It was a record-breaking ceremony in the annals of the establishment of new private universities as the National Universities Commission (NUC) last week Friday, issued provisional licenses to 37 new proprietors of the universities that scaled through the 14-step rigorous processes. The issuance followed an approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its extra-ordinary meeting held on 15th May, 2023.

The approval brought the number of private universities in Nigeria to 147, as at date, following the migration and change of status of Admiralty University, Ibusa, Delta State, owned by the Nigerian Naval Command from a private entity to a Public University, only last week, while the total number in Nigeria has risen to 259.  

In his remarks at the elaborate presentation ceremony, held at the Idris Abdulkadir Auditorium, NUC, the Acting Minister and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education (FME), Mr. Andrew David Adejoh, said “there is a sense of urgency in meeting the development needs of the growing youth population with Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa, with a population forecast of four hundred million by the year 2050.”

He added that government was aware that education held the key to meeting these needs and this would continue to drive government in expanding the frontiers of partnership with the private sector, especially in the area of university education.

He also commended the continued partnership between Government and the Private sector which had to the expansion of access to quality education in the Nigerian University System (NUS).

The Permanent Secretary stated that granting licenses in one fell-swoop might seem large to some people, explaining that when considered against the enormity of the challenges it would be seen to still be inadequate. He cited the case of India, although with an estimated population of 1.4billion and with  5, 288 universities and in comparison with countries with similarly large and growing populations such as Indonesia, which had a population of 274 million and 2,595 universities comprising 122 public and 3,040 private); Nigeria Universities are still small. This is same for South Korea with a population of 51million, that has 203 universities (20 public and 183 private), among others.

Mr Adejoh particularly lauded the efforts of the immediate past Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, for his consistent push for the creation of more quality universities, the NUC for undertaking the required assessments in good enough time and the proprietors for meeting the requirements for licensing.

He noted that the Gross Total Enrollment Rate (TER) for the universities stand at 12%, which is far from the global Gross global TER of 38%, thereby creating a significant access gap, stressing that as long as the access gap existed, government would continue to welcome proposals for the establishment of private universities by credible groups and organisations.

He told the new proprietors that NUC would on its part, as mandated by law and through the rigorous and evolving 14-step process and the instrumentality of appropriate monitoring mechanisms, continue to ensure that quality is assured and that minimum standards are not compromised throughout the establishment process. He said the approval and provisional licensing of the 37 universities to operate was intended to create room for effective mentoring and qualitative growth within the first three years of operation, while they were to be affiliated to older generation universities for academic and administrative mentoring to be moderated by the NUC. 

The Acting Minister  pointed out that  the mentoring universities were to oversee the new institutions on recruitment of principal officers, academic, and administrative staff; availability of human and material resources for commencement of academic programmes; implementation of carrying capacity; staff development; moderation of students’ examination and results; general quality assurance activities; moderation of admission; and external examination moderation.

He advised the proprietors to ensure that upon commencement of academic activities to sustain funding towards improving the infrastructure, equipment for teaching and learning, as well as human resources up to a level that would earn them accreditation by NUC and other approvals and recognition from relevant professional bodies.

He called on them to find innovative ways of implementing the Core Curriculum Minimum Academic Standards (CCMAS) which reflects 21st Century realities in the existing and new disciplines, leveraging on Information Technology, stating that the one of the unique features of the curriculum was the provision of entrepreneurial skills with knowledge and attitudes that make the graduate labour -market ready with exemplary leadership character in the public and private sectors of the economy.

In his welcome remarks, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, recalled that the new licensed universities had earlier passed through the crucible of the 14-step process which earned them the approval of FEC.

He congratulated the proprietors forgoing through the painstaking exercise which had qualified them as members of the NUS and enjoined them to join hands with the NUC to ensure a crisis-free university system that would work, relentlessly, to fulfil the aspirations and dreams of all stakeholders.

While describing the promoters as champions and agents of change in NUC’s quest for more private participation in university education, he emphasized that anyone venturing into a university for profit is missing his way and expressed delight that most of them understood the nobility of the cause they had entered into.

He charged the proprietors to acquaint themselves with the Code of Governance for Private Universities in Nigeria for the purpose of quality assurance, which goal is to enhance the successful running and sustainability of the nation’s private universities, and also to sanction any breach of the Code.

He pointed out that though the Code gave some latitude to proprietors on the issue of appointment of Principal Officers, it would be reviewed, with feedback from the universities and other stakeholders. He further said the document outlined the approved governance structure of a private university and urged them against any breach of the Code or compromise of its provisions for profit motives.

Goodwill messages were delivered by the Chief of Staff to immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari, Professor Ibrahim Gambari; the immediate past Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Pantami; Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede and two former Executive Secretaries of NUC, Professors Munzali Jibrin and Julius A. Okojie, OON.

In a vote of thanks, the Host Director in charge of Establishment of Private Universities (DEPU), Mrs Constance Goddy-Nnadi, thanked the Federal Ministry of Education (FME), the Executive Secretary, NUC and members of the Management for their painstaking efforts in approving the Universities, which she reiterated was the largest single ever in the history of university licensing.

The new private universities are: Rayhaan University, Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State; with proprietor as, Khadimiyya for Justice and Development Initiative, (under the mentoring of Federal University  Birnin-Kebbi, Kebbi State); Muhammad Kamalud-Deen University, Ilorin, Kwara State with proprietor as, Ansarul-Islam Society of Nigeria, (under the mentoring of University of Ilorin, Kwara State); Sam Maris University, Supare, Ondo State,  with proprietor as, Sam Maris Foundation,(under the mentoring of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife,  Osun State); Aletheia University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, with proprietor as, Aletheia Education Resource Limited (under the mentoring of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State); Lux Mundi University, Umuahia, Abia State,  with proprietor as, Lux Mundi Consultancy Limited, (under the mentoring of Godfrey Okoye University, Ugwuomu, Nike, Enugu State); Maduka University, Ekwegbe, Enugu Statem  with proprietor as, Samuel Maduka Onyishi Foundation, (under the supervision of University of Nigeria, Nsukka Benin) and Peaceland University, Enugu, Enugu State, with proprietor as, Peaceland College of Education, Enugu Limited (under the mentoring of Godfrey Okoye University, Ugwuomu, Nike, Enugu State).

Others include: Amadeus University Amizi, Abia State with proprietor as, Grooming People for Better Livelihood Centre, (under the supervision of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra State); Vision University, Ikogbo, Ogun State,with proprietor as, Truth Visionary Mission Inc. (under the supervision of Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos State);  Azman University, Kano, Kano State,  with proprietor as, Azman Group of Companies Limited, (under the supervision of Bayero University Kano); Huda University, Gusau, Zamfara State, with proprietor as, Huda Educational Foundation,  (under the supervision of Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, Sokoto State); Franco British International University, Kaduna, Kaduna State (under the supervision of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State) and Canadian University of Nigeria, Abuja, FCT, with proprietor as, Adamu Abubakar Gwarzo Foundation (under the supervision of Nile University, Abuja, FCT ) .

Also in the list are: Miva Open University, Abuja, FCT, with proprietor as, Miva Education Services Limited, (under the mentoring of National Open University of Nigeria,  Abuja, FCT);  Gerar University of Medical Science, Imope Ijebu, Ogun State, with proprietor as, POGIL Group, (under the mentoring of University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos State); British Canadian University, Obudu, Cross River State, with proprietor as, Kingshill Education Limited, (under the mentoring of University of Calabar, Cross River State); Hensard University, Toru-Orua, Sagbama, Bayelsa State, with proprietor as, Henry Seriake Dickson Foundation (under the mentoring of Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State);Phoenix University, Agwada, Nasarrawa State, with proprietor as, Al’Hakam Holdings Ltd,  (under the mentoring of Nasarrawa State  University, Keffi, Nasarrawa State); Wigwe University, Isiokpo, Rivers State, with proprietor as,  HOW Foundation, (under the supervision of University of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State); Hillside University of Science and Technology, Okemesi, Ekiti State, with proprietor as, Fits  Education Foundation, (under the mentoring of Afe Babalola University,  Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State); University on the Niger, Umunya, Anambra State, with proprietor as, Diocese on the Niger Anglican Communion), Onitsha (under the supervision of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra State);  ELRAZI Medical University, Yargaya, Kano State, with proprietor as, Al-Noor Education Limited, (under the supervision of  Bayero University, Kano, Kano State);  Venite University, Iloro-Ekiti, Ekiti State,  with proprietor as, Venite Educational Foundation, (under the supervision of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State); and Shanahan University, Onitsha, Anambra State, with proprietor as,  Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha,  (under the supervision of  Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State).

It also has: The Duke Medical University Calabar, Cross River State, with proprietor as, Donald and Onari Duke Foundation, (under the supervision of University of Calabar, Cross River State); Mercy Medical  University, Iwo, Osun State, with proprietor as, Mercy Medical College Limited (under the supervision of  University of Ibadan,  Oyo State ); Cosmopolitan University, Abuja, FCT, with proprietor as, Cosmopolitan Educational Consult Limited , (under the mentoring of Nile University,  Abuja, FCT);  Iconic Open University, Sokoto, Sokoto State, with proprietor as, Multi-Iconic Enterprise Limited , (under the mentoring of  National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja, FCT); West Midlands Open University, Ibadan, Oyo State, with proprietor as, West-Midlands , Open University, Ibadan, Oyo State (under the mentoring of National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja, FCT); Amaj University, Kwali, Abuja, with proprietor as, Attahiru Bafarawa Foundation (under the mentoring of Nile University, Abuja, FCT); Prime University, Kuje, FCT, with proprietor as, Capital Science Academy Limited,  (under the mentoring of Nile  University, Abuja, FCT); El-Amin University, Minna, Niger State, with proprietor as,  El-Amin Nigeria Limited, (under the supervision of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State); College of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Kaduna, Kaduna State, with proprietor as, Petroleum Technology Development Fund, (under the mentoring of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State); Jewel University, Gombe, Gombe State, with proprietor as, Diocese on the Niger Anglican Communion), Onitsha (under the supervision of Gombe State  University, Gombe State); and Nigerian University of Technology and Management, Apapa, Lagos State, with proprietor as, Stem Institute of Learning,  (under the supervision of  University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos State);  Al-Muhibbah Open University, Abuja, FCT, with proprietor as, Al-Muhibbah Institute of ICT and Entrepreneurship Limited, (under the supervision of National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja, FCT ) and Al-Bayan University, Ankpa, Kogi State, with proprietor as,  Al-Bayan Foundation,  (under the supervision of  University of Ilorin, Kwara State)

Among the newly licensed universities are four which got approval as the first set to run the Open University Model and would be under the mentoring of the National Open University of Nigeria.

At the presentation ceremony included the Chairman of All Progressive Congress (APC), who is also promoting one of the universities, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu; former Governors of: Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa; Cross River State, Dr. Donald Duke and his wife; Bayelsa State and present Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson; Executive Secretary, National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Professor Paulinus Okwele; as well as Senior Directors from the Federal Ministry of Education, including Director, Tertiary Education, Mrs. Rekiya Illiyasu.

Also at the ceremony were the NUC Deputy Executive Secretary (DES), Administration, Mr. Chris J. Maiyaki and some Directors; other staff of the commission as well as friends and well-wishers of the promoters.