NUC Executive Secretary
As part of its efforts towards the revitalisation of the Nigerian University System (NUS), the National Universities Commission (NUC), on Tuesday 13 December, 2022, organised a one-day sensitisation workshop for Vice-Chancellors and Directors of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) of selected universities on the proposed French Development Agency (AFD) Support for the ICT Component of the Blueprint Project.
Welcoming the participants to the workshop, held at the NUC new Boardroom, the Executive Secretary, Prof.  Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, recalled that a few years ago, the Commission developed a Blueprint for the Rapid Revitalisation of University Education in Nigeria.
He noted that the document identified 12 major challenges in the NUS which needed urgent attention for the rejuvenation of the system.
He enumerated them to include: inadequate funding, which, according to him, had always been a challenge from the beginning of universities when the Government could not fund more than 30% of the needs of the universities.
Prof. Rasheed listed other challenges as deficits in teacher quality and quantity, poor quality of graduates, governance issues, inadequate facilities for teaching, learning and research, academic corruption and other vices, as well as poor ICT infrastructure.
He added that inadequate access, deficiencies in research and postgraduate training, overlapping functions of the NUC and professional bodies, inadequacies in fostering skills development and entrepreneurship and gender issues based on the need for more female representation in student and staff enrolment and in the governance structure in the NUS also posed  greater challenges.
The Executive Secretary stated that the workshop was designed to chart a new course for the development of information and communication technology in the Nigerian University System (NUS).
He noted that in a bid to raise funds to address the issues identified in the Blueprint, the Nigerian government held consultations with various international development partners, one of which was the French Development Agency (AFD).
He added that following consultations, the Agency’s Board agreed to support the component of the Blueprint which sought to promote the establishment of ICT-driven universities.
The NUC Scribe further explained that not too long ago, the countries with the largest Gross Domestic Project (GDP) were those with huge reserves of oil and gas and other natural resources, noting that today the world live in a knowledge-based economy, where only countries that had adopted and deployed ICT in their day-to-day operations had witnessed a dramatic improvement in their development efforts.
He observed that for those countries, ICT had proven to be a strong tool for sustainable development, improving governance, increasing productivity, ensuring administrative effectiveness, and cost-saving.
Prof. Rasheed recalled that few years back, the world witnessed the global havoc wrecked by the Covid-19 pandemic on literally every sector of the economy, Nigeria inclusive as businesses were shut down.
He said unfortunately no Nigerian university was adequately prepared to handle online teaching as there was no proper training of faculty and student assessment.
According to him, for the education sector, the pandemic only made Nigerian Universities more painfully aware of the deficiencies in ICT and the need for them not only to adopt technology but to be at the fore of the drive for ICT development in the nation. 
The Executive Secretary said the world rapidly moved from conventional brick-and-mortar universities to embrace concepts such as open and distance/ transnational education.
The worst case scenario he pointed out was now a blended system of learning, noting that there was no doubt that the sector needed to rethink its way of doing things and begin to lean more towards adopting or deepening ICT in teaching and learning.
He explained that the project sought to develop ICT in selected Nigerian federal universities at the first phase, stressing that it would be implemented in two major components.
The first, he said, would focus on the development of ICT in participating universities to improve the quality of teaching and learning, while the second component would emphasise the elaboration of a national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) transformation strategy for the universities.
The Executive Secretary added that the Project would also address areas such as the development of elaborate ICT plans by the universities, which would detail their ICT needs and identify manpower to manage the infrastructure.
He said it would also ensure the proper deployment of staff with ICT competencies and organise periodic capacity-building programmes for the management and teaching staff of the universities on the deployment of ICT tools for teaching, learning, and research.
The AFD, he said, had approved an initial credit of USD40million ($40,000,000.00) to kick-start the implementation of this Project and to ensure equal representation, with about six to eight universities to be chosen across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
He informed the participants that a call for proposals would be made and that just like the Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) for Development Impact Project and the Sustainable Procurement, Environmental, and Social Standards Enhancement (SPESSE Project), submissions from the universities would be subjected to a rigorous selection process after which the best proposals would be selected.
Prof. Rasheed emphasised that universities would not be selected based on age or reputation but on the strength of their proposals, while proposals would be assessed at both NUC and AFD levels in the similar way SPESSE was handled, by choosing the best from each geopolitical zone.
He therefore encouraged all universities to ensure that only staff who were ICT-competent and knowledgeable and who had vast experience in proposal-writing were selected in the constitution of the proposal-writing team.
In his presentation, the Project Coordinator, Dr. Joshua Atah, said the launch of the project by the Executive Secretary would chart a new course in the ICT journey in the NUS.
He stated that one of the goals of the Commission was to ensure proficiency in the deployment of ICT in the universities as well as to serve as a channel for external aids to the universities which were apt with the intervention of the AFD.
The Project Coordinator applauded the Executive Secretary for leading the team that went to negotiate for the intervention in favour of the tertiary education in Nigeria by the international agencies, noting that the monies allocated to the NUS was housed by the Federal Ministry of Finance from where the disbursement would be done in tranches based on judicial utilisation by the benefitting institutions.
He said that NUC would organise several trainings and workshops for the Vice- Chancellors and Directors of ICT to broaden their horizon on how to fine tune their proposals within 60 days which was the deadline for the submission of proposals.
Dr. Atah added that NUC would provide overall guidance for the project and strategic direction for its proper implementation.
He said that the Executive Secretary would serve as the Chairman of the Committee, with the representative of the Federal Ministry of Education as well as other critical stakeholders in the higher education sub-sector.
The Coordinator stated that the selected universities would be expected to set up their Planning and Implementation Committee to see through the Project, urging them to select the most competent among the staff, which would do justice to the Project.
In his remarks, the AFD Representative, Mr.  A. Clinton, applauded the NUC for piloting the Project, saying that the Agency had enjoyed excellent working relationship with the Commission for several years including the ACE Project which was still on-going.
He disclosed that the AFD currently have six projects in Nigeria tailored to the higher education sector’s need and commended Prof. Rasheed for the long standing harmonious working relationship.
In his speech, the Chairman, Eligibility Committee, Prof. Olufemi Bamiro advised all the participating institutions to digest the Project Blueprint in order to get acquainted with the set criteria.
He said that the Project was for ICT-driven universities which also extended to both academic and non-academic staff to ensure the efficient use of ICT in the system.
Prof. Bamiro said that ICT had a way of changing power dynamic with a lot of commitment, dedication, among others.  
At the meeting were: the Acting Director, Research, Innovations and Information Technology (DRIIT), Mal Lawal Muhammad Faruk; some Vice-Chancellors as well as Directors of DICTs of the benefitting universities.