The cost of building many government houses in Nigeria is far higher than what it takes to build many universities in the country with some state houses gulping as high as nine times more than the cost of building a university, Saturday PUNCH investigation has shown.
It was also discovered that in many states where billions of naira were expended on building bogus and expansive state houses for the first families, universities owned by such state governments were in terrible conditions.
In addition to this, many programmes run by these state universities are yet to be accredited by the National Universities Commission, the regulatory agency for universities in Nigeria, due to lack of fund.
To accredit a programme for study in any university in Nigeria, there are minimum acceptable standards required by the NUC. They include availability of adequate facilities to run the programme as well as minimum number of staff both academic and non-academic.
A former Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof Peter Okebukola, said, ‘’The requirements are essentially facilities and staff. Both need money to put in place. However, in the case of staff, a long-term investment is needed to procure quality staff.’’
Depending on the number of programmes to be accredited, accreditation of courses, according to him, could gulp between N1.8bn and N2.7bn with science-based courses gulping more money than non-science based courses.
But Saturday PUNCH investigations showed that some states that could hardly afford to spend as low as N800m on accreditation in their universities, spent billions of naira to build state houses for their families.
In Bayelsa State for instance, a Government House Complex named “The Glory Land Castle” gulped at least N24bn. The edifice, located in the heart of Yenagoa, the state capital, was initiated by former governors Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Timipre Sylva.
The same state has begun the construction of a new Governor’s Office project at Government House, Yenagoa, at a cost of N3.8bn according to the state Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo.
Justifying the cost of the project, he described the impressive edifice as one of the best in Nigeria and West Africa with a captivating aesthetic ambience.
Paradoxically, there is high level of infrastructural decay at the Niger Delta University being run by the state government.
The Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Niger Delta University branch, Dr. Tuboukiye Sese, told one of our correspondents on the telephone during the week that lack of infrastructure had been the major problem of the university.
Sese said, “Honestly, the state of infrastructure at NDU is nothing to write home about. Successive administrations in the state have been neglecting the school.
“When the incumbent governor, Seriake Dickson, paid a visit to the university recently, he saw things for himself. The structures in the permanent site of the institution are those provided by TETFUND (Tertiary Education Trust Fund). The governor then awarded contract worth N1.2bn. Unfortunately, up till now, nothing has been done.
“In the university, internal roads are non-existent, office space is a sad development and student hostels are in poor state.”
He lamented that due to absence of staff quarters, academic and non-academic workers alike operate from Yenagoa, the state capital, a journey of close to one hour.
Though he could not be specific on the number of programmes in the university that are yet to be accredited, he recalled that many of the university’s programmes were not accredited during the last accreditation exercise.
He said, “We lost quite a number of our programmes during accreditation. This development is giving us cause for concern. As it is, many lecturers risk losing their jobs because of the development as students will not want to go to a school where most of their programmes are not accredited.
“The state government should help us in this direction. The university’s management is running round the clock and using its initiative to ensure the de-accredited courses are accredited.”
In the same vein, the Kaduna State Government has just completed a N9.6bn new Kaduna Government House/ Office Complex that was recently inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan. The state Governor, Alhaji mukhtar Ramalan Yero, said the project was executed in six phases.
But shortly after the inauguration, medical students of Kaduna State University stormed the street to protest the non-accreditation of the institution’s medical courses by the NUC. They also protested poor conditions at the Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital, which is supposed to be the university’s teaching hospital.
The protesting students lamented that the Faculty of Medicine started since 2008/09 academic session and none of the students had gone beyond 300 levels. According to them, the hospital’s ICU/dialysis centre has been abandoned; the pathology laboratory is not supplied with equipment; and all other works in various departments are moving at a very slow pace.
The spokesperson for the Medical Students Association, Hassan Abu, who called on the state government to address the problem urgently, said a set of medical students had been transferred to Uganda to complete their studies due to inadequate facility at the Barau Dikko Specialist Hospital.
The story is similar in Akwa Ibom State where the government constructed a State House with a sum of N16bn and a Banquet Hall with 500 seating capacity with the sum of N18bn. In other words, N34bn was spent on constructing a state house and banquet hall, according to the state Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Enobong Idem.
Saturday PUNCH investigations showed that the state government had not been funding the Akwa Ibom State University adequately.
It was learnt that the state government only released N1.5bn for construction projects, expansion and renovation of academic blocks, including the acquisition of laboratory equipment in the university.
The government was said to have set up a task force headed by the Commissioner for Education, Prof Atim Antai, to execute the projects and guarantee their timely completion.
The NUC between July and August accredited only 11 courses in the institution’s Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences. Some of the courses are Physics, Mathematics, Statistics, Chemistry, Computer Science, and Geology. Others are Marine Biology, Biotechnology, Microbiology, Botany and Zoology.
Apart from the Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences, the university also runs courses in other faculties like Business Administration, Arts, and Education, among others. But none of these other courses which are over 40 have been accredited.
While Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, in 2012 said his administration would spend N6bn on the building of a new Government House, Ekiti State former governor Kayode Fayemi borrowed N3.3bn to build a state house.
Both governors justified the huge investment in building the state houses on the need to build befitting edifices for their states. Uduaghan had said, “The current Government House in Asaba has always been a temporary arrangement, not a permanent feature. But we cannot continue to live in a temporary accommodation. We have to do the right thing and do it well.’’
But it was learnt that as of the time Fayemi spent N3.3bn on the state house, the state university was in terrible condition.
According to the Student Union Government President of Ekiti State University, Babatope Ibitola, the institution lacks basic laboratory equipment. He said, “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.” He appealed to the state government to hasten the accreditation process of the college of medicine.
Investigations by Saturday PUNCH also showed that while it was convenient for states to budget billions of naira to build state houses, governments did not make such bogus budgetary allocations towards establishment of new universities.
For instance, the Federal Government provided just N2bn, about a quarter of what should ordinarily be needed, for the take-off of each of the nine universities it established three years ago.
President Goodluck Jonathan approved N18bn for the nine universities. The sum was among others to assist them in developing their campuses as well as providing administrative blocks, libraries and Information Communications Technology centres. The nine federal universities are located in Jigawa, Katsina, Gombe, Nasarawa, Kogi, Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Ekiti and Taraba states.
Providing insight into what it would cost to establish a new university, the Registrar, Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Mr. Omololu Adegbenro, said a minimum of N7bn is required to establish a standard university in Nigeria.
According to him, one of the NUC’s demands from promoters of private universities is that they must have 102 hectares of land. Adegbenro said, “This alone is expensive to acquire. Even if you are starting with two faculties, you will need to construct the faculty buildings. You need at least two halls of residence for the students; one for female and one for male.
“You will also need to build a cafeteria, a library, administrative complex, banking halls, road networks and provide Information Technology facilities, among others. These are huge projects and that is why you need a minimum of N7bn to set up a good private university in Nigeria.
“You will also need to start with at least four professors; the principal officers and other personnel are also there. The NUC also requires that you must have at least N500m in your account before takeoff.”
A former NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Peter Okebukola, said though there was no minimum amount specified in the commission’s guidelines for setting up a standard university, there are minimum facilities and human resources that should be available before a university is licensed.
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.
He, however, said Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State; Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Kwara State; American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State; and Afe Babalola University had a cost range of between N7bn and N12bn at take-off.
The former NUC executive secretary, however, said it would cost more to accredit science-based courses than non-science courses.
He said, “If we have an admixture of the two which is the typical scenario in most universities, the cost can range between N1.8bn and N2.7bn if the programmes are to be elevated from the denied status.
“In 2004, Kogi State University spent about N900m to get about 20 of its programmes re-accredited. In 2014, a number of universities seeking re-accreditation for about 20 courses are asking their proprietors for about N1.5bn.”
Okebukola, however, blamed the governors’ preference for luxury at the expense of investment in education on members of their state Houses of Assembly who approved money for giant Government Houses.
He said, “Education is a potent tool for fast-paced development and investment in the sector should never be made secondary to luxury. No governor will start using tax payers’ money to build a giant Government House without approval by members of his state House of Assembly who are the representatives of the people.
“The greater concern is not the governor who spends the people’s money on a structure in his state, but those who steal the money to build giant structures in Dubai, the United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa, among others.’’
The Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, Prof. (Mrs.) Mopelola Omoegun, said, “According to the NUC, it will cost a minimum of N9bn to build a standard university in the country and I think it is not fair for governors to spend almost same amount to build their lodges.
“The state of education in this country will continue to fall if there is no adequate funding. We have been talking about this all the time. What is the root of the falling standard of education? It is inadequate funding. There is need for adequate funding. If our governors will play their politics right, they have to fund this sector well even if they have to sacrifice their comfort for the benefit of all. They should make it viable.
“Some of the state institutions are the direct victims of this menace. That is why it may be difficult to even establish new higher institutions in such states. To all the governors, provide facilities and funds, and we will get the results we want,” she added.
Also, an Abuja-based lawyer and social commentator, Mr. Jide Oluyemi, said it was still unacceptable for a state government to spend billions of naira on building one Government House when the Federal Government gave each of the nine newly established universities N2bn as take-off grant.
Additional reports by Kamarudeen Ogundele, Simon Utebor and Etim Ekpimah