BY DAYO ADESULU & CALEB AYANSINA
…vow to prosecute operators
The National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) have commenced their joint operation to crack down on illegal degree-awarding institutions in the country. Already, 41 illegal universities have been closed nationwide .
Vanguard Learning gathered that there are 67 illegal institutions in Nigeria and the exercise which includes closing and seizure of their properties, making an arrest and prosecution will focus on 41 of them that have visible addresses.
The Chairman of ICPC, Mr Ekpo Nta who disclosed this in a press conference in Abuja on the menace of illegal universities in Nigeria, said they had obtained warrant of a competent court of jurisdiction to effect the arrest and prosecution of operators of illegal institutions in the country.
Represented by the Chairman of ICPC/NUC Task Team, Prof. Olu Aina, Nta revealed that there were about 100 operatives positioned in the various zones of the country to carry out the exercise, noting that the commission relied on section 37 of its enabling Act of 2000, to carry out the exercise.
According to him, “ICPC has commenced a nation-wide operation to seal the premises of identified illegal ‘universities’, seize their properties, make arrests, prosecute and execute such other actions it deems fit.
This action, is the first in the series of implementing the outcome of an ongoing ICPC/NUC University System Study and Review (USSR), for which ICPC sought and obtained a Federal High Court warrant to crack down on illegal degree-awarding mills in Nigeria.
An Inter-agency Task Team comprising ICPC, the National Universities Commission, the Police, the State Security Services and the Nigeria Civil Defence Corps will continue the exercise until all corrupt practices and impunity associated with the physical existence of such illegal activities in sectors like education in Nigeria.
The universities being closed down were established in contravention of the law which states that any application for the establishment of a university must be done through the National Universities Commission.
These unaccredited institutions, apart from extorting huge sums of money from unsuspecting Nigerians, are manned by unqualified personnel and operate in makeshift structures and poor environment that cannot qualify our youths both in learning and character for the award of recognised university degree. In addition, students of these institutions are not admitted through JAMB, neither are they qualified or considered for the NYSC.
As a result of all these deficiencies, the so-called students of these illegal outfits are not equipped for employment in the public or private sectors. In the end, certificates obtained from such institutions become useless, and the period of study becomes a monumental waste of precious time.
Therefore, the activities of these illegal operators have impacted negatively on the mental, psychological and economic well-being of many young Nigerians and their parents. The institutions constitute an embarrassment to the government; and remain a monumental corruption of the education system.
Members of the public are advised to visit the NUC website for the list of these illegal degree-awarding universities, institutions and centres. A lot of them do not have fixed addresses, while some have become itinerant, changing locations continuously to beat the law.”
Meanwhile, in Lagos State, the NUC/ICPC has sealed off two illegal university certificate-awarding institutions. ??The affected schools with visible official address include UNICARIBEAN Business School at Ikorodu and the New Horizon Computer Learning Centre, Ikeja.
The Assistant Director, ICPC, Mr Demola Bakare who led the team to those centres said the sealing off was based on complaints from the general public on the deplorable state of Nigeria’s education system, adding that 12 out of the 67 illegal institutions are based in Lagos.
Speaking with the press during the crack down of one of the illegal institutions, Bakare said; “These schools produce the many unemployable graduates we have in the labour market today, bearing certificates that are not recognised by any organisation, and eventually become a menace to the society.”??
According to him, ??these institutions have been operating without accreditation from the NUC and in the quest to get students have violated the national minimum standards.
According to reports gathered, UniCaribbean which occupies only four rooms in a two-storey building, offered over 14 courses at the degree, master’s and PhD levels and presently has 12 students, seven undergraduates and five master’s students.
Vanguard Learning investigations revealed that a first year student in UniCaribbean pays minimum of N257,000 including accommodation.
In his reaction, the Chairman and Executive Director, UNICARIBBEAN Business School, Mr Olufemi Rasheed said that he bothered not to seek approval from NUC because UNICARIBBEAN is affiliated with the University of the Carribbean, Virgin Island in Britain and had been certified by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). ”As a business school, our affairs are not run by the NUC, hence, certification from the NUC was not required,” he explained.
However, the commission also warned private school owners, companies and individuals to desist from making their premises available for operators of illegal institution to avoid being confiscated. “School proprietors by this notice are advised to be wary of lending or hiring out their premises for these ‘after-school hour and weekend’ institutions to avoid having their premises sealed or seized”, he warned.
Fielding questions from journalists, the representative of NUC, Prof. Shola Akinrinade noted that the commission had never granted temporary approval to any illegal university, as some of them alleged, noting that, there were about 14 stages to get approval, and that, no licence is issued at any stage unless the process is completed.
The don made it clear that there was not going to be any form of compensation to any student of illegal schools, except that of guiding them to secure admission into legitimate institutions.