The Federal Government has faulted claims about the proliferation of Universities in Nigeria, insisting that the current 193 universities are grossly inadequate for a country of over 200 million population.
Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, spoke on Thursday, in Abuja at the presentation of provisional licences to promoters and proprietors of the new 20 private universities recently approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Adamu who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Hon Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, insisted that Nigeria needs more universities and called for more private sector investment in University education in the country.
Jim Ovia, the founder of Zenith Bank, who is the proprietor of James Hope University, Lekki, Lagos, was presented with the provisional certificate, where he announced the donation of 20 per cent of his personal annual dividend to the James Hope University for the purpose of research and scholarships.
Also, Senator Bello Hayatu Gwarzo, received the licence on behalf of Maryam Abacha, for the operation of Maryam Abacha American University of Nigeria, Gwarzo, Kano state, among 18 other private universities that received their licences.
Adamu said: “Government is also well aware that countries that are consistently well-ranked in Human Development indices have, in recognition of the important role of Universities in human capital development, maintaining a respectable number of Universities relative to their population.
“In relation to Nigeria’s population of over 200 million, the current 193 Universities is quite low when compared to those of other economies such as Brazil (209 million) 441 Universities, Mexico (126million) 375 Universities, Russia (1445 million) 741 Universities.
“Despite the steady progress being made in this area of our national development, a random poll of the public opinion reveals some concern that the private universities had become too many. Comparative figures of Universities in other countries attest to the fact that this is not the case.
“It is the collaborative efforts of the private individuals and group that made this possible for these nations and I believe will also enable Nigeria to close her own gap in the university education sub-sector.
“The above scenario indicates that Nigeria needs more Universities. We shall therefore continue to encourage NUC to keep strengthening its quality assurance mechanism so that as the number increases, quality and relevance to national needs are not compromised.
“In 2019, the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) announced that out of over 1.8 million candidates registered for the UTME, only 612,000 were admitted in
Nigerian Universities representing 34 per cent.
“This shows gross inadequacy in terms of access. Private Universities have contributed to the opening up of admission space for the swelling population of candidates
seeking University education.
“The growth of private Universities in Nigeria has created an environment for healthy competition that stimulates improvement in quality service delivery in the system.
“The African Centres of Excellence Impact project has 44 Universities from West and Central Africa, including Seventeen (17) centres in Fourteen (14) Universities from Nigeria. Covenant University and Redeemers University both private Universities are among the 14 Universities participating in Nigeria.
“The provisional approval for these 20 Universities to operate is intended to create room for effective mentoring and qualitative growth within the first three years of operation,” he said.
Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Rasheed Abubakar Rasheed, said the approval of the universities was a landmark achievement to the education sector.
He warned the promoters of the universities that any deviation from approved guidelines would be sanctioned, saying the Commission has developed a code of governance for private universities, which is expected to address the identified governance challenges bedevilling many private universities.