“JAPA“: ASSU, V-Cs, others worry as lecturers abandon Nigerian universities

Nigerian universities

Some Vice-Chancellors, (V-C) Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other stakeholders on Tuesday expressed concern over the decline in the number of lecturers in the nation’s universities.

The university education stakeholders bared their minds in interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu recently approved the implementation of 35 per cent and 23 per cent of salary increment for staff of all federal tertiary institutions。

In a letter issued on Sept. 14, the CEO of Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Mr Ekpo Nta, said the Federal Government had released a circular on the implementation of the adjusted salary structure.

The letter was addressed to the Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman,

But this seems to have come late as recent media reports indicate that about 50 per cent of lecturers have resigned from the various universities while more are reportedly warming.

We have crisis on our hands–V-Cs

The V-C of Ilorin, Prof. Wahab Egbewole, blamed the dearth lecturers on the employment embargo by the Federal Government.

He, therefore, pleaded with the Federal Government to lift the embargo to enable the universities bridge the gap.

The gap was caused by a number of factors, including lecturers seeking greener pastures at home and abroad, retirement and death.

He urged the authorities to provide the universities with the enabling environment that would discourage the brain drain.

Prof. Alewo Johnson-Akubo, Vice-Chancellor, Salem University Lokoja, described the shortage of lecturers as very unfortunate.

He said though universities in the past tried to manage the situation through sabbaticals, now such arrangement has become difficult as the number of lecturers continues to shrink.

In Yobe, Dr Muhammad Lawan, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic Yobe State University, advised the resuscitation of culture of absorbing first-class graduates as lecturers.

Another measure, according to Lawan, that could help is to expand the existing universities instead of establishing new ones.

Also speaking, Prof Olayemi Akinwumi, The V-C of Federal University Lokoja (FUL) virtually all lecturers in the countries are overstretched as result of shortage of lecturers.

“Each time I see what my lecturers going through to cope up with the work load I feel it for them.

“We used to have lecturers from other universities on sabbatical but IPPIS (the unified payment platform) doesn’t allowed that anymore.

“Sabbatical is a university culture where as a lecturer you are given the opportunity to go to another university and lecture.

“Again, the visiting lecturers were very helpful in areas or departments you don’t have enough lecturers. But because of poor funding on the part of government and IPPIS, it’s no more tenable.

“I can tell you now that this is not the best time for us, the vice chancellors.

“This is because as V-C you have no power to employ a single cleaner not to talk of a lecturer. You have to go Abuja and start begging before you can have one,” he said.

The V-C urged proper funding of the universities and abolishing removing of universities from of IPPIS platform, adding that: “we (the universities) shouldn’t be subjected to civil service rules’’.

Quality of degrees is in jeopardy—ASUU

Universities lecturers who bear the brunt of the exit of their colleagues are also worried by the impact of this on their workload and academic standards.

Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) Federal University of Lafia (FULafia) says the shortage of lecturers in Nigeria universities is affecting the standard and quality of education negatively.

“It is a fact that many lecturers have left the university system in Nigeria. This exodus is defined by the poor working conditions existing in the universities.

“The universities are coping largely because the few existing lecturers are being over burdened with excess work load that are academic

“And in most departments, lecturers are made to teach large classes and more courses to be able to keep the courses running.

“It is common to find a lecturer teaching at all levels of a department with very poor facilities and very poor working conditions,” said Dr Sunday Oraye, the Chairman, ASUU FULafia

The ASUU chairman said that this has put undue pressure on their health leading to high mortality rates amongst lecturers in the university.

“During the last NEC meeting of the union held at the Kaduna State University in November, over 100 lecturers were reported to have died between August and November 2023 alone,” he said

In Adamawa, Dr El-Maude Gambo, the ASUU chairman, Modibbo Adama University (MAU), Yola, urged for 30 per cent budgetary allocation to education.

He said this would engender the provision of facilities that would discourage lecturers from seek greener pastures.

Dr Oluwagbemiga Adeleye, the chairman, ASUU, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), blamed the shortage of lecturers on government policies and the bad economy.

“When there is a ban, you won’t be able to replace lecturers who have are no longer in the system.

“Another reason causing the shortage is the negative economic impact on the citizens and it still boils down to government policies.

“The terrible economic situation we have faced has made some lecturers seek greener pastures elsewhere around the world and that is what we call the ‘Japa’ syndrome,” he said.

The FUNAAB ASUU chairman called on the government to be more responsible in taking care of, not only academic staff but all university members of staff.

Lecturers cry out

The Head of Department, Guidance and Counseling, University of Ibadan, Prof. Oyesoji Aremu, says the history of migration of lecturers from Nigeria was repeating itself.

“In the 1980s, there was a similar scenario. Then it was called brain drain, but currently, it is called ‘japa’.

“The ‘Japa’ syndrome, which has been on for a while now has brought nightmares to the Nigerian university system.

“This is because of the high migration of lecturers to Europe, America, Asia, and even to some African countries,” he said.

He blamed the situation on a number of factors, adding: “first among these is the working environment in many universities in Nigeria which has dampened the morale of many academics.

“Another factor is poor remuneration, which is abysmally inhuman and disturbing,” Aremu said.

According to him, Nigerian academics are the worst paid globally, a development, he said, has driven lecturers out of the country in mass proportions.

“While there are others, the two above are very crucial to the issues of shortage of lecturers.

“The consequences of these are tellingly disturbing on the university system in Nigeria,” Aremu said.

Dr Idris Badiru, Senior Lecturer, Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development, University of Ibadan, said the gravity of the shortage varied from one discipline to the other.

“Everything has to get to Abuja before anything is done and the coping mechanisms are both institutional and individual.

“At the institutional level, the workload allocated to the available academic staff has simply increased; which means more responsibilities for the individual staff.

“At the individual level, the academic will only do his best and leave the rest.

“If there is enough intrinsic motivation, the academic may start altering his work/life balance to deny his family quality time that is due to them,” Badiru said.

Dr Onatolani Hassan, Lecturer, Department of Business Education, Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijebu-Ode, identified poor welfare and poor working conditions as some factors responsible for the menace.

“Most lecturers are traveling out of the country in pursuit of greener pastures. The salaries have not been increased for a long time.

“The inflation rate is in double digits, eating deep into the income of lecturers, which had remained static while expenses are increasing on a daily basis.

“Lecturers are now funding their own research; no more grants from expected quarters. There is a heavy workload on the few lecturers you have on ground.

“The government has not employed in the past 10 to 15 years, while professors are retiring.

“There are vacancies but the university management cannot recruit. There is heavy workload on the lecturers that are on ground,” he said.

Hassan called on the government to increase funding of tertiary institutions to alleviate the situation.

Ibrahim Kachala, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Maiduguri, said that the last eight years of the previous administration had wreaked havoc on the university system.

Kachala said that government policies and nonchalant attitude to public university education in Nigeria, had affected the development of tertiary education in the country.

He said this situation would worsen in in 2024 when most of the professors employed in the 70s would exit the system.

Mr Usman Abdallah, of the department of mass communications said lack of government funding had made the university to be unsuitable for learning and research.

Another lecturer, Sheriff Bamus, urged private organisations to be mandated to utilise the universities for their Research and Development (R&D).

“As it is done in other climes businesses and private organisations should be mandated to utilize the universities for their R&D requirements as part of their corporate social responsibilities.

Dr Adeola Olatunji, Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Lagos, says the shortage of manpower is having negative impact on and teaching, research, and community service.

This, he said, has made lecturers to be overburdened with classes work as students population to continues to climb.

“I, therefore, call on the Federal Government to lift the embargo on recruitment for universities to address the widening gap,” he said.

According to him, with the provision of an enabling environment through improved remuneration and adequate facilities in the nation’s universities, fewer Nigerians will travel out for greener pastures.

Dr Ibrahim Nasir, Senior Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Prince Abubakar Audu University, Ayingba, Kogi, said that universities were coping with shortage of lecturers’ through improvisation.

“To say that there is a shortage of lecturers in the Nigerian University is an understatement.

“This is evident in the lecturer to student ration in all the universities. In most cases you have a ratio of one lecturer to over 2,050 students.

“The main reason for this shortage of lecturers in the university system is usually poor remuneration. The take home salary is grossly inadequate compared to what is obtainable globally.

“We improvise by lumping classes together where you will have large numbers of students to teach at a time in a class.

“This means where you are supposed to have four or five lecturers you will have only a lecturer taking care of them“, he said.

According to him, lecturers also deploy the grouping system where they have batch A, B and C .

“In this case you have to fix extra lectures to see how you can finish a course outline within a short possible time.

“Even at that, you have to struggle and even go into the weekend to see how you can meet up.

“These are some of the measures we undertake to bridge the gap in the universities. The shortage of lecturers halls also added to our stress,” he said.