Public Expenditures on Education in Nigeria: Issues, Estimates and Some Implications


For a variety of reasons, detailed knowledge of expenditures on education across all tiers of government and all levels of education in Nigeria has decreased over the past four decades.As a result, the information base is very weak for debates on fundamental issues such as the adequacy of funding for education in general and at each level, the sources of funding,the eff i c i e n c y and equity of the use of public funds, costs of system expansion and the appropriate mix of public and private (household) expenditures. The main problem lies in gathering and aggre g a t i n ginformation on state government expenditures. For this report, case studies of the sources and distributions of educational expenditure were carried out by national consultants in nine states. Information was also collected on expenditures made by households. The case studies provide a picture of overall education expenditure within each of the sampled states. Utilizing the findings plus other data for an additional four states, and information on Federal and local government spending, some estimates of total government (local, state and Fed- eral) education expenditures and their distribution a c ross levels are presented for 1998. The results are c o m p a red to the situation existing 40 years ago in Nigeria and to similar estimates recently made for other African countries. The estimates of public expenditures on educa- tion are made on partial and often inadequate data but the results are disturbing. Overall, in 1998, expenditures were equivalent to 2.3 percent of GDP and to 14.2 percent of the total expenditures of the three tiers of government. A similar but more com- prehensive exercise undertaken for 1962 indicated a share of GDPof 3.6 percent and of total government expenditure of 18.2 percent. Further, on average for 19 sub-Saharan African countries in the mid 1990s, education expenditures were equal to 4.7 percent of GDP and 19.6 percent of government expenditure. In addition to the relatively low levels of total edu- cation expenditure in Nigeria, the estimated distri- bution across the levels of education varied significantly from that in the past and from that in other African countries. The share for primary edu- cation (36 percent) was much lower than that across the continent (48 percent) while the share for terti- ary education was much higher (35 percent com- pared to 21 percent). Since 1998, teachers salaries (and government expenditures overall) have increased substantially. This will have increased the share of education in GDP, but it is not yet clear how the share of government expenditure has changed, or the distribution. The expenditure estimates are made on partial and often inadequate data. However, if they truly reflect the sources, levels and distributions of edu- cation financing in Nigeria, the issues they give rise to justify serious consideration beyond the educa- tional sector. The question is posed of whether the decreases in the measures of educational expendi- ture are a result of too small a share of total public AFRICA REGION HUMAN DEVELOPMENT WORKING PAPER SERIES resources being allocated to those levels of govern- ment which have most responsibility for the sector; and whether the shift in expenditure shares from primary to tertiary is connected to the situation in which the finances of that tier of government most responsible for primary education (local) have been the most constrained while the finances of that level of government with most responsibility for tertiary education (Federal), have been the least con- strained. The analysis in this report cannot answer this important question, but it is sufficient to raise it. Finally, a brief discussion of possible new proce- dures for funding basic education in the context of universalization is presented in Annex 1. The report, and the case studies which underpin it, provides only partial and, at times, approximate information and should be regarded as only the first stage in accumulating data on educational expendi- tures in Nigeria. For the future, there is a need to design a process to regular