Following the spates of protests that have greeted the increase in tuition recently announced by the governing council of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA), Ondo State government, on Tuesday, came out with its position on the contentious subject.
A statement, signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Yemi Olowolabi, stated that the government was compelled to explain its role in the decision leading to the increase in tuition for the state-owned university.
“Following the protests that have trailed the increase of tuition for students of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, by the Governing Council of the University, the state government is compelled to state the following:
It is very important for the general public and the good people of Ondo State to note that the tuition was arrived at and announced by the governing council after robust and exhaustive meetings with the university’s stakeholders, including the staff, students and parents.
“It is equally important to note that the current fee of between N23, 000 and N37, 000 charged by AAUA was introduced about 18 years ago at commencement of the University in 2000.
“How do you explain the fact that students in the Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa (OSUSTECH) pay between N120, 000 and N150,000 as tuition per session, those in the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo (UNIMED) pay between N200,000 and N450,000 per session.”
The statement listed series of problems, all arising from shortage or total lack of funds, that have confronted the university in the last five years, and stagnating the growth of institution.
“At the beginning, especially between year 2000 and up till year 2013, the University had it good with subventions from the state government for payment of salaries and execution of capital projects.”
Olowolabi stated further: “The fortunes of the University began to suffer with the downturn in the economy of Nigeria, becoming more serious from 2014, when the payment of subventions began to suffer and was eventually reduced.
“It is rather unfortunate to note that, for a University of its status, no fund has been released for capital projects between 2014 and now.
“The University further slid into financial problems in 2016 when subventions were not released to the university for a period of nine months. As we speak, the University still has an outstanding subventions, covering July 2016 to January 2017 and totaling N1.48 Billion.”
According to the statement, despite the fact that other universities across the country have been compelled to hike the fees paid by their students, same cannot be said of the state owned university.
“There is a wide gap between government subvention to the University and what is required to meet up with salary payment. The monthly wage bill for staff and pensioners is about N220 million while the monthly subvention is N150 Million, leaving a deficit of N70 million every month on salary payment alone.”
“As a result of the nation’s economic downturn, most universities across the country, including the Federal Government-owned universities have had to review their school fees in the last few years to be able to continue to run their institutions. Despite its precarious situation, Adekunle Ajasin University has not reviewed its school fees like other institutions for several years.
You will agree that in view of the current economic situation, where the university goes cap in hand to raise fund to pay staff salaries or provide services and training facilities for the students, it is inevitable and urgent to review the current school fees.
“The public also needs to get the fact correct that there are two major classes of expenses the university is confronted with: Cost of maintenance of students and their education and Salaries for staff and pensioners.
We also need to know that despite its dwindling fortunes, the University is burdened with providing several other important services that cannot be left undone. These include health services, electricity supply and laboratory equipment among several others.
Olowolabi, however, called on the good people of the state to remain calm and eschew any form of violence, insisting that the Governor will address the matter soon.