The National Universities Commission (NUC), last Monday, defended the Commission and Federal universities as well as the three Inter-University Centres IUCs 2022 budget estimates proposal for next year’s appropriation year before the National Assembly Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on Tertiary Education and TETFund.

Speaking before the Joint Session of the National Assembly on the 2022 Appropriation Estimate Bill for the NUC and the Nigerian University System (NUS), Deputy Executive Secretary, Administration of the NUC, Mr. Chris Maiyaki   explained that the Commission superintended over 200 Universities consisting of 48 Federal, 54 States and 99 Private. He further mentioned that the entire system had about 2.1 million students population and staff strength of about 170,000 Non-teaching and 100, 000 Academic Staff.   

He enumerated that the problems facing the system included: increased running cost, meagre budgetary allocations, issue of power shortages and shortages of manpower. He appealed for the Universities to be isolated from the Federal Government circular on embargo on new employment because of the peculiarity and distinctive nature of the University in order for them to keep up the pace in attaining comparable standards with their counterparts globally.

He also lamented the incessant interference into NUC’s functions by some Professional Bodies and associations who have continued to issue needless instructions to universities, reminding the Assembly members that NUC was the only constitutionally mandated body responsible for setting of Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards (BMAS) in the system. He, therefore, urged the National Assembly to work towards the regularisation of the Laws of all the professional bodies to ensure that they conform only to their professional practices.

Other challenges in the NUS were the issues of Digital response to COVID-19 lockdown. He recounted that 2020 was an unusual year for every one due to Covid-19 pandemic which ravaged the whole world, noting that Nigerian universities were forced to start embracing the use of technology in knowledge delivery. He explained that the advent of Covid had enabled Nigerian universities to begin to explore the dual mode of teaching with more universities developing and expanding their digital hub to commence extensive use of the online platform.

The Deputy Executive Secretary mentioned that within the period, NUC had been conducting some activities which included major curriculum review, assessment of Universities on their E-Learning requirements, strengthening of quality assurance mechanism as well as fortifying modern methods of Data processing and retrieval.

He added that a high powered Committee on Degree Mills had been established to tackle the menace of illegal Universities and Fake Degrees in conjunction with Police, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Department of State Security (DSS). On the issue of foreign illegal Degrees, the NUC, he stated, was in liaison with the Embassies of the affected Countries in order to verify and validate such certifications and status.

He thanked the National Assembly for their continued support and ended with Educational quote of Lady Theresa May, the immediate past British PM at break of popular BRIXIT that “when everything fells, Great Britain will fall back to its Universities for solutions.”

The committee members of the Joint Session of the National Assembly, led by the Senate Deputy Chairman on Tertiary Education and Tertiary Education Trust Fund TetFUND, Professor Sandy Onor, in their separate contributions, urged the universities to take advantages of the Federal Government Policies on Solar electrifications in order to provide power to their various campuses.

They expressed support for the separation of the Universities from the Public Service Bureaucracies with regards to implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and the GIFMISS, but warned against abuse of processes. They also expressed support for NUC-wide activities on quality assurance while encouraging Universities to think out of the box in order to increase their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).

Earlier, in his speech, a member of the Joint Session of the Budget Appropriation Defence and Chairman, House Committee on Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and Tertiary Services, Hon. Suleiman Goro Fagge, stated that the purpose of the briefing was to allow members to be abreast of the workings, budget performances as well as appropriation requirements in the various institutions.

It was also to be able to verify their claims and make appropriate recommendations for budgeting purposes in the upcoming fiscal year.

He explained that the procedure for the public hearing was to first allow the regulatory body (NUC) to make general presentations on behalf of the NUS. Thereafter, the universities would follow suit with explanations on the specifics, while the Legislatures would interrogate based on their briefings in the course of the deliberations. He welcomed all and wished the meeting a fruitful deliberation.

He reminded the Vice-Chancellors of the need to always comply with the schedules and time line for budget proposal defense. This, he said, was to enable members of the joint committees to digest, peruse and interrogate where necessary and to be able to address the identified challenges ahead of the presentation.

The joint committees commended the executive secretary for his style of leadership towards repositioning the NUS to enviable heights. They also commended the executive secretary for his compliance with the Financial Regulation Policy on Remittance, pledging their continued support for the commission to ensure that it succeeded in its regulatory efforts towards making the NUS globally competitive.

The Joint Committee said that while it was not averse to genuine demand to upscale allocations of universities due to their peculiar nature, it was however, demanding for a justification for how the IGR was generated and how it was spent in order to ascertain the funding gap and determine how to allocate same. 

The NUC Director of Finance and Accounts, Mr. Sam Onazi, in his remarks, highlighted the Commission’s submissions on the compliance and implementation levels of the 2021 Budget disbursed and received on all funds including, recurrent, overheads and capital costs.

At the presentation were Vice-Chancellors of all the Federal Universities and their Bursars as well as the Chief Executives of the IUCs and their finance officers.

The Deputy Executive Secretary and the Director of Finance and Accounts, were accompanied by the Deputy Director of Budget Division, Mrs. Hauwa Amos and Staff of the Budget Division, Mr. Emmanuel Anavi.