As the current Senate winds down in a matter of days, BODE GBADEBO writes on the legislative interventions of the Upper Chamber in the education sector in the last four years.
In the last four years since its inception, the outgoing Senate under the leadership of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki entertained various Bills out of a total of unprecedented 293 passed (as at early May, 2019), either for establishment of new institutions of learning or for the amendment of establishment Acts of some existing institutions for their upgrade in order to meet certain necessary needs.
In its first year in session, the Senate considered Federal University of Petroleum Resources Effurun (Establishment,etc) Bill, 2015 and consequently passed it into law thereby upgrading the then Petroleum Technology Institute (PTI) Effurun, Delta state into a full-fledged university in order to deepen the knowledge of petroleum technology. This is no mean feat given the fact that petroleum resources are the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy for now.
Subsequently, Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko (Establishment, etc) Bill 2016; Federal University of Wukari (Establishment, etc) Bill 2016; National Open University of Nigeria Act (Amendment) Bill 2017; Federal University of Maritime Studies, Oron Bill, 2017; National Institute for Legislative Studies Act (Amendment) Bill 2017; Compulsory, Free Universal Basic Education Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2016; and Universal Basic Education Act 2003 (Amendment) Bill 2016 were passed at various times into law.
Also, in order to deepen the knowledge of hospitality management and tourism potentials in the country, a National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism was established via an Establishment Bill of 2016 passed into law by the outgoing Senate.
Other Bills passed into law include: Federal University of Agriculture, Kabba (Establishment, etc) Bill 2016; Federal Colleges of Education Act (Amendment) Bill 2017; Nigeria Arabic Language Village, Ngala (Establishment, etc.) Bill, 2017; Nigeria French Language Village, Badagry (est., etc.) Bill, 2017.
There is also the Federal University Gashua (Est., etc.) Bill, 2018; Federal University of Health Sciences Otukpo (Est., etc.) Bill, 2018; Federal University of Education, Zaria (Est., etc.) Bill, 2018); Alvan Ikoku Federal University of Education, Owerri (Est., etc.) Bill, 2018; Federal University of Education, Kano (Est., etc.) Bill, 2018; Adeyemi Federal University of Education, Ondo (Est., etc.) Bill, 2018; Federal College of Education Misau (Est., etc.) Bill, 2018; FCT University of Science and Technology (Est, etc) Bill, 2018.
Others were Federal Polytechnic Aba, Abia State (Est., etc) Bill 2018; Federal Polytechnic Silame Sokoto (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal College of Education Gumel bill, 2018 (SB. 417); Federal College of Education Sabon Birni, Sokoto (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal University of Education Aguleri, Anambra State (Est, etc) Bill, 2018.
Others are the Federal Polytechnic Langtang, Plateau State (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal University of Technology Manchok (Est, etc) Bill, 2018; Federal College of Education (Technical) Arochukwu (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal Polytechnic Kwale, Delta State (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal Polytechnic, Ikom, Cross River State (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal College of Education, Usugbenu-Irrua (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal Polytechnic Daura, Katsina State (Est, etc) Bill, 2018; Federal Polytechnic, Kabo, Kano State (Est., etc) Bill, 2018.
Finally, Federal Polytechnic Adikpo, Benue State (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal Polytechnic Kaltungo (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal Polytechnic Kwale Delta State (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal College of Education Omuo-Ekiti, Ekiti State (Est, etc) Bill, 2018; City University of Technology Auchi (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal Polytechnic Mpu, Enugu State (Est., etc) Bill, 2018; Federal Polytechnic Item (Est., etc.) Bill, 2018; Federal University of Education Kontagora (Est, etc) Bill, 2018; and Federal Cooperative Colleges Bill, 2019 were all passed into law within the time under review.
It is worthy of note that all the above legislations (Bills) either to establish new institutions or upgrade existing ones were sponsored by Senators from the affected areas in order to ensure balance in citing federal institutions of learning and to deepen an area of academic specialisation for national development.
There were also instances of direct interventions in industrial disputes in the sector, especially at the tertiary level thereby saving students and their parents the unpleasant experience of staying at home idle for a time longer than necessary and as well saving the nation of potential idle youths from turning to criminals.
The Senate at various times midwifed ceasefire agreements between the federal government and striking parent bodies of Academic Staff Unions in the universities and polytechnics to the relief of the nation.
For instance, in July 2017, the Senate intervened in the 2-year closure of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo state. This was a major factor in the speedy re-opening of the institution.
Also, on May 2, 2017, following the death of three students of Queens College Lagos – one of Nigeria’s foremost Unity Schools, the Senate intervened, and also held a public hearing on the tragedy. The Upper Chamber immediately set up a Stakeholders’ Summit to look into comprehensive education reform in the country and ensured additional funds were included in the 2017 Appropriation Bill to meet infrastructural challenges at the college and other Unity Schools in the country.
Likewise, in order to curb the incessant incidents of sexual harassment in nation’s higher institutions, the Senate through a Motion on May 30, 2018 intervened in the alarming trend of sexual harassment in the higher institutions of learning. The case of Miss Monica Osagie, an Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife student, who had named a lecturer in a ‘sex-for-grades’ allegation audio clip, provided the immediate impetus for this particular intervention by the Red Chamber.
Consequently, the Sexual Harassment in Tertiary Educational Institutions (Prohibition) Bill, 2018 was passed into law by the Senate, proposing a jail-term of up to five years but not less than two years for perpetrators of this act.
It is also to the credit of the outgoing 8th Senate under the leadership of senator Bukola Saraki that the Universal Basic Education Act 2003 (Amendment) Bill 2016 was considered and passed into law. The amendment to the existing UBEC law has reduced the threshold requirement of access to the counterpart funding by states of the federation to 50%.
Before the 2016 amendment by the Senate, many states were unable to access the fund to boost basic education in their domains as a result of their inability to raise the 100% of the N250 million counterpart funding requirement. Now, the new law requires state governments to raise N125 million only in order to access the N250 million counterpart funding from UBEC.
Within the last four years and in staying true to their resolve to promote interactivity between the Senate and Nigerians, the 8th Senate organised a host of round-tables and hearings, most notable were the round-tables on drugs, education, human trafficking and employment.
It is also pertinent to note that out of a total of 293 bills passed by the Senate, 32 were declined assent by President Muhammadu Buhari citing various reasons.One of them include the Federal Polytechnics Act (Amendment) Bill.
Various Bills for both the establishment of new institutions and upgrade of the existing ones to meet the changing national needs are also awaiting assent by the president which if expedited will revolutionise the education sector by making them more functional for national development if appropriate investments are made for their sustainability by the executive arm of government.
In view of the above legislative feats achieved by the 8th Senate in the education sector, it is therefore safe to conclude that, notwithstanding its shortcomings as an institution comprising fallible humans, it will certainly go down in history as the most resourceful and responsive to legislative needs of Nigerians in the recent past.
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