The House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education and Services last Wednesday held public hearing on nine proposed tertiary institutions..
In his opening remarks, the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Aminu Suleiman Goro said the public hearing was also to consider amendments to Acts of six federal universities.
Hon. Goro listed the proposed tertiary institutions as Federal Polytechnic, Dukku (Gombe); Federal Polytechnic, Shendam (Plateau); Federal Polytechnic, Abriba (Abia); Federal University, Birnin-Kebbi (Kebbi).
Others include Federal University of Agriculture, Jalingo (Taraba); Federal College of Education, Akwette (Abia); Federal University of Technology, Kaduna (Kaduna); Federal College of Education, Monguno (Borno); and National Institute for Education Planning and Administration (Nigeria).
The universities whose Acts are billed for amendment include- Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto; University of Lagos, Akoka; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; University of Nigeria, Nsukka; University of Maiduguri; Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi; and National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
The House Chair said “We deemed it expedient to subject these bills to public scrutiny and elicit inputs from the general public. You will agree with me that easy access to quality tertiary education is not only desirable but also inevitable.”
He said, however, that “the tertiary institutions in the country cannot adequately accommodate the quests for admissions by Nigerians, which calls for more to address the protracted problem.”
In his submission, President of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, expressed concern over the state of tertiary education in the country, especially the gross under funding, which calls for drastic action.
He said that for the above reasons, ASUU was opposed to the establishment of any new tertiary institution by the federal government.
However, House Committee members who sponsored the bills insisted that federal character demanded that all states should be entitled to a federal polytechnic and shutting some states out of it would not be equitable.
“Federal character entitles every state to a polytechnic. Let us establish them first, after which the issue of funding would be addressed,” one of them said.
This position was also shared by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TET-Fund) and the National Board for Technical Education (NABTE) and National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) whose officials lauded the move for new tertiary institutions.
The National Universities Commission’s position was presented by the Director, Corporate Communications, Ibrahim Usman Yakasai on behalf of the Executive secretary, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, who stated that the Commissioned was fully in support and even canvass for the establishment of tertiary institutions to increase access to tertiary education in Nigeria.
In respect of the amendments for the six universities, he noted that the proposed amendments run through all the statutes of the federal universities and that “NUC recommends that rather than the piecemeal amendments, all proposed amendments should be run through the universities (Miscellaneous Provision) Act which has general applications to all these federal universities on all the issues raised for the amendments”.
The six Universities were seeking for amendments to their laws to specify Bachelor’s Degree as the Minimum Qualification of the Chairman of the Governing Council, Ownership of Intellectual Property and provide for Pre-action Notice to the University Authority; and for Other Related Matters.
On the bill for the amendment of the law of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) to provide for the inclusion of Information and Communication Technology as another means of providing Tuition towards the Advancement of Learning throughout Nigeria by the National Open University and for Other Related Matters, “NUC fully supports and calls for accelerated passage,” he stated.
The Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVC) also supported this position, as posited by its chairman, Professor Joseph Ahanaku and read by professor Abubakar Njodi.
Earlier while declaring the public hearing open, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, represented by the Deputy minority leader, Chukwuma Onyema stated that the public hearing on the bills underscored the importance of education the National Assembly accords to education.
He described education as a key tool for creating the nation’s sustainable development, adding that Nigeria cannot lag behind.
The speaker said that the National Assembly had enhanced the development of education by enacting quality laws establishing federal universities, intervening in the funding problem of our tertiary institutions through appropriation of more funds to enable them operate optimally.
He also said that passage of those bills would not only expand the scope of the institutions but also make sure that the persons saddled with the responsibility of governing tertiary institutions obtained certain minimum educational qualification. He urged the committee to expedite action on the bills so as to meet up with the 2019 Budget.
On the outcome of the public hearing, Chairman Suleiman promised that the Committee would be thorough, fair and objective.
He said that “A number of factors will guide our action. But we promise to be thorough, fair and objective; above all, necessity and the co-operation of host States, would be the deciding factors.”