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University lecturers and their poor salaries



Wednesday, November 29, 2023


Promise Adiele

One of the enigmas of professional engagements in Nigeria, which has defied every iota of rationality, is the salary of university lecturers. It is laughable and borders on a scandal to declare the amount of money earned by those saddled with the responsibility of teaching, researching, and upholding the tenets of diverse spheres of knowledge. Yet, a seemingly consensual mute epiphany on the issue by policymakers disingenuously suggests that all is well. Surely, all is certainly not well. Unfortunately, ASUU, the body that should advance the frontiers of better conditions of service for lecturers, is saddled with numerous, self-inflicted responsibilities which hardly bear or yield any results. When compared to the salary of their counterparts in other parts of the world, at least in the developing world, the salary of Nigerian university lecturers further retards and pales into insignificance. In a way, successive governments have consistently and deliberately indulged in crime against humanity by subjecting lecturers to humiliating remuneration over the years. I am sure university lecturers are also ashamed to discuss how much they earn therefore, they present a facade of contentment which misleads the public. Thus, lecturers are content with mere recognition as the custodians of knowledge while stewing in the crucible of economic hardship and frustration.

University lecturers in Nigeria are not demanding or asking to be paid a colossal amount of money. They are asking to be paid amounts commensurate with the efforts they put into their work which includes but is not limited to expanding the boundaries of human existential order. Everybody who went to a university and obtained a degree genuinely was taught by a lecturer. Some people, in their warped mentality and inarticulate mental wretchedness, only have negative views about lecturers who taught them in the university. In the end, university teaching seems like a thankless job in Nigeria. The lecturer is an orphan. Annoyingly, other sectors in the country attract huge salaries and wages while those who produce drivers of society remain mired in penury and insufficiency.

It will benumb many people to know that no university professor earns more than N500,000 a month. If you consider what it means to become a legitimate professor in a university in Nigeria, then that amount of money is a caricature of all academic endeavours. I use the word ‘legitimate’ because not all professors are ‘legitimate’. Some professors attained the position through the back door hence, you have _fraudfessors_ . That is a matter for another day. University lecturers all over the country earn condescending amounts of money. To move from one level of lecturing to another is almost as difficult as the proverbial camel passing through the eye of a needle. It is as bad as that. Presently, it is reported that in some public universities, the government has placed an embargo on the promotion and employment of lecturers. So, lecturers in such places are stuck in the whirlwind of career stagnation and uncertainty.

Besides the abysmal amount earned by university lecturers, the conditions of service in some public universities can practically force the devil and his army to retreat in anger. Some universities lack basic requirements for effective teaching and comfortability for lecturers. In some public universities, electricity is a scarce commodity. The internet is almost like an alien product. Yet, the lecturers are required to teach, carry out research, and impact meaningfully to their students. A semblance of order and quintessence can be found in private universities where the environments, facilities, and conditions of service can be compared with most universities in the world. Some state university lecturers who find themselves at the mercy of incompetent, wicked governors cannot tell their stories in a day. In government decisions and policies, universities and their lecturers take the ignoble back seat and unfortunately, they accept these conditions. Although private universities are leading the line in Nigeria’s university education sector, there is still huge room for improvement in the payment and remuneration of lecturers.

Indeed, it is utterly wrong for private universities to benchmark the salaries and remuneration of their lecturers with what obtains in the public sector because these private universities collect huge school fees and pay the lecturers peanuts. They should do more. The volume of work in private universities towers head and shoulders above the volume of work in public universities. So, while we may acclaim private universities for providing excellent working conditions and a world-class environment for the lecturers, they should pay them more because private universities make good money. Simultaneously, both the public university lecturers and their private university counterparts are grossly exploited and underpaid by the government and proprietors. Today, if the government, both federal and state, review the salaries of university lecturers, it is certain that private university owners will do the same immediately. This shows that private university owners can pay the lecturers better and show the government the way to go. These kinds of situations have forced many university lecturers to leave the country in droves. Unfortunately, some of them degrade themselves by leaving the country to do menial jobs abroad.

PhD holders in Nigeria, senior lecturers, associate professors and even professors have been sighted on the streets of foreign countries as taxi drivers, waiters, street cleaners, and healthcare givers. It is a shame of a country. However, illiterate politicians who populate the national and state assemblies, other politicians in different capacities and political appointees all earn mind boggling amounts of money either directly or indirectly through kickbacks and other underhand means. That is why many lecturers are also angling for political appointments because the classroom does not adequately put food on the table. Some people will argue that some university lecturers live large and are comfortable. Well, to an extent, that is true. University lecturers who live large and are comfortable are those who have served the government in one capacity or another and have helped themselves from the patrimony. Other categories of those who live large are lucky enough to have proceeded on a Research Fellowship in Europe, the US, Canada or many other first-world countries. Some rich lecturers have also served in one capacity or another as consultants and resource persons. Some of them are also involved in their family businesses. Besides any of these circumstances, the university lecturer is subsumed in a chamber of denial, lack and penury.

A responsible government will immediately revisit the salaries and remuneration of university lecturers. These categories of people deserve a 100% salary increment immediately. It confounds every scintilla of reason that President Bola Tinubu will borrow $800 million as reported in the press and hand over N5 billion each to all the governors in the guise of palliatives. Tinubu is a supposedly accomplished accountant who constantly made the dean’s list over the years as the best student while at Chicago State University, USA-??? Again, there is the very annoying N60 billion naira spent on purchasing cars for lawmakers – a direct study in waste and profligacy. The proposed presidential yacht and its maintenance, the huge amount of money earmarked for the illegal office of the first lady and sundry channels of waste duly show the insensitivity of Nigeria’s headship. Yet, university lecturers labour in vain and perhaps, embrace the sterile, inchoate submission that teachers’ rewards are in heaven. Over the years, the Nigerian government’s budgetary allocation for education, which grossly falls short of the globally approved percentage, clearly shows that in this part of the world, our leaders do not understand the significance and importance of education, therefore they treat university lecturers with kid gloves.

Every university lecturer is involved in this situation and therefore must bestir and lend a voice to this malady. Unfortunately, university lecturers these days are not as radical as those who came before them. What you find as lecturers in Nigerian universities these days are subservient, grovelling people willing to do the bidding of the establishment and government of the day. That is why the government easily exploits lecturers and recruits them as accomplices to rig elections, subverting the will of the people. In those days, university lecturers were radicals. They stood up against all forms of injustice and misgovernance. It doesn’t matter whether the lecturer reads Marx, Hegel, Brecht, or even Fanon. What matters is that the lecturer, through exposure to knowledge, understands the dialectic of social development and that exploitation, whether in the, humanities, social or physical sciences, is anti-progressive and cataclysmic. While we urge the authorities, federal government, state governments, and private university proprietors to revisit the salary of university lecturers, the lecturers, individually and collectively, all have duties and roles to play in the matter. Give it a voice and shout it on the rooftop – the Nigerian university lecturer deserves better.

Promise Adiele PhD
Mountain Top University
[email protected]


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