In this report, HENRY TYOHEMBA dissects efforts of the National Universities Commission (NUC) in addressing the menace of illegal Universities which are being operated in different parts of the country.
Although the reform in university education, which led to the issuance of licence for private individuals and organisations to operate universities among other things, was done essentially to widen access, it has come with some challenges one of which is the menace of illegal universities.
Indeed, the issue of illegal universities is not new in Nigeria. Since 2008 when the Nation Universities Commission (NUC) published the list of 36 illegal universities operating in the country, the menace has been on the increase. Today, the list has grown to over 58 nationwide.
Unarguably, the craze for Varsity certificate and the penchant on the side of some unscrupulous persons to cut corners, are part of the factors fuelling the proliferation of illegal universities.
Proper and well directed education policies without doubt have lifted many countries out of poverty by producing a virile and well diversified workforce that propels massive industrialisation leading to economic growth and development. Countries such as China and others Asian counterparts have amply demonstrated this fact.
It is therefore, imperative to create a narrative about higher education, not in a way that demeans the status of Nigerian graduates but place them on high profile.
In Nigeria, the rise of illegal tertiary institutions according to some experts is as a result of the inability of the government to create more admission spaces in the existing universities through expansion. Of course the desire to acquire the certificate often times pushed some desperate students into patronizing unauthorized institutions.
The Executive Secretary of the Commission, Prof Abubakar Rasheed recently in Abuja said a survey in the last five years alone shows that from 2013 to 2017, about 7.8 million young Nigerians wrote the JAMB exams out of which only about 1.9million got admission into Nigerian universities.
“This means that for every five students who wrote JAMB, only one ended up in the university,” he said.
This obviously proved that there is admission crisis in the universities, which is paving way for the increase in illegal universities in the country.
Nigeria currently has 165 universities serving a population of over 200 million. Among these, 43 are federal universities, 47 state and 75 private universities, these numbers according to experts is not sufficient to serve our population.
The NUC lamented that Nigeria has fewer universities than is required noting “Like Ukraine that has about a third of our population, they have about 500 universities. Just imagine the army of frustrated youths we are building for the country if nothing is done to remedy the situation.”
Indeed, faced with a burning desire to get varsity education in the face of limited admission spaces, candidates fall prey to unpatriotic elements that lure them into joining some mushroom centres called universities, hence the widening the scope of the danger called illegal universities.
LEADERSHIP investigation revealed that some of these illegal universities in operation are not of Nigerian roots. For instance, the Cape Coast University originated from Ghana, which has been attracting some desperate students to spend their resources and time without knowing their fate. There is also the African University Cooperative Development (AUCD), Cotonou, Benin Republic, which has no licence but has continued to get patronage from Nigerians.
It is observed that some of these institutions have no qualified lecturers, lacked conducive learning and teaching environment and often conduct activities in makeshift buildings which are most often than not, contraption hurriedly put in place to fool gullible candidates and parents.
In Nigeria, the law is explicitly clear on whose responsibilities it is to regulate the activities of universities. Indeed, the NUC is saddled with this onerous task consequent upon which the Commission interface on a regular basis, with universities, accredit their courses and provide licences to new ones.
However, inspite of the regulatory powers of the NUC, the menace of illegal Varsities still lingers.
Moved by the rising trend of illegal universities in the country, the NUC, in its weekly news bulletin, obtained Monday, 3rd December 2018 in Abuja, announced that 58 institutions operating illegally as degree awarding institutions have been shut down.
“The National Universities Commission (NUC) wishes to announce to the general public, especially parents and prospective undergraduates that the under listed ‘Degree Mills’ have not been licensed by the Federal Government and have, therefore, been closed down for violating the Education (National Minimum Standards, etc) Act CAP E3 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
“For the avoidance of doubt, anybody who patronises or obtains any certificate from any of these illegal institutions does so at his or her own risk, certificates obtained from these illegal institutions will not be recognised for the purposes of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), employment and further studies.”
The NUC further noted that the relevant law enforcement agencies have been informed for necessary action.
The Commission gave the names of the institutions as: West African Christian University; University of Accountancy and Management Studies; Christians of Charity American University of Science and Technology; University of Industry; University of Applied Sciences and Management; Blacksmith University; Volta University College; Royal University; Atlanta University; United Christian University; United Nigeria University College; Samuel Ahmadu University; UNESCO University; Saint Augustine’s University of Technology.
Others are: The International University, Missouri, USA; Columbus University, UK; Tiu International University, UK; Pebbles University, UK; London External Studies, UK; Pilgrims University; Bolta University College; JBC Seminary Inc. (Wukari Jubilee University); Western University; St. Andrews University College; EC-Council USA; Atlas University; and the Concept College/Universities (London).
The commission also said eight other universities are currently undergoing investigation for illegally running degree programmes. The eight universities are National University of Nigeria, Keffi, Nasarawa State; North Central University, Otukpo, Benue state; Christ Alive Christian Seminary and University; Richmond Open University, Arochukwu, Abia State; West Coast University, Umuahia; Saint Clements University, Iyin Ekiti, Ekiti State; Volta University College, Aba, Abia State; and illegal satellite campuses of Ambrose Alli University.
Commenting on the development, a lecturer of English, Kashere University, Gombe, Hamza Zaraku stressed “this is what you get when the government abandons the rein of its education to the private sector”.
According to him, on the list are universities of Benin Republic and Ghana and a host of foreign universities with links to the UK and USA (Denver, Missouri etc), which portrays a very bad image of the country.
Zaraku wondered how people could you enroll in an institution that does not have operating license and queried what such people hope to achieve. He charged the government to establish more measures to educate admission seekers on the danger of patronizing illegal varsities and how not to fall victims.
But the chairman, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Federal Capital Territory (FCT) axis, Mojeed Kolawole, said students out of ignorance enrol into these institutions. He however enjoined prospective admission seekers to make consultations before accepting admissions from Universities.
“NUC should do everything humanly possible within its jurisdiction to ensure that such schools that operate at such levels are abolished and those behind it made to face the full wrath of the law,” he said.
Of course, shutting down the illegal universities in the country is one way to curb the menace but not a total solution to eradicating the rot in the education sector. Nigeria also needs to invest massively in education and expand the size and quality of the approved institutions in order to accommodate students.
A cross section of parents and students who spoke to LEADERSHIP decried the proliferation of illegal universities describing the menace as a canker worm that must be exterminated so as not to further derail the nation’s wobbling education sector.
“The concern as always is that why are people not being prosecuted so as to serve as deterrent? Beyond shut down, relevant agencies of government must do the needful by putting in place necessary machineries to prosecute those behind this national embarrassment”.
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