Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson has called on the state-owned Niger Delta University (NDU) to be more resourceful and innovative, in terms of revenue generation.
According to him, his administration can no longer sustain the existing funding system owing to the present poor financial standing of the state.
The Governor stated this during a meeting with the Governing Council and principal officers of NDU in Government House, Yenagoa.
He described a situation where the state government’s monthly subvention of about 480 million naira is spent on only the university’s recurrent expenditure as unsustainable.
Going down memory lane, the Governor said, he had expressed concern over the bogus wage bill of the university and the need for the University leadership to be prudent in the use of the funds, which his administration religiously provided until January this year, with a view to enabling the institution gain some degree of financial autonomy.
Commenting on the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by the state chapter of the Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU, Governor Dickson appealed to the striking lecturers to call off their action and join hands with the government in proffering solutions to the issue of unpaid salaries caused by the sharp drop in state revenues.
While empathizing with the staff and students of the institution over the development, he however, reaffirmed his commitment to measures that would help in cutting down the wage bill of the university, in such a way that would not affect its status as a centre of excellence and research.
To this end, the governor called on the Management of the University to work closely with the government to arrive at a much more feasible funding arrangement that would cater for the salaries of all academic staff and appropriate number of non-teaching staff.
Describing the current non-academic staff strength of 2,502 as unacceptable, Governor Dickson frowned at the practice, where the university asserts its autonomy only in the area of employment, but passes all salary obligations to the state government.
His words, “At the inauguration of the NDU Governing Council four years ago, we laid out our vision of what our University should be. We realized that it was going to be unsustainable to have the situation we met, hereby the university with its very high recurrent wage bill will be drawing its salaries on a monthly basis from the government.
A situation where the university will employ as they wish and then transfer the salaries to the state government can no longer be sustained.
“Our vision, moving forward, is for an NDU that is properly organized and run as a university that can stand the test of time irrespective of the economic vicissitudes that may afflict our state.
“We are interested in an NDU that will be a centre of excellence, as we all want it to be; an NDU that will stand the test of time irrespective of the government that is there or whether the government gets low or high allocation. That is why we must all be united in looking inward and seeking alternative funding pattern for our great university”.
Briefing newsmen on the outcome of the meeting, the Commissioner for Education, Deacon Markson Fefegha justified the state government’s call for a new funding framework, noting that, the NDU appears to be the only university in the country that entirely depends on government’s subvention for all of its operations.
According to Deacon Fefegha, the government, however, appreciates the contributions of the university community, particularly the students for their show of understanding of the prevailing economic situation and assured them of its commitment towards developing the university as well as the amicable resolution of the ongoing industrial dispute for normal academic activities to resume.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Governing Council of the Niger Delta University, Prof. Turner Isoun and Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Humphrey Ogoni, acknowledged the financial contributions of the present administration to the effective running of the university in the last four years.
Commenting on the call for a new funding paradigm, they however, appealed to the state government to see its policy of financial autonomy in the management of the university as a medium-term initiative, as its immediate implementation would result in the escalation of tuition fees and other charges that could spell doom for many indigent students.