The National Universities Commission (NUC) and the World Bank have embarked on a joined project to facilitate the establishment of Centres of Excellence in Procurement and related areas in the Nigerian University System (NUS).
The project is tagged “Sustainable Procurement Environmental and Social Standards Enhancement (SPESSE).”
Speaking at the Pre-Appraisal meeting with World Bank team on the project, the Executive Secretary, NUC, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, stated that good procurement procedure was globally practiced and had been used by developed countries to achieve industrialisation. He said that the Environment, Procurement Practice and Social Standards were intertwined and “the three are organically related.”
He expressed delight that the World Bank, technocrats and other development partners were joining hands with the commission and the NUS on the laudable project, stressing that the initiative would also enhance the relationship between universities and industries.
According to the executive secretary, Nigeria was the pioneer in Africa to host the six World Bank Centres of Excellence on Procurement Project which would be located in the six geo-political regions of the country, adding that the objective was to build capacity and enhance professionalism in social standard and Procurement Act.
He said that while the World Bank was committed towards promoting accountability and efficiency in the public sector, the private sector which could also be reckless in financial dealings stood to benefit more from the Procurement Act.
He said that in line with global trends, the Procurement Act needed to be reviewed, hoping that participants would leave the meeting better informed on Procurement Act.
The World Bank Representative, Mr. Bayo Awosenusi, revealed that it was the first time the private sector was involved in the project, stating that for good governance structure, SPESSE needed to be tackled.
He assured that World Bank would partner with the private sector to determine the training needs of their staff on impression and understanding of Procurement Act.
He added that the input of the private sector would also be relevant in curriculum development since it was the largest employer of graduates from higher institutions, noting that on global perspective, tertiary education was very productive as it was responsible for imparting knowledge into graduates and also relevant in the labour market.
He called on NUC to select the six pilot federal universities where the centres of excellence would be located for the project, emphasising that the private sector should be carried along as stakeholders and called on the universities and the private sector to work together to fine tune the project for a successful outcome.
Mr. Awosenusi said that the curriculum to be developed must include the necessary skills the private sector would require, adding that the select universities would develop their programmes and come up with proposals to be approved while NUC was to develop the e-learning of which private universities were invited to join.
He called for synergy among industry, academia and the government in order to achieve excellent results.
In his contribution, a Lebanon-based World Bank Consultant Mr. Yusuf Saad, urged NUC to lead the sensitisation campaign and capacity building on the project for Nigerian universities. He requested that the Commission should notify universities to submit proposals for Centres of Excellence in the three key areas of the project which were Environment, Procurement and Social Standards. The universities were to partner with industries in Nigeria, Civil societies and other relevant partners.
He advised that the private sector should enroll their staff for short courses, Diplomas and Master’s degrees and the Master’s programme should be mainly for research as the aim was to have rich research programmes.
He said that the six select Centres would offer courses in Procurement, Environment and Social Standards and emphasised that the courses and programmes would be monitored by NUC, urging the Private sector to take advantage of the courses for their staff.
Mr. Saad further stated that students with first degrees in related courses should be targeted for the Master’s programme and that employability should be the ultimate aim.
Also contributing, a World Bank Consultant from United States America who spoke via video conference said that the three parties that were needed for successful public procurement included public, private and the academia. She said that the public sector should be the driver for economic growth which according to her, was the missing link in Nigeria.
She noted that people relied on private sector for innovation and accountability, expressing delight that Nigeria was moving forward, hoping that procurement would be expanded in Africa as a whole and not only Nigeria and made a case for women to participate in capacity building, as it was something the World Bank was giving high consideration.
Speaking about network and connectivity, the National Coordinator SPESSE, Dr. Joshua Atah, said that Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN). was a connectivity platform that could accommodate all universities in Nigeria since it provided internet facilities. He said that each of the six select universities would be connected to NgREN and the network would support the needed technical requirement for the project.
Former Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Professor Femi Bamiro said that the project was about capacity building and that there was disconnect between Nigerian universities and the private sector, which was the reason the system was graduating unemployable graduates.
He urged the universities to extend their hands to the private sector which was the more reason the Triple-Helix Model was very important to the university system.
He noted that the Procurement Act was meant to regulate public and private sectors to avoid financial recklessness. While welcoming NgREN on the project, he said that the network would enable the project to achieve e-learning as important component.
Present at the meeting were representatives from; Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce Industry (NACCIMA), Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), Stanbic IBTC and other stakeholders.