The Senate recently passed bills for the establishment of five polytechnics, two universities, two colleges of education and one institute of technology. They are the Federal Polytechnics in Kabo, Kano State; Daura, Katsina State; Ikom, Cross River State; Lantang, Plateau State and Kwale, Delta State. Others are Federal University of Education, Aguleri, Anambra State; Federal University of Technology, Manchok, Kaduna State; FCE Esubgenu Irrua, Edo State; FCE [Technical] Arochukwu, Abia State; and National Institute of Construction Technology and Management, Uromi, Edo State.
The 10 proposed federal institutions are part of the over 80 that the National Assembly is currently working to establish. Eighty bills for new federal tertiary institutions are at various stages of the legislative processes at the Senate and House of Representatives. The proposed 80 institutions are spread across 36 states and FCT. They include 27 universities, 22 colleges of education, 19 polytechnics, six institutes, one police academy, one federal college of agriculture, one college of forestry, one paramilitary academy, one federal college of veterinary assistants as well as a school of mines and geological studies.
Out of the 27 proposed varsities, 10 are for education, 8 for agriculture, 4 for technology, and one each for science and tech, medicine and medical sciences, aquatic studies and health. While 37 of the 80 bills emanated from the Senate, 36 from the House of Representatives. Since the Senate on January 23, 2018 approved its Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund’s report on modalities of establishing federal institutions which stated that such shall be established only in states where they do not already exist, there has been a surge of private bills particularly in the Senate seeking to establish new tertiary institutions.
If the main reason for the one month old strike action embarked upon on November 4, 2018 by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was prompted by poor funding of tertiary education in Nigeria, it is scandalous for our country’s lawmakers to initiate bills for the establishment of additional tertiary institutions that include 27 universities. Consideration of these bills at a time when academic activities in public universities in Nigeria are grounded illustrates how insensitive legislators are to issues of national interest. Their failure to intervene in the ongoing ASUU strike is symbolic of that insensitivity.
ASUU President Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said of the 80 bills, “We don’t need them. What we need is to improve what we have. What are we doing to fund the universities we have? What are we doing to bring them up to speed with their mandate? Government isn’t addressing that. ASUU is on strike because the existing ones have been neglected. So, it`s sheer politics, and when you over-politicize education, it cannot be used for national development.”
These bills for the proposed 80 institutions as politically motivated. It appears that every MP wants a tertiary institution to be located in his constituency, if not his hometown. MPs would have served this country better if they had passed bills that will ensure proper funding of existing tertiary institutions instead of the self-serving proposals for new ones with huge financial implications. Given the existing circumstances, more institutions mean additional financial burden. Besides, there are no compelling reasons to justify the establishment of as many as 80 institutions for now. It would be recalled that N367 billion out of the N600 billion approved for the education sector in the 2018 budget was allocated to existing 84 public tertiary institutions alone, leaving all other levels of the sector to share less than 50 percent of the total allocation.
It is ridiculous to try to replicate every type of tertiary institution in every state, which is what the MPs are trying to do. The establishment of tertiary institutions is supposed to be need-based and not a matter that is hinged on political sentiments. All these bills should be thrown out until we figure out a way to take good care of existing tertiary institutions.