Olabisi Deji-Folutile and Dayo Oketola, in this second part of the report on government houses costlier than Nigerian universities, X-ray the challenges on university campuses amid big continuous budgetary allocation to the education sector

For a standard start-up university in Nigeria, a financial outlay of between N7bn and N12bn, according to Saturday PUNCH investigation will be required. This is expected to be complemented by separate investment of between N1.8bn and N2.7bn for accreditation of courses with science-based courses gulping more money than non-science based courses.

Though the Registrar, Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Mr. Omololu Adegbenro, and the Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, Prof. (Mrs.) Mopelola Omoegun, had put the cost of a new university at N7bn and N9bn respectively, a former NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Peter Okebukola, had said that there was no minimum amount specified in the NUC’s guidelines for setting up a standard university.

According to him, the minimum amount to set up a university can be estimated from the cost of such facilities and resources. He said the amount was N3bn in 2003, but it is about N5.5bn now.

In spite of this, Saturday PUNCH had last week revealed that many state governments in the country would rather spend on building government houses for the first families nine times what it will take to set up a new university.

Saturday PUNCH investigation also revealed that many states continuously allocate funds to the education sector every year without these funds having physical impact on the sector expecially in terms of structures on the campuses. It was also discovered that states that are not building new government houses have embarked on bogus projects while their universities continue to suffer from under-funding.

For instance, despite the state budgetary allocation of over N400bn in the last three years, the Plateau State Government has not been able to fund the only state university established by the administration of former Governor Joshua Dariye over nine years ago. The university has also not produced one graduate since inception in 2005.

[/media-credit] States of Nigerian campuses

Indeed the university has suffered neglect since the advent of the governor of the state, Mr. Jonah Jang, starting with the suspension of academic activities on September 7, 2007, few months after he assumed office and sending over 500 pioneer students to the streets, many of whom have not and may not be able to taste university education again.

While ordering suspension of academic activities, Jang said the university was hurriedly opened and that students were admitted without adequate staff and infrastructure on ground. But following a prolonged legal battle waged by the pioneer vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. John Wade, Jang succumbed to pressure and ordered the re-opening of the institution three years after.

However, his promise to fund the university appropriately was not kept. He only approved the release of withheld salaries and allowances of the institution’s workers. Shortly after the resumption, Wade was replaced with Prof. Nenfort Gomwalk, who was the chairman of the visitation panel on the university.

But Gomwalk’s era did not ursher in any golden era for the university. Saturday PUNCH learnt that the university under Gomwalk got a matching grant of over N500m, in addition to the over N200m left by the Wade administration. Yet at the time the recently suspended Vice Chancellor, Prof. Danjuma Sheni, took over on February 13, 2013, the university still looked like what could be described as a glorified secondary school. Little or no fund was released to the Sheni administration and a request for N1.7bn to enable the university to undertake the accreditation of courses offered by the school was not honoured, leading to boycott of examinations by the students who felt that their certificates would be worthless without accreditation by relevant bodies.

One of the bogus projects in the university is the N200m library project said to be handled by an official of the school. Saturday PUNCH learnt that one part of the project recently crumbled as a result of shoddy job done. The project is also a subject of investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

But as the school remained in state of disrepair, the government is busy undertaking bogus projects. The government said that it had spent over N30bn on the construction of roads in the state in seven years, while the newly built Government House was said to have gulped over N9bn.

Not done, the Jang administration has recently sent a bill for N23.4bn supplementary budget to the state House of Assembly for consideration and approval. In the proposed budget, supply and fixing of curtains, blinds, customised cutlery and other items at the new Government House will be awarded to a foreign firm for N443m.

The government also proposed to spend N4.2bn on road networks, purchase of official vehicles and other projects at the new Government House at Little Rayfield.

As it is now, there is no prospect that the university will produce any graduate in the life of the Jang administration, which has less than six months to end. This is because like in the previous action of suspending academic activities in the university, the embattled VC is fighting a battle of his life in the court. A Federal High Court has recently declared as null and void Sheni’s suspension while the academic workers have suspended academic work because of the uncertainty.

The Cross River University of Technology is faced with huge accommodation challenges as lecturers struggle to get office spaces while students fight to secure venue during examinations due to acute shortage of classrooms.

One of our correspondents, who went round the institution, also observed that the lecturers’ quarters are in deplorable state as most flats are in near state of dilapidation.

Of a budget size of revised N173.74bn for the 2014 fiscal year, N23bn was allocated to the education sector which included primary and secondary schools; the three campuses of the Cross River University of Technology in Calabar, Obubra and Ogoja; the College of Education in Akamkpa and the newly established Institute of Technology and Management, Ugep.

While the newly established ITM in Ugep is a master piece, the same cannot be said of the three campuses of CRUTECH. The institution was formerly known as The Polytechnic, Calabar, but it was converted to a full-fledged university in 2002 by the administration of former Governor Donald Duke.

A lecturer in CRUTECH, who preferred anonymity, blamed the Cross River State Government for not taking concrete steps to improve on the status of the school since it was converted.

He said, “We thought things would change when it was converted to a full-fledged university in 2002, but as you can see, the structures here are still the ones that were there when it was a polytechnic. Unfortunately, these structures are worn out and they no longer befit the status of a university.

“As lecturers, we find it difficult to get office accommodation. Most times you find many lecturers squatting in one office space that is also not worth being called an office.”

He disclosed that the other campuses of the university in Ogoja, Obubra and Okuku are more like glorified secondary schools as no real structure marked them out as higher institutions.

For instance, he said the Ogoja campus, which houses the Faculty of Management Sciences, has not had any structure added to it since it was converted from a technical college.

A student from the main campus of the institution in Calabar, who identified himself as Eyo Nsa, lamented that in addition to acute shortage of classrooms and lecture theatres, there are only two residential halls accommodating less that 10 per cent of the student population.

Nsa also said the situation in the other campuses is worse as students and lecturers find it difficult entering the school environment, especially the Ogoja campus, when it is raining.

“My colleagues in Ogoja recently requested for a boat to be ferrying students and lecturers in and out of the school environment whenever there is downpour,” he said.

When contacted earlier over the development, the Public Relations Officer of CRUTECH, Mr. Gabriel Beshel, said as a young institution there was bound to be the challenge of dearth of infrastructure, adding that a recent NEEDS assessment between the Federal Government and ASUU would address the shortage of office and lecture accommodation.

In his 2015 budget presentation, Governor Liyel Imoke, had said, “We also constituted a visitation panel for the university and the government white paper on the panel’s report will continue to guide government intervention in the university.”

Findings at the Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, revealed that the institution lacked basic laboratory equipment.

The branch Chairman, Academic Staff Union of University, Prof. Olu-Olu Olufayo, confirmed this while comparing the lecture halls with glorified public primary schools.

“There are secondary schools where every classroom has projector and screen with which they teach. What difference exists between our own lecture rooms and public primary schools?” he asked.

Olufayo said the union was not satisfied with the state of infrastructure in the institution.

“We can’t be satisfied. Government should do the needful. If the government could merge three universities into one because of funding, we were expecting better funding. But this is not the case. Instead, the past administration was siphoning the little fund raised by the institution. What we had on ground was borrowed and not paid back.”

Investigation further revealed that the university sourced for N120m to augment the monthly subventions of N260m from the government to pay its workers’salary.

Olufayo said it would have been difficult for the university to cope with infrastructure if not for the grants from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund.

The Student Union Government President of Ekiti State University, Babatope Ibitola, said, “The present state of infrastructure is fair. We still lack lecture theatres because the available ones are not sufficient.

“Our core sciences lack laboratory apparatus except the College of Medicine which is well equipped.”

The Public Relations Officer of EKSU, Mr. Olubunmi Ajibade, did not respond to inquiries as of the time this report was filed.

Meanwhile, the renovation of some hostel blocks at the Asaba campus of the Delta State University at Anwai could give a misleading impression that things are changing for good on the campus.

A walk further into the campus would however reveal that the renovations are only part of the intervention programme of the Federal Government- funded TETFund to provide or update facilities in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.

Most of the other buildings and facilities are begging for attention. No other facility in the campus speaks louder than the farm workshop of the Faculty of Agriculture, whose roof has caved in, leaving long abandoned tractors and other farm equipment to the elements. The Asaba campus hosts the faculties of agriculture and management sciences.

The campus is quiet now because students are on vacation. Many of the facilities are under lock and key and so access to them is restricted.

Students and workers who spoke to Saturday PUNCH decried the poor state of facilities in the school.

One member of staff, who compared the campus with St. Patrick’s College, a secondary school in the heart of Asaba, said, “This one is a glorified primary school if you have seen St. Patrick’s College that the state government rebuilt.”

The pride of the campus is the three-floor library complex built by the state government. But the Librarian, Dr. Daniel Emojorho, said a library should be much more than a structure.

The reading halls in the library complex were virtually empty, as they yearned for reading tables, shelves and seats. The librarian said the premises of the complex needed paving, and there is also need for regular power supply.

“Government needs to do more. We need books, we need furniture, we need the kind of Internet connectivity that will enable us to run an e-library; and the funding that will keep our subscriptions open all year round,” Emojorho said.

The hostels are small closets that take as many students that can squeeze themselves in, and very little allowance for sanitation facilities.

The health centre is a two-bedroom flat, which can hardly take more than a handful of people needing medical attention.

One of the staff who spoke on the condition of anonymity also said the campus also has serious security challenges as its borders are not well protected with perimeter walls.

The Student Union Government had to take it upon itself eight years ago to rehabilitate some of the hostels. The toilets serving some of the lecture halls were built by students on weekend programmes.

The local chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Mr. Martin Atamu, praised the recent efforts of TETFund to rehabilitate and update some of the facilities on the campus.

But he said a lot more still needed to be done. The health centre would do with more personnel, drugs and facilities. The library too needs funding and furnishing.

“We have always made case to government to come and salvage the situation, but the kind of response we get is that: ‘if we have not been able to fund the main campus, is it a branch campus that we will be funding?’”

Curiously, the state government did not make any capital budgetary provision for the Delta State University. Of a total capital budget of N232bn this year, only N3bn was allocated to higher education. And the allocation is for the four new polytechnics the state government is establishing.

Sitting within the Adekunle Ajasin University in Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, is an abandoned structure proposed for housing the Faculty of Science. The project, it was learnt, began since the administration of the late former Governor of Ondo State, Chief Olusegun Agagu. The project, which is just above foundation level, was said to have gulped billions of naira for which none of the contractors is willing to account.

While officials of the school are unwilling to comment on the matter because of its controversial nature, one of our correspondents learnt that the project was abandoned because the state government failed to get the contractors back on site and the project has attracted litigations. It was learnt that the contractors had collected over 70 per cent of the contract sum, while work done is less than 30 per cent. Despite this sore spot in the infrastructural development of the institution, the school has been commended for a comprehensive improvement in its infrastructure development.

Another abandoned project is the 500 capacity male hall of residence being funded by the Niger Delta Development Commission and had been under construction since 2005. The project, estimated to cost N3bn, has left some of the students to reside in Ikare town, several kilometers away from the school campus.

General Secretary of the Students Union Government of AAUA, Olasukanmi Oladimeji, told one of our correspondents that the union had no powers to enforce completion of the hall of residence, as several efforts by the students had yet to yield results.

He said lapses on the part of the NDDC had left the project uncompleted over the years. On the Faculty of Science building, he said he would not comment on that because he did not understand the politics behind it.

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, noted that it was the duty of the vice chancellor to set his priorities on the development of infrastructure within the university.

He said, “Government has completed a number of projects in the institution, but it cannot be doing a hundred projects at the same time.”

However, the Ondo State Government is spending about N3bn on the construction of the Cultural and Civic Centre in the capital, Akure. The centre is also known as the Dome.

In Osun State, a source who craved anonymity said when the administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State was inaugurated, the Osun State University needed N900m for the accreditation of its Faculty of Medicine. The state government did not provide the money and as a result, 100 levels and 200 levels students were given alternative courses such as Chemistry and Physics, among others.

The government promised to send 300 levels and above students to Ukraine to complete their studies. (Meanwhile, Ukraine reportedly has a lower education standard than Nigeria.) But before the students’ admission to Ukrainian universities could even be processed, the students had already spent two years at home.

Shortly after arriving Ukraine, the country was plunged into a civil war that has left the students and their parents frustrated.

The source said the governor reportedly engaged the services of a consultant to process the Ukrainian deal. The deal, according to reliable sources, cost the state government N1bn.

“What could have cost the government N900m eventually cost the state N1bn,” one of the sources said.

The Director, Bureau of Communications and Strategy, Osun State, Mr. Semiu Okanlawo, said, “Whoever gave the N900m is being mischievious. N146m was spent to send the students, and in Nigeria of today, how do you hope to put in place a good facility for adequate medical training?

“If you do quick check around the world, you will see the cost of medical facilities to guess what a good one would require.”

Analysts, however, said that private universities including Bowen and Babcock universities have beautiful and well-equiped medical schools.

The Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye, Ogun State, was established in 1982 by the late Chief Olabisi Onabanjo. It has campuses in Ibogun (engineering), Sagamu (College of medicine), while the mini campus and the permanent site are in Ago Iwoye.

The university has always been confronted with huge challenges, bordering on inadequate infrastructure for the students.

Apart from dearth of lecture theatres, the institution is also grappling with accommodation problems. Most of the students live in Ago Iwoye and its suburbs.

Only some pre-degree and post-graduate students are provided accommodation in the school’s mini campus.

The toilet facilities are not enough, as some students make use of the surrounding bushes if they are pressed.

It is, however, ironic that students who make use of the toilets built by OOU venture pay N20 per use.

“I do not have any money to waste, when I am pressed, I dash into the bush to answer the call of nature,” a female student confided in one of our correspondents.

Some of the students who spoke to Saturday PUNCH said they paid between N30,000 and N150,000 annually on rent depending on whether it is a one-room apartment or a self-contained apartment in the town.

The issue of accommodation came up among other requests by students during their protest in August over the reduction of school fees by the governor.

The Deputy Registrar, Corporate Communication of the institution, Mr. Niyi Oduwole, said the school’s initial vision was to make an institution that would produce “total graduates who would be familiar with their environment’ hence the non-residential system.”

But he noted that since the society is dynamic, the shift is moving to the residential system, where hostels would be provided.

“We are building hostels through the public private partnership where we will call on well-meaning individuals and corporate bodies that will build the hostels and operate for some years and then transfer it back to the institution,” Oduwole said.

Apart from the hostel site taken over by bush, the proposed Senate building and some faculty blocks have yet to go beyond foundation levels.

Apart from the long tennis and volley ball courts, the sports hall area also has two uncompleted projects crying for help.

Only in the faculty of science building that is currently under construction that some workmen were seen on site.

Additional reports by Emmanuel Obe, Jude Onwuamanam, Mudiaga Affe, Kamarudeen Ogundele, Oluwole Josiah, and Samuel Awoyinfa

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