By Dayo Adesulu
As part of the National Universities Commission (NUC) effort to protect the interest of gullible students seeking admission into universities, its Executive Secretary, Professor Julius Okojie has stated thatÂ illegal institutions and satellite campuses which have assumed a new dimension in the country must be properly addressed in the interest of stakeholders in education sector. He reaffirmed his commitment to deal legally with unlicenced universities recently during Novena University, Ogume convocation ceremony.
Speaking through Mr. Festus Adeogunbono, Okojie said, there are thirty-four (34) in the list of universities operating illegally in Nigeria published in March 15, 2010 edition of the Monday Bulletin of the Commission, adding that the situation led NUC, to constitute a Committee on Closure of Illegal Universities and satellite Campuses.
He reiterated that the National Universities Commission has resolved to embark on a vigorous sensitization programme to create public awareness through the weekly publication of all illegal universities and satellite campuses in the NUC Monday Bulletin and regular publication in some national dailies on the activities of these illegal universities and satellite campuses. He urged State Governors and Police authorities to educate their peopleÂ on the danger of operating illegal institutions in their domain.
Okojie noted that through the cooperation and assistance of the EFCC and the Nigeria Police authorities, seven illegal universities were shut down and no longer operating.Â They are-
Middle Belt University (North Central University), Utukpo, Atlantic Intercontinental University, Okija, Anambra State, Leadway University, Ughelli, Delta State; Metro University, Dutse/Bwari, Abuja; Southend University Ngwuro Egeru (Afam) Ndoki, Rivers State; Open International University, Akure, Ondo State and Olympic University, Nsukka, Enugu State.
He however said that the sensitization programme embarked upon by NUC has yielded some positive results as some of the operators and promoters of these illegal institutions have been arrested and are being interrogated by the officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and that of Nigeria Police. â€œA joint task force of NUC and EFCC officials has also been inaugurated to address the problem,â€ he said.
In furtherance, Okojie stated that stakeholders meeting of the Nigerian University System organized by theÂ NUC inÂ 2009 accepted the recommendation of Okebukola and Ibidapo-Obe report on institutional accreditation, stressing that the meeting agreed that it was time for the NUC to begin accreditation of degree-awarding institutions in Nigeria.
The Commission has swung into action and commenced work on the development of the instrument required to enable it embark on institutional accreditation of universities in Nigeria, noting that the policy will definitely enhance the quality of university education in Nigeria and will be in line with international practices in assessment of quality of higher education. â€œWhen the policy becomes operational, it will enhance both the continental and world ranking of Nigerian universities,â€ Okojie said.
The NUC Secretary hinted that, it is doubtful if the Federal Government will establish a new university in the nearest future pointing out that presently, almost all the thirty-six State Governments have established at least one university bringing the total number of public universities at 63 and 41 private universities.
Okojie hinted that the Federal Government is making serious efforts to salvage the public institutions especially the tertiary institutions from its present status by revivingÂ teaching and research in a number of selected universities through intervention by the ETF, saying that the sum of 5.5 billion Naira is to be spent on the oldest university from each of the geopolitical zones of the country.
To the NUC Scribe, it is a systematic way of bringing all the Federal universities to world class level, while the Federal Government is also supporting measures to improve the ranking of Nigerian universities at both continental and global levels. The results of the intervention by the Federal Government through the ETF will definitely lead to increased carrying capacity for such universities at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Notwithstanding, he called for a strong commitment on the part of the private sector to intervene by setting up more universities of world class standard so as to achieve some percentage of the target of 500,000 enrolment in the universities in addition to the 200,000 targeted for open and distance learning. Moreover, Okojie admitted that, it is important to employ qualified teachers for effective delivery of lectures in a good learning environment equipped with appropriate state-of-the-art facilities. He added that the number of students for any course must match existing facilities. â€œThe monitoring policy for newly licensed universities is set out to assist these new institutions in building the required internal quality assurance system,â€Â he said.
Commending the effort of Novena University since inception, he said that Novena University presented twelve (12) programmes for accreditation at the May 2008 mop-up exercise scoring full accreditation in four (4) of the programmes with the remaining eight (8) earning interim status.
â€Private universities like Novena University must be seen to be adhering to all the conditions given at the issuance of their licenses. It must be ownership without direct involvement in the administration of the university.. This is because Private universities must be seen not to tamper with academic freedom in the day_to_day running of the university,â€he said
Okojie reiterated that access to quality education is an important goal for any nation worth its salt in these days when knowledge power is the driving force for economic and social development.
The establishment of more world class private universities is also an antidote to the proliferation of illegal universities which had become a menace to quality university education in Nigeria. â€œ We must all join hands with the NUC in ensuring that while we improve access to university education for the teeming population, the quality of such education must not be compromised,â€ he said.