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Nigeria spends more on national assembly than on education? Analyst gets it wrong

With Nigeria set to hold elections next year, the search for a new president is gathering momentum. But does a claim about the current leadership’s spending priorities add up?

This article is more than 2 years old

  • Discussing Nigeria’s political landscape ahead of the 2023 elections, economist Pat Utomi said the current government spent more on the national assembly than on education.

  • The data says otherwise. Nigeria has consistently spent many times more on education since at least 2015.

  • But this spending remains below a commitment made to the UN in 2015, and international standards for investment in education.

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari is to step down after the February 2023 elections after serving his second and final term as an elected president.   

As politicians jostle to succeed him, analysts are weighing in on the credentials of the next leader. In his take on the debate, political economist Pat Utomi made a startling claim. 

“Politics is service; not a profession, but today the money spent on the national assembly is greater than the money budgeted for education,” he was reported as saying.

Utomi is a former presidential candidate. Is he correct that Nigeria spends less on education than on the national assembly?  

Consistent pattern of far higher allocation to education 

Nigeria’s national assembly – its parliament – has two chambers. The higher senate has 109 senators, and the lower house of representatives 360 members

Utomi told Africa Check he had been accurately quoted but did not provide his evidence.

The budget office of the federation has data on this claim. According to the  2022 appropriation act, N1.17 trillion was allocated to education.    

This was made up of:

  • N593.47 billion to the ministry of education and its agencies for recurrent expenditure
  • N159.66 billion for capital projects
  • N306 billion for the Tertiary Education Trust Fund
  • `N112.29 billion for the Universal Basic Education programme, which funds the first nine years of education

(Note: In a public presentation in January, finance minister Zainab Ahmed said the total allocation to education was higher, at N1.23 trillion.)

By contrast, the national assembly’s allocation was N139 billion. This included funding for the two chambers, organs such as the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies and National Assembly Service Commision, and general services.

The most recent publicly available data therefore shows that significantly more money – at least eight times more – was allocated to education than to parliament. 

This has also been the pattern over the years, as the data below shows.

Education gets just 7% of total budget 

The budgeted allocation to the national assembly is often a source of controversy in Nigeria. And civil society organisations have called for transparency, even as legislators say allocations are not enough.

But experts agree that Nigeria does not spend enough on education. 

Felix Onah, a professor of economics at the Godfrey Okoye University in Enugu, southeastern Nigeria, said spending was “far below” that agreed at the United Nations.

“We are supposed to spend between 15% to 20% of the budget on education but what we spend now is about 7%,” Onah told Africa Check.

In 2015, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization member states agreed to spend 4% to 6% of their gross domestic product, or 15% to 20% of their budget, on education.

If Nigeria committed 20% of its 2022 budget to education, the sector would get about N3.4 trillion. 

Onah added that the cost of government was high. “Members of the national assembly have a large number of aides. And there is talk of creating more seats or states, which would lead to an increase in what we currently spend on the legislature.

“Simply put, what we are spending on the national assembly is beyond what we can afford.”

Calls for private investment and reduced waste 

The country’s lecturers have been on strike since 14 February, with inadequate funding of public universities a regular grievance.

David Durosaro, a professor of educational management at the University of Ibadan in Oyo state, called for more private investment.

The government’s commitment to education “appears not to be good enough”, he told Africa Check.  

“Education is a social welfare sector that any government that wants to make an impact must give top priority to. But the government cannot do it alone, the populace must also brace up to invest in education,” Durosaro said.

He added that education funding would be more affordable if waste was reduced. 

“There is a need for effective price control mechanisms to lower the cost of getting an education. Prices of items like textbooks and other stationery need to be monitored. People extort at will and these are areas where the government can come in to free up some of the cost burden.”

Conclusion: Education funding many times more than funding of parliament, but still not enough. 

A political economist and former presidential candidate claimed Nigeria’s national assembly got more funding than education. 

The available current and historical budget data does not support this. 

We therefore rate the claim as incorrect.

But experts told Africa Check that education needs more funding as the current budgeted allocation is well below international standards.

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