to mark World Teachers Day, Mr Amba said the system is in crisis and called for increased funding.

“Let me use this occasion to reiterate our call on governments at both national and sub-national levels to place a high premium on education and accord teachers their pride of place in the society,” said the NUT President.

“We must brace up as a nation to invest adequately in education by raising the budgetary allocations to education in line with the internationally recommended benchmarks of at least four per cent to six per cent of GDP and/or 15 per cent to 20 per cent of public expenditure.”

Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.

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