Proliferation of Universities in Nigeria: Confluence University of Science and Technology in Focus

Spread the love

On Thursday 9 July 2020, the Commissioner for Information, Kogi State, Mr Kingsley Olorunfemi Fanwo disclosed the proposal by Alhaji Yahaya Bello led administration to establish a specialized university christened ‘Confluence University of Science and Technology’ (CUST) Osara, Adavi Local Government Area.

The new institution was to focus on science and technology – related courses in a bid to taking the state to the ‘next level’ of industrial development. This was also premised on the proximity of the proposed university site to Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited which is begging for resuscitation after several years of neglect.

Ordinarily, the news of establishment of a university should evoke feelings of celebration by the citizenry as no amount of investment in education would be said to be too much or a waste. The establishment of a capital intensive project, ostensibly, is a positive sign that the second term administration of Alhaji Yahaya Bello may be better and more beneficial to the good people of Kogi State compared to the first term.

To validate the seriousness of the state government on the proposed project, the Bill for the establishment of CUST was passed into law by the State House of Assembly on 19 August and by 21 August, 2020 the Governor gave his assent to the Bill. The Governor during the ceremony enthused that the new university would serve as a specialized one that will provide the much needed manpower for the ever increasing industries within and outside the country.

Even though the bill for the establishment of the university has been passed into law in support of the government’s developmental drive, there is the need for a critical analysis of the desirability or otherwise of the project in the light of current realities in the State.

Available data on the website of National Universities Commission (NUC) as at 29 September 2020 revealed that there are a total of 171 approved universities in the country. These comprised of 44 Federal, 48 State and 79 privately owned Universities respectively. These are in addition to hundreds of other higher institutions of learning littered all over the country.

Currently, there are a total of 3 Universities in the state comprising Federal University, Lokoja, Kogi State University, Anyigba and Salem University, Lokoja. This implies that the State has an even spread of Federal, State and private universities. Similarly, there are two Polytechnics, 2 Colleges of Education and other higher institutions of learning in the State. It is therefore established beyond doubt that the State is in no short supply of tertiary institutions when compared with its population.

In the same vein, science and technology related courses are run in all the tertiary institutions in the State.

Based on the above facts, I am constrained to quickly submit that there are no yarning gaps in terms of quantity of higher institutions that CUST is aimed at filling.

Let me digress a bit from Kogi State for a broader perspective on Nigerian universities vis-à-vis their international rankings in an effort to drive home the point.

Statistics from Times Higher Education, the most reputable World University Rankings painfully revealed that none of Nigerian universities made it among the top 400 Universities in the world. As at 2020, Covenant University, Ota is rated the best in Nigeria and number 5 in Africa. However, it is ranked among the 401 – 500 Universities in the world. University of Ibadan, the second best in Nigeria in the period under review is ranked number 8 in Africa and among the 501 – 600 in the world.  The best Universities in Africa are in South Africa, Egypt and other countries on the continent.

The ranking was done using the global performance indices of teaching (learning environment), research (volume, income and reputation), citations (research influence) international outlook (staff, students and research) and industry income (knowledge transfer).

Anyone that familiar with the level of decadence and neglect of Nigerian education sector would have no reason to doubt why the country’s higher institutions are rated very low. Experts in education sector are of the consensus that we are more or less a certificate oriented society as against knowledgeable populace or skilled centred people.

At the opposite extreme is the fact that one of the challenges militating the education sector in the country is that of inadequate funding. The challenge is evident across all levels of education in the country.  More widely agreed by major stakeholders however, is the view that infrastructural deficit, poor remuneration of staff, lack of research grant, hostile teaching and learning environment are the factors responsible for poor ratings of Nigerian higher institutions on a global scale. Some of the Universities in Nigeria have been described in the past as glorified secondary schools.

Instead of tackling the challenges headlong, governments at all levels in the country continue to play politics with the critical sectors of health and education at the detriment of the poor masses who can ill afford medical tourism abroad or quality education for their children and ward abroad.

Sadly, while governments at all levels have continued to increase spending, few have prioritized education going by yearly budgets to the sector.

With the establishment of CUST, Kogi State has made ‘history’ as the first state in Northern Nigeria to own 2 Universities! Whether or not it was a sound decision, time will certainly tell. By the same token, Kogi has joined the league of states like Bayelsa, Edo, Imo, Ogun and Ondo that boast of having more than one State University.

Granted that the country has a long way to go in terms of access to quality education, I do not think that the realities on ground support establishment of another University by the State Government.

It is a fact that Kogi State University and other state owned higher institutions are in dire need of infrastructural upgrade. I believe the capacities of the existing institutions could be upgraded to enable them run more innovative courses and admit more students thereby achieving the same objectives while cutting costs.

Any plan for proliferation of universities without concomitant improvement in funding infrastructure and enhanced welfare of staff is not only political but provocative. This is because, we cannot continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result.

Remarkably, the current financial fortunes of the State do not support establishment of another university in the State. This comes with huge costs and implications for a State that is heavily dependent on monthly allocation from the Federation account, no thanks to Nigeria’s ‘feeding bottle economy’.

It is unfortunate to observe that most state governments in Nigeria are not faring well such that a bulk of their revenues come from federal allocations. No doubt, the virility and viability of most of the states in Nigeria are particularly threatened as a result of the decline in the prices of oil at the international market.

Given that Kogi State is an agrarian economy devoid of cottage industries and other commercial activities, the internally generated revenues of the state are abysmal compared to States like Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Kano amongst others.

It is also worthy of note that the State is heavily indebted. To buttressed this assertion, statistics from the Debt Management Office of the Federation revealed that the domestic debt profile of Kogi State as at 31 March 2020 stands at N128,917,613,295.97 (One Hundred and Twenty Eight Billion, Nine Hundred and Seventeen Million, Six Hundred and Thirteen Thousand Two Hundred and Ninety Five Thousand Ninety Seven Kobo)! The figure is frightening and does constitute a heavy burden when compared with the parlous condition of the state. Undoubtedly, Kogi State is one of the least developed State when measured against all indices of development.

Expectedly, the bill for the establishment of CUST was initially stepped down by the State House of Assembly on 18 August 20 due to observed ‘grey areas of funding’. I wonder how the said grey areas were cleared to warrant the speedy passage of the bill.

Expectedly, the State government is most likely going to resort to loan to be able to fund the proposed university project given the dwindling monthly allocations from the federation account. As a matter of fact, the State Government had to slashed down the 2020 budget tagged ‘Kogi Citizens Budget 2020’ to the tune of N74 Billion in the wake of COVID 19 Pandemic.

Whether funded from the dwindling revenues accruing to the state or loan, either option is not economically viable. To be realistic, most of the universities in Nigeria are not self-sustaining, thus the heavy dependence on their owners for funding.

Under the circumstances, the financial fortunes of such institution are tied to those of the sponsors. It is opined that a government that has the interest of its citizens and the future of the state at heart would not embark on measures or white elephant projects that could further plunge the State into more debts.

The argument that the world economy is gravitating from being theoretical based to a more advanced and practical innovative style of knowledge acquisition, though valid, remains elusive in Nigerian education system. Therefore, Kogi State, a subset of the country in a financial hole cannot continue to digging as doing so would be an absurdity.

From the foregoing, it is my submission that establishing another university not minding where it is cited or the nobility of the intentions (if any) is tantamount to plunging the State into more financial hole. The resources for establishing a new university in an already impoverished state could be channeled into more viable options.

While I concede available universities are inadequate to accommodate the army of applicants seeking admissions into Nigerian universities every year, it is becoming a widely held view that we all don’t need university certificates to attain successes in our respective endeavour. This is bearing in mind that most of the self-styled institutions in the name of universities could be described as certificate – awarding – centres which continue to churn out graduates who are either unemployable, underemployed or are unable find jobs!

The truth is, if afforded credible alternative options, some applicants have no business going to Universities. They can achieve success and earn descent living under the right leadership, infrastructure and enabling environment. It is in view of this pragmatic thinking that I believe we need more artisans, technicians and other professionals than ‘degree holders’.

Consequently, there is need for more of vocational training centres, factories and other avenues through which some citizens can explore and sustain themselves without having to wait on white collar jobs.

Governor Yahaya Bello and members of his team should rather think of how to harness the abundant untapped natural resources, leverage on the comparative advantage and strategic location of the state towards economic prosperity and development. Specifically, the State government could consider options such as agro – allied industries, rice farm, garment factory and other viable avenues at job and wealth creations.

There is a sharp decline in revenues across the world and rational government and agencies are concerned with expanding their revenue base while adopting drastic cost cutting measures. The exigencies of the moment are more in favour of other viable and realistic options than another university which may be doomed to suffer the fate of inadequate funding and neglect by successive administrations.

– Benjamin A. Achimugu, Esq writes from Abuja and could be reached on

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *