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Lawmakers alarmed at proliferation of universities amid ASUU

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Nigeria’s House of Representatives is miffed by the continued establishment of universities by the Federal Government when it (government) appears unable to fund the existing ones as evident in the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Members of the House made this submission during the concurrence of the bill for an act to establish a Federal University of Transportation in Daura, Katsina State, at plenary on Thursday.

The bill which was earlier passed by the Senate seeks to give legal backing to the proposed university with the mandate to address the need for a transport-focused education, training and research-based institution to address the dearth of human capacity in the transportation sector with a focus on the nation’s rejuvenated railway system.

Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, the majority leader of the House, presented the bill for a second reading on the floor of the House, but Ifeanyi Momah, from Anambra, questioned the necessity of the university when the existing Nigeria Institute of Transport Technology

(NITT) Zaria, Kaduna State, is capable of performing the same function.

Momah argued that instead of establishing a fresh university of transportation, it was better to amend the NITT Act and upgrade it to a federal university, saying the proliferation of the ivory towers was not helping the country.

He said: “when there is an institute of transport technology, which deals with the science of the transportation itself, why are we now looking at establishing a Federal University of Transportation? We can amend the enabling law – the Act – and upgrade the NITT to a federal university.

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“Why I’m saying this is that the constant proliferation of universities in our country is not helping us. That is the truth. We have so many universities here and there. We have so many university bills and at the end, when they are approved, we will be talking about funding – no funding. And we know the current situation we are facing right now in the academic sector. So, I plead with the sponsor of the bill to reconsider it in the interest of public policy.”

Femi Gbajabiamila, the speaker of the House in his intervention, asked members whether the green chamber can put a hold on the establishment of universities, but members answered in the negative.

Gbajabiamila told his colleagues that during his meeting with ASUU on Tuesday, the striking lecturers pleaded with the lawmakers to check the establishment of additional universities, as part of the solutions to the challenges bedeviling the sector.

“It is a concurrence bill from the Senate, so we will put the question first and then we will now answer how we will move forward. Honourable colleagues, do we continue to bring bills for university establishment at this point in time when we know there is even no revenue?

But the nays were more than the ayes, which made Gbajabiamila say: “This is a more serious matter. We have been meeting with ASUU. We had a five-hour meeting with ASUU a couple of days ago.

“What they said, which was uniformly agreed, was that this establishment of universities, even in the NUC bill that is before us for amendment, they pleaded that we should curb, “curb” is what they used.”

In his contribution, Ndudi Elumelu, the minority leader of the House said the parliament cannot abruptly stop members from sponsoring bills to establish educational institutions as most constituents use that as the benchmark for assessing their representatives.

Elumelu said: “In my opinion, I think it is not wise to shut down every voice or every member on this floor as it relates to sponsoring a bill for the establishment of either college of education or polytechnic or university in their various communities.

“Mr Speaker, I said this because when you go home and you are talking to your people, most often, the first thing they ask you is ‘why are you not bringing any school to your constituency?’ And when you say it is not possible and they see your colleagues sponsoring the same bills for the establishment of universities, it becomes a negative for you as an individual who is representing them.

“So, whether it is signed or not, it is not the issue; the issue is that a member is able to show that he has the interest of his constituents at heart. Outside that, addressing the issue you have raised, perhaps when it comes to the issue of funding, I think the committee should do some work and find out how we can come to agreeable terms on how to fund the schools that would be further established in Nigeria. I think that is the way to go.”