Nigeria’s budget for education: Counting the cost

A strong educational sector is a major prerequisite for promoting a healthy workforce that can compete globally. However, this can only be achieved when a country’s educational system is well funded. Despite the fact that education is a basic human right that every citizen should enjoy, research shows that about 40 percent of Nigerians are still not literate while close to 68 percent of the country’s young people had secondary education as their highest level of education as of 2020 while many of those that are lucky enough to complete tertiary education do so under a not so conducive learning environment. This is also as the curriculum continues to get disrupted with incessant strike actions.

This implies that it is not enough that the number of people that get enrolled in school increases, rather government should harness every means to ensure that people are taught using the best available infrastructure and learning methods that will boost the type of skills needed for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A report by ‘Dataphyte’ revealed that in the last six years, Nigeria has allocated the sum of 4.68 trillion to its educational sector, while another research report by BudgIT revealed that Nigeria’s budget for the educational sector in the year 2021 should have been within the range of N2.03trillion to N2.7trillion instead of N1.09trillion allocated by the Federal Government, a figure which is not up to the recommended 15 percent of a country’s total budget as stipulated by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisations (UNESCO).

It is important to note that as of 1999 when Nigeria returned to democratic rule, the country’s population was around 120 million; presently, it stands at 216,746,943. This implies that Nigeria’s budget system has not factored in the country’s population growth rate. In fact, the country’s budget for education as a percentage of its GDP has never surpassed a single digit from 2016 till date, while further examination of the figures reveals that in 2021, Nigeria’s education budget of 5.6 percent has been the lowest since 1999.

Bearing in mind that one of the “Next Level” campaign promises of the current administration was to renovate 10,000 schools yearly and ensure that Nigerians have access to quality education at no cost, no evidence points to the fact that the government is doing enough to bring its promises into fulfillment. Meanwhile, another report by the International Centre for Investigative reporting revealed how Nigeria’s president at the Global Education Summit in London, made a promise to increase the country’s education budget by 50 percent, effective from 2022. However,

every evidence points to the fact that this promise has actually not been fulfilled as the usual rhetoric of poor funding and funds mismanagement continue to limit the extent to which Nigerians can get access to quality education.

It is important to know that the right to quality education is a basic human right that should be enjoyed by all because it is the key to achieving sustainable economic growth and development.

However, one of the greatest challenges and undoing of the ‘giant of Africa’ has been how to equip its greatest asset with the skills that are needed for the 21st-century disruptive

transformations. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “one out of every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria”, while another report by the World Bank revealed that 70 percent of school children in Nigeria do not have the basic literacy skills with the northern part of the country having the highest level of illiteracy in the world. Indeed, Nigeria’s failure to invest massively in education is not without gross socio-economic consequences, some of which are:

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Incessant strikes:

Over time, Nigeria’s education sector has repeatedly witnessed different strikes which have continued to mar the sector’s performance. This continues to occur due to different reasons, most of which are bordered around poor funding. In 2020, Nigeria witnessed a strike that lasted up to nine months. Presently, almost all the government-owned universities have been shut down on the account of decayed infrastructure and poor salary structure, an issue that will have a negative effect on students’ academic delivery.

According to a report by Dataphyte, Nigeria has spent one out of every four days of each year on strike while a report by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) further revealed that since the 80s, hardly will any year passed that Nigeria’s academic session will not be marred by ASUU’s industrial action. Little wonder Nigerian universities were recently excluded by the UK in its new visa policy which avails job opportunities to graduates who attended schools that made it to the top 50 schools as embedded in the World University Ranking.


The inability of its leaders to invest massively in human capital development through investment in education is taking a toll on the nation’s insecurity. Presently, the northern part of the country has become vulnerable to Jihadist attacks whose philosophy is against western education while the southern part of the country is also not finding it rosy with deadly agitations by secessionist groups. According to Agusto’s report, Nigeria has witnessed the lowest level of FDI inflow since 2013 as a result of insecurity. It is reported that Nigeria spent nothing less than $40billion in 2020 alone in security. In 2021, Nigeria’s finance minister in a report captured by Nairametrics revealed that one of the reasons why Nigeria plans to borrow the $1.76billion is to enable it fight insecurity, it can, therefore, be concluded that insecurity is part of the reasons why Nigeria is yet to be free from its pitiable shackles of high public debt. Indeed, there’s only one thing that is costlier than education, the lack of it!


It has been discovered that increased access to education can contribute to a reduced rate of poverty. In other words, the more educated a population is, the more they are likely to acquire the skills that improve their learning capability, thereby pulling them from the cycle of poverty. From 2018 to 2021, Nigeria got tagged as the world’s poverty capital after a research by the World Poverty Clock (WPC) revealed that about 100 million of its total populace still remain extremely poor. However, a new report by the WPC recently revealed that India has overtaken Nigeria as the country with the poorest populace while Nigeria comes second after its populace who are poor reduced from 100million to about 71 million, which represents 33 percent of the total population. The research report of the World Bank also revealed that over 45 percent of the Nigerian populace will live in extreme poverty by the year 2022.

According to a report by ‘relief web’, Nigeria’s poverty statistics will continue to get worse as access to education reduces because the young population often regarded to the future of the country are not in safe hands as far as education is concerned. This will consequently lead to low productivity and increase their vulnerability to negative life events.

Low Human Development Index:

Nigeria’s HDI value of 0.539 makes it rank among the lowest in the world as its poor education sector continues to take a toll on the welfare and output delivery of its people. For instance, in 2018, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) published a report which measures a country’s level of innovation and output using seven major pillars which include: Business sophistication, market sophistication, institutions, creative outputs, infrastructure, human capital & research and knowledge & technology outputs. This report ranked Nigeria 27th among the 30 middle-income countries examined while the country was also ranked 17th among 24 countries located in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This implies that Nigeria has not done so well as far as the development of its labour force is concerned and this is not an happenstance, as it is pertinent to ask why a country that planned to be one of the top most developed countries in the world by 2020 allocates a paltry sum of its national budget to research development. For instance, a publication by Nigeria’s “The Guardian” revealed that in 2018, only 0.01 percent of Nigeria’s federal budget was allocated for research and development. Putting it more succinctly, ‘the conversation’ a media outlet that analyses economic issues also reported that “Nigeria’s educational system is in assorted crises of infrastructural decay, neglect, waste of resources and sordid condition of service.”

Consequently, ‘The Financial Times’, a UK-based research outlet, further revealed that, “Nigeria’s young people are more than capable of turning the country around. At the present trajectory, the population will double to 400 million by 2050. If nothing is done, long before then, Nigeria will become a problem far too big to ignore”. At the moment, Nigeria keeps

finding itself within the cycle of persistent insecurity and poor economic performance because those that are meant to be contributing actively to nation-building have not been adequately equipped to do so. This goes a long way in demonstrating that any country that fails to spend on education will spend on the lack of it. Clearly, a set of strong and sustainable policy responses that are aimed at improving Nigeria’s education sector would have to be implemented to avert the catastrophic consequences.

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