Ondo State Government on Wednesday reacted to the continued resistance by students and other stakeholders to the increase in the tuition of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko.
A statement issued by Commissioner for Information, Mr Yemi Olowolabi, noted that the increase became necessary due to the need to shore up funding for the institution, and the inability of the government to effectively fund it due to the current financial crisis.
Olowolabi said the government was compelled to explain its role in the increase in tuition for the state-owned university, stating that the new tuition, which is about 500 per cent increase, was arrived at and announced by the governing council after 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,” he said.
“How do you explain 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?”
According to the commissioner, lack of adequate funds to run the institution had confronted the university in the last five years, which had stagnated the university.
“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 said.
“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.”
He further argued that despite that other universities across the country had been compelled to hike the fees paid by their students, same could not be said of AAUA.
“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,” Olowolabi explained.
“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.”
The information commissioner, however, called for calm, as the state governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, would soon address the problem.
The government has continued to receive knocks from different quarters for the increase in the fees, including criticisms from within ruling All Progressives Congress.
On Monday, the House of Assembly dissociated itself from the government’s hike in fees, saying the executive was on its own.
The state legislature urged the government to reverse the decision and seek to carry all stakeholders along in its bid to reach a new tuition for the institution.