ASUU Strike: Corruption in education system undermines our investment, says Buhari



…Calls for accountability in administration of academic institutions

By Chimezie Godfrey

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that corruption at various levels of Nigeria’s education system undermined government’s huge investment in the sector.

The President made the assertion Tuesday in Abuja at the Fourth National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector, with the theme,”“Corruption and the Education Sector” organized by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Crimes Commission, ICPC.

Buhari expressed delight over the effort of the ICPC and other stakeholders in convening national discourse on finding solution to the monster called corruption that has eating deeply into the fabrics of the nation.

According to him, the theme of this year’s summit is apt as corruption in any sector affects development.

The President who reiterated his administration’s determination to consistently fight corruption at all sectors of the economy, blamed the current challenges facing the country’s education sector on corruption.

He said,”From inception, this administration has consistently made the fight against corruption a cardinal pillar of its comprehensive commitments and agenda to reform the nation.

“We signed up to the Open Government Partnership and adopted the Open Government Declaration under which we committed to have robust anti-corruption policies, mechanisms and practices that ensure transparency in the management of public finances and procurement, and to strengthen the rule of law. We have tried in the last seven years to keep faith with these commitments.

“I am pleased to have participated in each of the previous summits organized by the current Board of the ICPC under the leadership of Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, SAN, in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, targeting different aspects of our administration’s commitment to fight corruption.

“This year’s summit will mirror how corruption undermines educational policies, investments and creates an unfriendly learning environment for our youths.

“Incessant strikes especially by unions in the tertiary education often imply that government is grossly underfunding education, but I must say that corruption in the education system from basic level to the tertiary level has been undermining our investment in the sector and those who go on prolonged strikes on flimsy reasons are no less complicit.

“The 1999 Constitution places a premium on education by placing it on the Concurrent List, thereby laying the responsibilities of budgeting and underwriting qualitative education on both the Federal and State Governments.

“The total education budget for each year is therefore a reflection of both federal and state budgets and should be viewed with other financial commitments in their totality.

“The allocation to education in the federal budget should not be considered via allocation to the Federal Ministry of Education and also academic institutions alone, but should include allocation to the Universal Basic Education, transfers to TETFUND and refund from the Education Tax Pool Account to TETFUND etc.

“I am aware that the aggregate education budget in all the 36 states of the Federation and that of the Federal Government, combined with the internally generated revenues of the educational institutions themselves are also a subject that requires the attention of critics of government funding of education.”

President Buhari pointed out that in line with the National Policy on Education, his administration has been implementing the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme to provide a free balanced meal per day for each child that attends public primary school in order to encourage school enrolment and facilitate accesses to universal basic education.

He therefore expressed concern over manifestation of various forms of corruption in the education sector.

“To mitigate the impact of security challenges on our schools, I signed the Safe Schools Declaration ratification document in December 2019. The Federal Ministry of Education followed up and developed the Minimum Standard for Safe Schools document in 2021, all part of the Safe Schools Initiative. The Safe Schools Initiative is an expression of government’s commitment to continue to work towards the protection of students, teachers and the school environments.

“Government and stakeholders in the educational sector are concerned about the manifestation of various forms of corruption in the education sector. I am aware that students in our universities for example, use different terminologies to describe different forms of corruption they experience on our campuses.

“There is sorting or cash for marks/grades, sex for marks, sex for grade alterations, examination malpractice, and so on.

“Sexual harassment has assumed an alarming proportion. Other forms of corruption include pay-roll padding or ghost workers, lecturers taking up full time appointments in more than one academic institution, including private institutions, lecturers writing seminar papers, projects and dissertations for students for a fee, and admission racketeering, to mention only the most glaring corrupt practices.

“I am happy to note that ICPC is investigating and prosecuting sexual harassment as abuse of power in our educational institutions. I approve and encourage them to continue to do so,” he said.

The President assured that government will continue to fund education within realistically available revenue but urged stakeholders, including the media to equally advocate for transparency in the amount generated as internally generated revenue by educational institutions and how such funds are expended.

According to him, corruption in the expenditure of internally generated revenue of tertiary institutions is a matter that has strangely not received the attention of stakeholders in tertiary education, including unions.

“I call on stakeholders to demand accountability in the administration of academic institutions and for unions to interrogate the bloated personnel and recurrent expenditure of their institutions. Let me also implore the Unions to work with government to put faces and identities to names on the payroll.

“I believe that the role of government in education is to guarantee access and establish minimum benchmarks for quality education. Due to declining resources, government cannot bear the cost of funding education alone. I task our academics to attract endowments, research and other grants to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education similar to what obtains in other countries.

“About two weeks ago, I participated in the 77th United Nations General Assembly, in New York. One of the key events was Transforming Education Summit Leaders Day, titled: Transforming Education to Transform the World: Learning to Live Together Sustainably.

“Nigeria joined other countries in committing “to the vision of Education for Sustainable Development and to the objectives of the Greening Education Partnership” and building “education systems that foster ethical and socially responsible global citizens” who actively contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals.

“That is a vision which we will continue to aspire and build,” he said.

Buhari congratulated the sole winner of this year’s Public Service Integrity Award, SUPERINTENDENT DANIEL ITSE AMAH.

He also commended the Chairman of the ICPC, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Registrar of JAMB, for organizing the summit and bringing together the three arms of Government, MDAs and other stakeholders to deliberate on corruption in the educational sector of Nigeria.

The Chairman, ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye applauded Mr President pointing out that his
presence at each of the four National
Summits that they have organized since 2019 is a reflection of his commitment to fight corruption as one of the significant developmental global challenges of the time.

Prof Owasanoye described corruption in education as stealing the future education being the medium for transmission of knowledge and values, adding that once the education sector is corrupted, the
foundation for future ethical leadership and labour force is destroyed.

According to him, corruption in education manifests in different ways such as recruitment of unqualified or unfit persons to teach at primary, secondary or tertiary levels;
admission racketeering; examination malpractice, diversion of revenue for
and within the sector, operation of illegal academic institutions especially at
the tertiary level, abuse of power and procurement rules by management and
governing councils both of academic or regulatory institutions etc.

He therefore said that in
response to the recent epidemic of sexual harassment in the education sector, the CPC has constituted a special team on investigation and prosecution of
sexual harassment in secondary and tertiary institutions.

He said,”CPC has constituted a special team on investigation and prosecution of
sexual harassment in secondary and tertiary institutions. In collaboration with
civil society we are in the process of introducing a model policy on sexual
harassment for academic institutions to adopt we have also secured some
major convictions including of a professor.

“ICPChas escalated its prevention mandate in the face of costly, time consuming and unpredictable outcomes of investigation and prosecution. In this regard we are strengthening the Anti-corruption and Transparency Monitoring Unit (ACTU) in MDAs.

“For the education sector we
collaborated with other institutions including NUC and NBTE and much
more recently with JAMB our co-host for this event. With JAMB and DSS we conducted last year a series of undercover operations across the country. on corruption in the university admissions processes leading to the busting of syndicates and arrest of its leaders responsible for compromising IJMB and JUPEB.

The ICPC Boss stressed that the Commission has intensified its scrutiny of personnel
and capital cost of MDAs leading to proactive restraining of surpluses or duplications in the budget. Just last week the Commission in collaboration with the Budget Office and stakeholders met with some MDAs on the
recurring surpluses in their payroll to determine proactive measures to
improving the budget process.

“This is towards separating outright fraud from administrative lapses. We also actively review the budget to prevent abuse by
senior civil servants and PEPs who sometimes personalise budgetary
allocation for direct benefit. In one case a PEP successfully increased the budget of an agency in order for the agency to buy a property from him. In another case the PEP inserted soft projects worth over N7b for a catchment population of about One million people in the name of empowerment. Both
cases are under investigation.

“ICPC reviews of special funds meant to improve education delivery such as
UBEC and TETFUND reveals continued abuses and breach of procurement
standards and compromise of statutory mandates while a System Study and
Review on SUBEB in six states for 2019-2020 revealed that the intention of
UBE law to support states to improve basic education is frustrated by lack of
commitment by state governments in not providing matching grants amongst
other defaults.

“The capacity and commitment of states and tertiary institutions
to access UBE fund and TETFUND respectively as anticipated by law
remains highly questionable.

“In support of government’s effort to improve revenue generation the
Commission continues to investigate diversion of tax and other statutory
revenues as part of routine investigation and has recovered N1.264b this
fiscal year.”

He added that as part of the efforts to sanitise the public service and upscale integrity the
Commission has been collaborating with the OHCSF to flush out fake
appointments and screen candidates for appointment to position of permanent
secretaries amongst other initiatives.

“The findings thus far indicate that many
prospective appointees are implicated for financial impropriety, corrupt
practice, failure of code of conduct standards and substance abuse.

“The commitment of the Head of Service to clean up the stable by effective pre
appointment screening is commendable and ICPC will continue to play its
part.

“We are vigorously exploiting technology solutions to some of the systemic
corruption we have unearthed. For example in collaboration with NITDA we held a hackathon with youths on innovative response to the unity schools feeding type of corruption we unearthed during Covid19 pandemic in 2020.

“The wining entry will be used for a pilot to improve transparency in unity
schools feeding programs and even the home grown school feeding program
under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management.

“To further strengthen government contracting and procurement process we
recommend a mandatory anti corruption clause for all government contracts
with private entities. Such entities must commit to implement anti corruption
compliance programs in their entities. Failure to do so should result not just
in prosecution where appropriate but claims in damages for government for
breach of contract,” he said.

He also revealed that the Commission is working on contract negotiation guidelines for government officers to set boundaries and avoid corrupt, odious and inimical clauses to public interest as witnessed in the
public examples of P and ID and the Paris Club refund disputes.

According to him, once completed the guidelines shall be forwarded to the Hon Attorney- General of the Federation for his attention.