Prof Emmanuel Osodeke warned that the country was losing lecturers to other countries, and those who are dedicated and passionate about the job were being frustrated out of Nigerian universities.
A recent media report suggests that 50 percent of Nigerian university lecturers have resigned from their appointments at their various universities, while over half of the remaining ones are planning to also quit.
In 2022, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, told the House of Representatives that Nigeria’s biggest problem in academia was inadequate human resources.
He warned that the country was losing lecturers to other countries, and those who are dedicated and passionate about the job were being frustrated out of Nigerian universities.
“Our education is in dire need of all sorts of things, most importantly human resources.
“Now, we are busy creating so many universities, but we are not creating academics who will teach in those universities.
“What you now have in those universities are what one of our leaders called the last two categories of lecturers,” he said.
While the trend of university lecturers seeking greener pastures is not new to Nigeria’s tertiary education system, some stakeholders note that the last ASUU strike may have worsened the situation.
Last year, ASUU commenced an eight-month strike on February 14, 2022, and ended it on October 17, 2022, following a litigation battle with the Federal Government that culminated in a partial agreement.
Already, the union is threatening another round of strikes, following what it considers a paltry 7.9 percent of the 2024 budget allotted to the education sector.
An associate professor at the Federal University Oye Ekiti (FUOYE), who wants to remain anonymous, said administrators in the tertiary education sector are misplacing the priorities of the sector.
“The focus should be on human resources, decent remuneration, and an excellent environment for research and development.
“Unfortunately, the government seems to be more interested in proliferating higher institutions without manpower and good working conditions.”
In May 2023, the federal government approved the establishment of 37 new private universities nationwide.
In its eight-year tenure, the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari approved the establishment of 72 universities: 14 federal universities, 21 state universities, and 37 private universities.
According to Statista, there are currently 170 universities in Nigeria: 79 private, 43 federal, and 48 state universities.
“The problem with this proliferation is that universities don’t have enough lecturers. The ones available are shutting down two and even three universities.
“To be frank with you, that’s one of the disagreements between ASUU and the government because many lecturers are drawing salaries from more than one university.
“But is it their fault?” the FUOYE lecturer quoted earlier said.
In October, the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman, admitted that the federal government lacked the funds and qualified staffing to kick-start all new universities approved by the previous administration.
Other stakeholders say that although the excessive creation of universities contributes to the dearth of lecturers, there are other factors responsible. They also say the situation is not peculiar to Nigeria.
In 2015, the media quoted the Director, Centre for Open, Distance, and e-Learning, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Musa Aibinu, as saying about 23,000 lecturers emigrate annually from Africa to other countries.
“Some go for further studies and end up not coming back; some go for greener pastures; others run away from the unfavourable conditions we have here.
“Lecturing has three components: lecturing, research, and community service. The funding of research here is very low, though TETFund is trying, but we are still far below.
“Again, the decay in infrastructure does not favour basic and applied research; all these factors push our lecturers abroad,” he said.
Many agree that emigration is a natural phenomenon and that it is human instinct to seek a better life and improved working and living conditions.
However, stakeholders say the mass exodus of lecturers, if not properly managed, could further impact the already unacceptable quality of tertiary education in Nigeria.
They, therefore, say part of the solutions to the problem are contained in ASUU’s demands, such as the calling for the review of the Nigeria Universities Commission (2004) Act to tackle the proliferation of universities.
For instance, the union is calling for the constitution of visitation panels because it ought to visit its universities every five years, but the last visit was conducted in 2011.
ASUU is also demanding adequate funding for the revitalization of public universities in line with the agreements reached in 2009 and 2013.
Most importantly, the union is also demanding a 26 percent budgetary allocation to the education sector, as prescribed by UNESCO.
“I am not under any illusion that putting all these in place will completely stop lecturers from leaving the country.
"But we will be able to retain our best brains if ASUU’s demands are met,” a Nigerian lecturer based in Uganda said.