BY OBIKE UKOH
Rivers, Enugu, Imo and Edo states took the lead in the establishment of state universities.
The Rivers State University of Science and Technology was established in 1980, the same year the old Anambra State established Anambra State University of Science and Technology (now Enugu State University of Technology).
Imo State University, Okigwe (now Abia State University, Uturu) was established by the old Imo State in 1981, the same year old Bendel State established Bendel State University (now Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma).
All the universities were established during the Second Republic. The pioneers in the establishment of state universities were states with high students’ enrolment, seeking admissions into higher institutions.
As a result of quota system, bright and qualified students from these states were denied admission, the raison d’être for the states to establish their own universities to accommodate qualified indigenes.
That was then. Many states it appears, now establish universities for sake of it, not out of necessity. There is now a rat race by states to establish own universities, even some states establishing two.
Not long ago, Adamawa State University, Mubi, complained of low patronage by indigenes.
Prof. Kaletapwa Farauta, the Vice-Chancellor of the Adamawa State University, who spoke recently expressed worry over the low number of indigenes applying for admission into the university.
“Children from our Local Government Areas (LGAs) do not apply to the state university even though they are indigenes of the state.
“It will be good to let our people know that every LGA has a certain number of slots for admission into the state university. This is because they are the major stakeholders.
“But in many occasions after admissions, we found out that so many LGAs did not fill their slots.
“They let go off their slots because they don’t have candidates to fill up the gaps,’ she said.
According to her, the development is a source of concern to the management of the university.
Farauta said that it was imperative for the indigenes to recognise themselves as the university’s major stakeholders, and urged them to ensure that they fill their admission quotas.
She enjoined the state and local education authorities to begin to sensitise their students to always choose their state owned university when filling their Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) forms.
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)’s opposition to proliferation of state universities is predicated on poor funding, among others.
President of ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke said that some universities are established by states, based on political, rather than educational and logistical considerations.
Osodeke said that some state chief executives regard universities as, “constituency projects. ”
To check the arbitrary creation of universities, Osodeke suggested that the NUC should play a more visible role prior to the establishment of universities by state and federal governments.
“I should not be mistaken as saying that the NUC should only be more stringent in its accreditation of courses offered by these government-sponsored universities.
“Certainly, the NUC must have increased direct involvement before the establishment of new universities.
“Undoubtedly, the revival of the educational sector is paramount to the progress of this country.
“If, however, government accords more priority to the creation of more universities than the funding and maintenance of the existing ones, such will be counterproductive and inimical to the progression of our society.’’
Calabar Zone of ASUU, on its part, expressed disappointment at the way and manner some state governments establish state universities without backing same with necessary laws, and urged governors to stop playing politics with universities establishment.
The Zonal Chairman, Dr Aniekan Brown, said the development portend dangers as most governors use that to interfere with the autonomy of state universities.
“The non-demonetisation of the Act gives room for university administrators and governors to trample on the autonomy of the universities by usurping the powers of governing councils and senate.
“Evidence of this could be gleaned from the manipulation of the composition or non-constitution of governing councils.
Brown called on all concerned to immediately set in motion necessary steps for domestication of the Universities Miscellaneous Provision Amendment Act to allow for exercise of autonomy in the state universities in line with the national and global best standards.
He identified another area of concern to ASUU to include funding of state universities, adding that the union has observed that most state government now rely on TETFUND and sometimes divert such money to establish their universities.
“In some instances, state governments divert allocation meant for existing institutions from TETFUND to establish their politically motivated universities.
“The inadequacy or absence of funding for capital projects has overtly manifested in the dearth of well-equipped workshop, libraries, studios, classrooms, hostels, utilities and municipal services.
“ASUU is committed to working for industrial harmony in all universities including those owned by state governments.
“ However, this commitment can only be sustained if the respective visitors and governing councils take urgent steps to address the nagging issues highlighted so far.
“Therefore, we call on all owners of state universities to as a matter of urgency, make adequate budgetary provision for both capital and recurrent expenditure for infrastructure, staff development and payment of staff emoluments,” Brown stressed.
Edo inherited the Bendel State University, built by old Bendel State Government. But in 2016, the then Edo governor, Adams Oshiomhole, built Edo State University, Uzairue, located in his country home.
The government also attempted to convert the state’s College of Education into a University of Education.
But his successor, Gov. Godwin Obaseki, said that the move by the previous administration to convert the old College of Education into a University of Education was not feasible due to budget constraints.
He added that the state was already blessed with two state-owned universities and seven private universities, saying that it would be imprudent to establish another state-owned university.
From Delta State the story was different as the Delta State Government recently inaugurated the governing councils of the three new universities at Government House, Asaba.
The three universities are: University of Delta, Agbor; Dennis Osadebey University, Asaba and the Delta State University of Science and Technology, Ozoro.
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa, who inaugurated the councils described as false, ASUU allegations on the proliferation of universities in the state.
Okowa stressed that the universities were established to increase access to educational facilities for the teeming number of students from the state.
He said: “Let me respectfully disagree with the position of ASUU that there is an unhealthy proliferation of state universities in the country.
“The establishment of universities is on the concurrent list and, as a state, we do so when the need arises.
“In our case, it is to fill the gap created by shortage of space and to increase access to university education for our qualified youths.”
The governor, who relied on statistics from the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) 2018 report, said that 80,131 or 4.85 per cent of the total number of Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) candidates for that year were from the state.
“Also, for the 2019/2020 academic session, 25,896 candidates from the state chose Delta State University (DELSU) as first choice. Out of this number, 22,358 qualified but only 4,854 candidates could be admitted.
“From the foregoing, you can see that even the state-owned DELSU has reached its full carrying capacity, hence, it is incumbent on us as an administration to broaden access to university education for our bright students especially in the fields of medicine, engineering, law, ICT and architecture.”
Okowa did not speak on constraints of funding, the bane of Nigerian universities.
Stakeholders, however insist that though access to university education is desirable, establishment of universities, especially by states should be driven by patriotic consideration not political expediency.
They also say that expanding of infrastructure, may be a better alternative to boost admissions openings. (NANFeatures)