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Despite cash crunch, N/Assembly proposes 235 new tertiary institutions

Various labour unions in the tertiary institutions and the federal government often haggle over salaries and other school running costs, hence frequent strikes by staff…

Bills are at different stages of legislative activities at the National Assembly for the establishment of 235 new federal universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and specialised institutions despite poor funding of the existing federal tertiary institutions, Daily Trust reports.

Checks by Daily Trust show that the federal government currently has 119 universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and monotechnics.

Various labour unions in the tertiary institutions and the federal government often haggle over salaries and other school running costs, hence frequent strikes by staff of the institutions.

In 2020, a strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over a payroll system and condition of the universities lasted nine months.

Not long after ASUU ended its strike, another union, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of non-teaching staff unions of universities, which comprises Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), declared a nationwide industrial action over salaries.

Despite the funding anomalies, there are over 200 bills seeking to establish tertiary institutions in different states of the federation before the National Assembly.

The analysis of such bills under the 9th National Assembly shows that out of the 235 bills for the establishment of the institutions, 111 are being considered in the senate and 124 in the House of Representatives.

Bills in senate

Out of the 111 bills in the senate, 40 are for the establishment of universities; eight for polytechnics; while 35 and 28 are for colleges of education and specialised institutes respectively.

A further breakdown of the 40 proposed universities indicate that all but one are specialised institutions. Of the specialised universities, technology tops the list with 10, closely followed by agriculture with eight. Education has six, medical and health sciences have four and maritime two.

There are also bills seeking the establishment of one university each for sports, environment, history and archaeology, entrepreneurship, food technology, steel, creative arts, film and broadcasting, as well as aerospace and aeronautics.

The senate is also considering bills to establish 21 colleges of education; five colleges of agriculture and four colleges of forestry. Health science/midwifery has three bills and one each for crop science, maritime studies and naval architecture.

For the proposed institutes, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tops the list with seven; followed by fisheries and aquaculture, and mines and geological studies, which have two each.

Other specialised institutes being proposed are those of business, administration, stockbrokers, facility management, mediation, security, border studies, building and road research, metallurgy, cancer research, development, directors, power engineers, environment, bitumen and local government and public administration; one each.

State-by-state distribution of the tertiary institutions shows that four federal universities are proposed to be sited in Anambra and three each for Kogi, Niger and Ondo.

States to get two federal universities are Adamawa, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Kano, Ogun, Oyo and Plateau.

One federal university each is proposed for Akwa Ibom, Benue, Delta, Ekiti, Imo, Katsina, Kwara, Lagos, Rivers, Taraba and FCT.

For federal colleges, Osun, Kwara, Kaduna, Borno and Adamawa top the list with three each. States to get two are Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, Ondo, Kebbi and Gombe.

Taraba, Sokoto, Rivers, Nasarawa, Jigawa, Ekiti, Bayelsa and Bauchi are to get one federal college each.

Two federal polytechnics are proposed for Sokoto, while one each for Abia, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Enugu and Kano.

There is no new university, polytechnic and college proposed for Yobe and Zamfara. Both states have one federal university each.

Status of bills

Out of the 111 bills, only 12 have been passed. Majority of them, 70, have only been read the first time, while 29 have been referred to committees and the senate is awaiting reports.

For the university establishment bills, 19 have passed first reading, 14 referred to committees and seven passed.

Only two of the polytechnic establishment bills have been passed, six passed first reading while none has been referred to any committee.

For college bills, 23 have passed first reading and nine are before committees and three passed. None of the bills seeking to establish federal institutes has been passed. 22 have been read the first time and six referred to committees.

124 bills in House of Reps

In the Green Chamber, records obtained by Daily Trust on Sunday indicate that there are 65 bills for the establishment of federal colleges of education and other colleges of various specialisations.

The other colleges include nursing and midwifery, fishery, agriculture, food technology, land resources, forestry management, among others.

Out of these, three bills have passed; 47 have passed first reading, while 15 are awaiting committee reports.

Out of the 16 polytechnic establishment bills before the house, only one has been passed. Nine passed first reading, while six are awaiting committee reports.

There are bills for specialised institutions which comprise of a post graduate college of medical sciences, fishery institutes, coal mining research, institute of oil and gas, among others.

Ten of the bills have passed first reading; five are awaiting committee reports, while the bill for the establishment of institute of agriculturalists has been passed.

Further checks indicate that there 27 bills in the house for the establishment of federal universities of science and technology, agriculture, education, medicine, environment and other conventional universities.

Bills for the establishment of universities of agriculture have the highest number, followed by education.

Out of the bills for the establishment of universities of agriculture, 10 have passed first reading, while five are awaiting committee reports.

Why we need more tertiary institutions — Lawmakers

Some lawmakers who sponsored the bills have defended the need to have more institutions, saying the existing ones cannot not accommodate the growing number of people seeking tertiary education.

While admitting that the existing schools need facelift, they argued that this should not stop the country from having more because there were still gaps to be filled in terms of access to tertiary institutions in the areas where the institutions would be sited.

Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti), who sponsored the bill to establish Federal University of Medicine and Medical Sciences, Iyin, Ekiti, said: “Whether we establish any more university or we are holding on to the existing ones, really, it’s not what will make the difference.

“What will make the difference is the political will on the part of the leadership of government at all levels to devote attention and resources to the funding of education.

“And when we talk about that, it also goes beyond the university. Do we deserve to have more primary and secondary schools? My answer will be yes, because we have various communities in this country where students trek for over a kilometre to be able to attend primary or secondary school.

“In Nigeria of 2021, this should not be our experience. So we don’t have enough schools. Can we afford to have more schools? Again, it’s a question of what are our priorities. And if we are going to concentrate on the core values, knowing that our future is directly linked to the future of our youths and those who are yet to be born and the quality of education that they are able to get, as well as access to education, I think we just have to find the money and make it a priority when it comes to allocating resources that are available in the country.”

Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger), who sponsored the bill seeking to establish National University of Health and Medical Sciences in Suleja, said the establishment of the institution had become imperative to create more access to higher health and medical studies in view of the large number of qualified candidates who were annually stranded in their failed attempt in gaining admission into higher institutions in the country.

He said the establishment of the university would encourage the advancement of learning, as well as develop and offer academic and professional programmes leading to the award of diplomas, first degrees, post graduate research and higher degrees with emphasis on planning, adaptive, technical, maintenance, developmental and productive skills in the field of medicine, biomedical engineering, science and allied professional disciplines relating to health resources.

Senator Yakubu Oseni (APC, Kogi), sponsor of the bill to establish Steel University, Ajaokuta, queried that, “In this 21st Century, can education and its institutions be in excess, especially in our society that is battling with hydra-headed security issues?”

He said a considerable per cent of Nigeria’s challenges could be tackled through purposeful and strategic education of the citizens in sensitive sectors.

He said, “I made mention of strategic education owing to the intractable intellectual gaps that this bill is seeking to bridge in our economy.

“In summary, the bill seeking the establishment of Steel University, Ajaokuta, is simply meant to fill manpower gaps in the steel industry in our quest to break away from decades of monolithic and crude oil-centred economy.”

While justifying the need for more medical schools, the Deputy Senate Leader, Ajayi Boroffice, said the weakness of Nigeria’s health sector resulted in its inability to contribute to global research effort to develop COVID-19 vaccine.

He said necessary steps must be taken to remedy the situation, noting that, “I’m sure when we have teaching hospitals of very high quality, where research is at cutting-edge, we would be able to make our contribution to the development of medical services globally.”

Rep Sa’idu Musa Abdul, who sponsored the bill for the establishment of Medical University in Bida, Niger State, said, “Once the university comes on stream, it will provide more opportunities and fair chance for Nigerians seeking to pursue careers in the medical sciences, and most importantly address medical workforce shortfall in the country.”

However, speaking at a recent public hearing on the establishment of the medical university in Bida, the Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof Ishaq Oloyede, said universities and other high institutions should not be established just for the sake of siting them in certain areas.

He said their establishment should be done in active collaboration with the NUC, Federal Ministry of Education and other relevant bodies and stakeholders.

No to politicised institutions – Dons

A Professor of Education Leadership Development at the University of Abuja, Salihu Ingawa said it is a “fraud” that is being pushed by the politicians not the people.

“When a politician has nothing to present, he will say they want a college of education in their constituency, another will say they want university in their constituency. Who has done the survey?” he asked.

Prof Ingawa, disturbed at the rate Nigeria is bringing up new institutions, lamented that many graduates have remained unemployed and unable to employ themselves.

“All these institutions, there is no marketing survey to see whether these students will be marketable, to see if they get any job can they even sustain themselves after school, the education system we have is certificate, that is why we do not have education system but examination system, once you pass examination you get certificate you go round looking for job, which the politicians have taken away

“That is a big problem, many people are complaining about that even the generation universities that we have, they need NEEDS assessment, and the previous one done should be executed

“There is no lecture hall that is friendly in any tertiary institution in Nigeria especially in federal universities, no instrument, how can we have a healthy education system, we have no education system, it has collapsed, once there is no education, there is no future and the politicians do not want educated citizens because then, they will know their right.”

The don advised that rather, government should enhance the institutions they have, provide the infrastructures so that they cay can admit more students and employ more lecturers, adding that University of Abuja can admit 200,000 students going by its landmass if developed and equipped, “it is really a terrible mess we are in.”

For the Dean, Faculty of Environment Science, Nasarawa State University Keffi, Professor Nasiru Idris, approving the establishment of 235 institutions  is a good step in the right direction going by  country’s population, especially the younger generation.

The don however said universities should not be established based on political reasons but strictly for the purpose of demand and academic excellence.

He said every year, over 2 million applications are received by JAMB from prospective applicants but less than 500,000 of the candidates are admitted into Nigerian universities, last year’s admitted students were put at 444,947. “So, what happened to about 1.5 million applicants? Definitely, some of them might be  nuisances to society in one way or the other.”

According to the don, looking at the establishment of the universities from the viability and sustainability as well as the financial capacity of the government, in  some developing countries especially Malaysia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, “Their public universities can compete with the Universities in the first world in terms of facilities and quality of their output.”

“Why is this so? Tertiary education in those countries is not so cheap when compared to Nigeria and private sectors are heavily contributing towards Research and Development and thus, less burden on the government,” he added.

He said what the government needs to do is to give all the public universities in Nigeria full autonomy and stop playing politics with the education sector, saying, if the private universities in Nigeria are doing well, what stops the public institutions from doing so?

“Tuition fees in Nigerian Public universities ranges from about N100, 000 to N250, 000 per annum while in some developing countries, tuition fees are as high as N1million per annum.”

He noted that different degree programs have different tuition fees in those countries. “So this should be applied in our universities also. Do you know that the current universities in Nigeria can be privately driven?  Government can start a pilot scheme with one in each of the geo political zones.”

By Abdullateef Salau, Balarabe Alkassim & Chidimma C. Okeke

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