The demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, may not be met as the federal government lacks the resources to meet them, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said, dashing hopes of Nigerian students who were expecting a good outcome from the meeting of the two parties.
Following the discussions with the striking lecturers yesterday, the federal government’s Needs Assessment Implementation Committee has however agreed to release N100 billion for the provision and upgrade of infrastructure in the 61 public universities identified in the Needs Assessment Report.
Speaking in Minna, the Niger State capital in a speech at the opening of a two-day meeting of Commissioners of Finance and Accountants-General of states Ministries of Finance, Okonjo-Iweala said ASUU’s demands did not fall within the reach of the federal government. She added that there were a lot of things competing for the resources of the government.
“At present, ASUU wants government to pay N92 billion in extra allowances when the resources are not there and when we are working to integrate past increases in pension.
“We need to make choices in this country as we are getting to a stage where recurrent expenditures take the bulk of our resources and people get paid but can do no work.
“At the federal level and in most states, our budgets consist mostly of recurrent expenditures, yet, we continue to have demands for more recurrent spending,” she said.
According to the minister, recurrent expenditures account for about 77.2 per cent of the total budget, this the Ministry of Finance was working on, to re-balance the ratio and improve the budget formulation process.
The minister further said the country was still suffering from the effect of the 2010 increase in salary asking that “do we want to get to a stage in this country that all the money we earn is used to pay salaries and allowances”.
She said if the demands of the university lecturers were met and ‘we continue to pay them salaries and allowances, we will not be able to provide infrastructure in the universities.”
Okonjo-Iweala lamented Nigeria’s over-dependence on oil, which she noted has resulted in deterioration of the nations non-oil tax, adding that in 1970, non-oil taxes accounted for 74 per cent of federal government’s revenues but by 2012, it had declined to only 30 per cent of federal government revenues.
“Many states and local governments are also dependent on monthly revenue allocation from the central government. On average only 11 per cent of sub-national revenue was obtained from internally generated sources,” she said.
Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that the volume of external and internal debts of the country had been on the increase, saying “In August 2006, when I left office, we had a total of $17.3 billion comprised of $3.5 billion in foreign debt and $13.8 billion in domestic debt.”
She added that “by 2011, when I returned to office, the total debt now stood at $47.9 billion and the domestic debt had now grown to about $42.3 billion.”
The minister, however, said the federal government had taken measures to revamp the economy, adding that these measures have started yielding fruitful dividends in the areas of direct capital investment in the country in establishment of industries and agro-based firms.