There are indications that the Federal Government is not perturbed by the ongoing strike embarked on by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, as the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari granted approval for the establishment of 12 new private universities.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who disclosed the information on behalf of the Ministry of Education, noted that the 12 private universities will be mentored by already existing universities.
Beyond this, the new universities will have to mentor on the recruitment of principal officers, academic, and administrative staff, and availability of human and material resources for the commencement of any academic programme among others.
Recall that some stakeholders in the education sector have criticised the government at various times for the proliferation of tertiary institutions and for neglecting the old ones.
Some have also attributed the setting up of these universities to political reasons.
But justifying the latest action, Mohammed said Nigeria lacks adequate universities to accommodate the teeming population of youths desirous of University education.
He noted that the Minister of State-Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba presented the memo on behalf of the National Universities Commission and it was approved by the cabinet.
He listed the benefitting states to include Kano, Niger, Gombe, Sokoto, Delta, Abia, Anambra and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
He said: “Council approved the memo for the issuance of provisional licences for the establishment of 12 proposed private universities.
“The proposed private universities are Pen Resource University Gombe, Gombe State, Al-Ansar University, Maiduguri, Borno State, Margaret Lawrence University, Delta State, Khalifa Ishaku Rabiu University Kano, Kano State, Sports University Idumuje Ugboko, Delta State, Bala Ahmed University Kano, Saisa University of Medical Sciences and Technology, Sokoto State, Nigerian-British University Hasa, Abia State and Peter University Acina-Onene, Anambra State as well as Newgate University, Minna, Niger State, European University of Nigeria in Duboyi, Abuja and the North-West University, Sokoto.”
He gave indications that the relevant government ministries and agencies were interfacing with the striking unions like the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions, (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists, (NAAT) with a view to ending the strike.
Asked to give cogent reasons the government will approve more universities when ASUU is still on strike, he stated: “Can we say because ASUU is on strike, therefore we will not have new universities when we know that today 65 per cent of eligible students in the universities are just roaming the streets? When we know that today, there are about 5,000 Nigerian students in Ukraine alone.
“And I think the total number of Nigerian students outside there is about 165,000. We have a population of about 200 million people and we have just about 200 universities while countries like Indonesia have about 1,200 universities. We cannot fold our hands because ASUU is on strike so will not expand our educational facilities.
“You asked me, was the issue of ASUU discussed in council? We have Ministers and departments who are full time every day dealing with the issues of ASUU and labour unrest. It is not every matter that you discuss in Council, no.
“But I can tell you no government will just sleep and pretend that ASUU is not on strike, but there is engagement going on.”