By Dayo Adesulu
•As Nta vows to sanitise education sector
Four of 20 illegal degree-awarding institutions shut down in May by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) will be re-opened, ICPC chairman, Barr. Ekpo Nta has said.
He said: “The Commission is taking every legitimate step to ensure that only the indicted individuals are prosecuted. Arrangements are also being finalised to ensure the re-opening of four institutions earlier closed down and also to ensure that their names are delisted from NUC’s list of illegal universities.” He, however, declined to mention those among the 20 institutions that will be reopened.
Speaking during an interactive session held with newsmen in Abuja, Nta stated that the exercise which was carried out by nine teams of enforcement officers between 16th and 21st of May, 2013 in Lagos, Abia, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Enugu, Anambra, Ebonyi, Delta, Edo, Kano, Nassarawa, Kwara, Imo, Kogi, Osun, Benue and Plateau states and the FCT, was successful.
He noted that the ICPC embarked on the University System Study and Review (USSR)exercise based on the numerous complaints and petitions received by the Commission as they relate to operations of the university system in Nigeria.
The ICPC boss who explained that part of the duty of ICPC is to prevent corruption said the commission has recorded another achievement with the closure of 20 illegal degree-awarding mills, including those with acclaimed foreign affiliation without proof. These illegal institutions, according to him, are out of the identified 41 illegal degree mills.
Explaining what informed the initiation of USSR, he said it was established to ensure that the tertiary institutions in Nigeria meet the basics of higher education management and conform to international best practices. He added that the essence of these exercises is to help the tertiary education sub-sector in Nigeria witness better structured policies and procedures and consequently, attain improved service delivery, achieve global standards, quality education and value in the system.
Said he, “Instead of rushing into endless investigations ICPC invoked the provisions of Section 6 (b-d) of its enabling Act, to undertake a comprehensive study and review of the Nigerian University system in order to get at the root causes of the infractions and effect sustainable preventive mechanisms.”
His words: “Taking cognisance of the professional and far-reaching requirements of this national reformation agenda, a protocol for cooperation and collaboration in the planning and execution of the project was established between ICPC, the National Universities Commission (NUC) the key regulator, and other stakeholders such as TETFUND.
The over three months exercise, which is intended to help improve the delivery of quality education, especially at the university level, improve the climate for transparency and accountability in the same system and ensure delivery of a world class performance, revealed disturbing findings. Key amongst the vices was the disregard for and abuse of stipulated rules, policies and procedures in terms of admissions, examination management, recruitment, promotions, contracts awards, infrastructure, etc. which, based on the findings, remained the most serious challenge plaguing the system.
Some by-products of our studies and interactions with NUC revealed that there are proliferation of illegal degree awarding entities which take entrepreneurial advantage of access deficiencies into approved universities.
It also disclosed the operation of un-accredited programmes and courses by approved institutions which result in the products not having access to the NYSC and postgraduate programmes.
At this point it must be made clear that ICPC is not seeking to regulate the tertiary education system as an alternate regulator to NUC. Our role is limited strictly to correcting and preventing corruption-prone processes and procedures as provided for in Section 6 (b-d) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000. At the conclusion of the System Review exercise, a new standard and system of operation would be established which the universities must follow and any deviation thereafter will attract prosecution.
Education plays a key role in national development, particularly in a country like ours with high level of illiteracy and imperatives of change. The same is true of all other Nigerians occupying various positions in every sector of the economy. The truth is that whatever quality education we provide for the citizenry will impact positively on our national development.
ICPC is conscious of the attempts by all stakeholders, especially in the academic sector, of returning our universities to centres of excellence and we shall do our own bit by helping the various systems achieve this objective. Our System Reviews were done in partnership with the University community in order to fashion out a sustainable climate of accountability and equity.
As a matter of fact, some Institutions have on their own invited us to assist in reviewing some of the processes having recognised the benefits to be reaped thereof. I want to acknowledge here and with a high sense of appreciation too that the System Study has enjoyed overwhelming support of the National University Commission (NUC) and other stakeholders.