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Editorial

Ensuring quality over quantity education in the face of varsities proliferation 

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The federal government is currently confronted with the daunting task of evaluating applications for the establishment of 270 new private universities.

As Nigeria strives to meet the growing demand for higher education, it is crucial to acknowledge the significance of this endeavor in shaping the future of the country.

While the proliferation of universities may seem like a positive step towards expanding access to education, it is imperative to prioritise the maintenance of high educational standards to ensure that these institutions are equipped to meet the needs of society.

In this regard, it is essential to consider the far-reaching implications of this expansion and take proactive measures to safeguard the quality of education provided by these institutions.

When universities excel in this regard, a nation develops rapidly. While the number of universities in a country may not be the sole determinant of progress, the capacity of these institutions to serve as a solid foundation for rapid national development through innovation, discovery, and other achievements is crucial.

The increasing requests for the approval of additional universities indicate a growing demand for higher education in Nigeria, despite the limited available spaces.

However, concerns regarding the proliferation of universities stem from the belief that these institutions, particularly private ones, are falling short of government and public expectations.

Inadequate infrastructure, poor value for exorbitant fees, and a lack of significant contributions to national development are among the key issues raised. To address these concerns, the National Universities Commission (NUC) must establish stringent criteria for the establishment of universities in the country.

These criteria should ensure that standards are not compromised and that services are delivered effectively. Moreover, the NUC must actively monitor these institutions to prevent any compromise of quality.

It is crucial that we prioritise the quality of education in our country, especially as we witness a surge in the demand for higher learning. By setting high standards and closely monitoring the performance of universities, we can ensure that these institutions contribute meaningfully to national development and provide students with the education they deserve.In conclusion, the approval of new private universities should not be taken lightly.

We must prioritise the preservation of educational standards and the delivery of quality services. By doing so, we can guarantee that these institutions serve as catalysts for progress and contribute significantly to the development of our nation.

Despite concerns over the proliferation of mushroom universities and inadequate budgetary allocations to the education sector, a staggering 270 private universities have applied for licences to commence academic activities in Nigeria.

This would bring the total number of universities in the country to 528, with 418 being privately owned. However, the increase in the number of universities over the years has not translated into an improvement in education standards.

Universities are meant to be drivers of socio-economic, cultural and political development, and global innovation. They are supposed to impart academic skills, professional expertise and knowledge to generations of students through teaching, researching, and disseminating existing and new knowledge.

However, Nigerian universities have remained weak in the practical application of knowledge and are unable to respond to the demands of the complex contemporary job market, leading to millions of jobless graduates.

While an increase in competition among the institutions should lead to higher standards, the opposite seems to be happening as the institutions increase in number.

The focus of Nigerian universities needs to shift from just training scholars and leaders to practical application of knowledge to meet the demands of the job market.

Otherwise, the addition of more universities will only exacerbate the existing problem of poor education standards and joblessness among graduates.

The establishment of new universities may provide more options for students and help manage enrolment, but it is crucial to upgrade existing universities, particularly those owned by federal and state governments, to serve society effectively. The ability of universities to compete globally in innovation and problem-solving is more important than their number.

The government must establish strict criteria for establishing universities, including financial capability to provide necessary infrastructure and meet financial obligations.

A survey by the NUC revealed that only 30 percent of students have adequate access to facilities like lecture theatres, laboratories, and libraries. ASUU has also expressed concern about overcrowding and deterioration of facilities.Many believe that private universities are established for commercial purposes, charging fees that are unaffordable for poor students.

The focus should be on providing students with knowledge and skills that will make them self-employed and benefit the country.

Education is a vital component for a country’s progress and global competitiveness. Universities, in particular, serve as hubs where intellectuals and scholars utilise their ingenuity to devise solutions to societal problems, going beyond the mere training of scholars and leaders.

The National Universities Commission (NUC) should assess the programs of new universities and determine how they can address societal issues. The curricula should be designed to enhance graduates’ employability.

Unfortunately, universities no longer seem to contribute significantly to the country due to their failure to provide solutions to problems.

Therefore, the NUC should closely monitor universities and impose sanctions if they fail to meet the required standards. The NUC should not allow private universities to charge exorbitant fees without offering commensurate value.

The commission should prioritise the recruitment of qualified professionals as lecturers. Some universities do not meet the personnel criteria and resort to poaching lecturers from other institutions to gain accreditation for their courses. This highlights the importance of the NUC fulfilling its regulatory and monitoring responsibilities.

We must prioritise the preservation of educational standards, particularly in higher education, to ensure that these institutions are well-equipped to fulfill their responsibilities to society.

Editorial

Nigeria’s National Identity Card initiative: A misguided venture

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The recent announcement by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) regarding the launch of a new national identity card with payment functionality epitomises folly.

While touted as a solution to streamline identification and financial services, the collaboration between NIMC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System appears to be a misaligned endeavour.

In a nation burdened by limited resources and an array of urgent challenges, Nigeria’s pursuit of grandiose projects with questionable benefits is a luxury it cannot afford.

Despite its surface appeal, closer scrutiny reveals a troubling trend of duplication, bureaucratic inefficiency, and a glaring gap between governmental aspirations and citizens’ realities.

This venture echoes previous attempts to overhaul the national identification system, notably the ill-fated 2006 concession awarded to Chams.

That endeavour, marred by allegations of collusion and technical sabotage, squandered over $100 million, leaving a bitter legacy of failure. In light of this history, skepticism abounds regarding the prospects of the current initiative.

As Nigeria grapples with pressing socio-economic issues, including poverty, insecurity, and inadequate infrastructure, it is imperative that resources be directed towards initiatives with tangible benefits for the populace.

The proposed national identity card, with its payment functionality, appears to be a misplaced priority in this context.

Rather than embarking on ventures with dubious returns, Nigerian authorities must prioritise accountability, transparency, and citizen-centric policies. The nation cannot afford to repeat past mistakes at the expense of its long-suffering populace.

Furthermore, the purported justification for the new card – facilitating access to “multiple government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised – falls short when juxtaposed with the formidable hurdles Nigerians encounter in simply linking their National Identification Number (NIN) to vital services like mobile phone accounts or bank facilities.

The pandemonium and exasperation prevalent in these endeavours, resulting in citizens squandering valuable time and resources, should stand as a stark warning regarding the government’s competence in executing such extensive identity management schemes.

Moreover, if the concern is the proliferation of identification documents in Nigeria – from international passports and driver’s licenses to voter cards and the existing national ID card – this newspaper holds that this mosaic of identification systems not only spawns unnecessary confusion and bureaucratic headaches for citizens but also casts doubt on the government’s capacity to efficiently orchestrate and amalgamate these diverse platforms.

Instead of tackling these persistent issues head-on, the introduction of yet another identity card appears to be an ill-conceived effort to reinvent the wheel, with scant consideration for the practical challenges confronting Nigerians in their daily lives.

In a nation grappling with limited resources and a plethora of pressing needs, the decision to allocate billions of naira to this new card project is both confounding and deeply concerning. Many would argue that the government’s time and financial resources could be more effectively directed towards enhancing existing infrastructure, fortifying public services, and confronting the numerous socioeconomic challenges plaguing the country.

From the dire state of the healthcare system to the ongoing insecurity that has resulted in significant loss of life, there exist far more urgent issues warranting the government’s attention and, critically, its constrained financial resources.

Moreover, the assertion that the new card will facilitate access to “government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised raises concerns about introducing yet another bureaucratic barrier for vulnerable Nigerians.

Instead of introducing a new identification system, the government’s focus should be on refining and strengthening existing social welfare programs, ensuring they are accessible, efficient, and tailored to meet the needs of the populace.

The government’s ambition to distribute the new card to approximately 104 million citizens is cause for concern. Undertaking such a monumental task without a clear and comprehensive plan is likely to result in further delays, logistical complexities, and a considerable squandering of public funds – resources that could have been channeled towards making tangible improvements in the lives of Nigerians.

In essence, the rollout of the new national identity card with payment functionality reflects a recurring pattern in Nigerian governance: the inclination towards grand, top-down initiatives that often fall short of addressing the underlying issues fueling the country’s challenges.

Instead of pursuing this dubious venture, the government’s focus should shift towards strengthening existing identification systems, fostering better coordination among government agencies, and prioritising investments in areas directly impacting the lives of Nigerians.

As a nation, we must resist the temptation of embracing flashy new projects that promise quick fixes to complex problems.

Achieving genuine progress demands a nuanced, collaborative, and evidence-based approach that acknowledges the distinct needs and challenges of diverse communities.

It’s high time for the government to abandon this latest identity card scheme and redirect its efforts towards more impactful and sustainable initiatives that truly serve the citizens it is sworn to uplift.

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Editorial

Articulated vehicles and the scourge of avoidable deaths

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Nigerians across the country continue to die utterly preventable deaths thanks to a lack of political will on the part of its leaders. It is an ugly fate thrust upon its citizens to live in a country whose economy is built upon the blood of the ordinary people, not out of sacrifice, but nonchalance. Articulated vehicles wipe out families, dreams, and human capital in one fell swoop. Press statements from the leaders are not enough. We need the May 2024 immediacy of the Tinubu administration in this sector too.

Last week, a falling container killed a woman in the Ogudu area of Lagos. The woman was inside a car when the fully loaded 40ft Mack articulated truck fell on it, leading to her instant death, according to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

In October 2023, a businessman identified as Akuma Kalu, was crushed to death by a 40-feet container that fell on his car along the failed portion of Etche-Ngokpala road in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers state.

In September 2023, five women died in a fatal accident that occurred in the early hours of Friday at Odumodu Junction, Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area along Awka Road, Anambra State. As usual, the container of the truck fell upon the bus carrying these people, killing them. We could go on and on. The story remains the same: tragedy upon tragedy.

Every year, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, does sensitisation with little result to show for it because the arm of the law is too short to punish offenders at the root of the problem. The constant assault on the senses has led to a desensitisation on the part of the populace. Month after month, another story of a truck that erases a family, or multiple families because its brakes fail, or its container is overturned. The combination of the death of empathy on the part of leaders and the emotional exhaustion of the citizens will lead Nigeria down the path of a dystopia.

The governors of each state have a responsibility to institute laws to protect the indigenes. This, the Federal Government must also do nationwide. The FRSC has rules and regulations for trucks. The Government needs to only enforce these rules. Enough of blaming the trucks themselves because they are not the evil entities. The lack of accountability and a weak system perpetuates the dilemma.

The political class should not wait until Nigeria happens to one of their own before acting as is usually the case. Most cases bear the mark of immediate fatality. By the time a family member experiences it, it would have already been too late. We have hope that this administration will do what it takes to restore hope to the common man. Time to act is now.

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Editorial

Renewed Hope Initiative: Beating back inequality in all spheres

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Nigeria is full of inequalities that its leaders contend with administration after administration. With every President comes a partner who shares in the vision, and does her part to alleviate the pains of the citizens. Oluremi Tinubu has etched her name in the annals of history as one of such compassionate ones.

Recently, in Abeokuta she flagged off the Renewed Hope Initiative for women in agriculture and people living with disabilities nationwide in a bid to achieve this noble goal of equity in Nigeria.

“We are supporting 20 women farmers per state with the sum of N500,000 each. To this end, a draft of N10 million per state for the South West zone will be handed over to the first ladies of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo states who are the Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI) state coordinators for onward disbursement to all beneficiaries in their respective states,” she said.

“The Renewed Hope Initiative Social Investment Programme will be empowering 100 persons with disability, small business owners in Ogun State with a sum of N100,000 each to recapitalise their existing businesses.”

In Kebbi, represented by the Wife of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Fatima Tajuddeen Abbas, in Birnin Kebbi, she said, “Agriculture plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable development and food security. Consequently, we are introducing ‘Every Home a Garden’ competition to encourage each Nigerian woman to cultivate a garden at home to feed the family and share with neighbours, we want to see food on every table.”

We commend the forward thinking and passion for national growth required for such a herculean task. If emulated in all quarters, it will stimulate the economy at the grassroots. It is well acknowledged that the government cannot do it alone. Private individuals who are capable must rise up to contribute to national growth.

It isn’t alien to the Nigerian condition, after all. The country was able to survive the assaults of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the joint efforts of private individuals under the umbrella of Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID, a Private Sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The Renewed Hope Initiative joins the tradition of programmes committed to national improvement. History will look upon it kindly.

 

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