The former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attahiru Jega, has criticised the trend where universities engage in bread and sachet water production to generate funds.
Mr. Jega, who is the Pro-Chancellor, Plateau State University, Bokkos, expressed displeasure over the trend at the opening of the three-day 2016 Nigerian Higher Education Summit on Monday in Abuja.
Organised by the Association/Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (AVCNU/CVC) and TrustAfrica, Dakar, Senegal, the summit has “Exploiting Diversity, Differentiation and Quality Assurance in Revitalising the Nigerian Higher Education System” as its theme.
According to Mr. Jega, the crisis of funding in Nigerian universities is acute but the primary responsibility of funding universities is that of government.
He said that “putting universities in such a dire situation where they have to be doing things like producing and selling sachet water is sad; frankly, it is not the business of universities.
“We want young unemployed youths to be involved in such entrepreneurial activities to generate income for themselves and to build businesses.
“For a university to become in dire and desperate need for money as to bake bread and produce sachet water is unwholesome and needs to be discouraged.
“Government needs to provide sufficient funding to universities,” Mr. Jega, former President of Academic Staff Union of Universities, said.
The don said universities were in the business of knowledge production and should strive to produce patents or prototypes which they could engage Nigerian industries to manufacture.
He added that the problem was not that government lacked money but for it to re-arrange its priorities so that it recognised the importance of education and provide commensurate funding to universities.
The former INEC boss said there was also the need for the management of Nigerian universities to have an inclusive and transparent process of managing resources.
According to him, it is unhealthy for universities to be struggling to generate funds to carry out their mandates.
He said that for strikes to be avoided, there should be mutual respect between the Federal Government and the unions.
“It is important for government to bend over backwards and it is important for unions to be realistic in their demands in order to find solutions,” he said.
On his part, Michael Faborode, the Secretary-General, AVCNU/CVC, said a lot had been achieved by Nigerian universities despite the numerous challenges.
He said that out of 22 centres of excellence in Africa, 10 were in Nigeria, noting that this was worth celebrating.
“The fight against Ebola virus spread was led by the Centre for Infectious Diseases in Redeemers’ University, Osun State and they have some of their products here to display.
“Let us bring all these into the fore; it is not all about mourning the Nigerian university system all the time; we need to celebrate the successes,” he added.
In a keynote address, Benedict Oramah, the President, African Export Bank, said there was need for Africa to move away from the colonial-style education it inherited.
Represented by Stephen Keuma, the Director, Human Resources, AFREXIM, Mr. Oramah said the way forward was to refocus on technical education that would equip the continent for manufacturing.