“The National Universities Commission, NUC, has released a list of illegal degree awarding institutions operating in the country.” VANGUARD, Friday, August 28, 2015, p 6.
ORDINARILY, one would have commended the NUC for identifying and publishing the names of the illegal tertiary institutions. But, this is an extra-ordinary development and it might have been inspired by the fear that President Buhari would not condone the acts of corruption which had made it possible for so many illegal institutions to get established and flourish in the first instance.
The truth is, many of those illegal universities, as well as those considered legal, had been allowed to admit students only for them to discover, years after, that they have laboured in vain and their funds had been taken from them by 419 institutions while the NUC turned a blind eye to their predicament.
Several of them have been operating for more than eight years. Some of them were discovered by the NUC and ordered to close down – only for them to move to other locations even extend their illegal operations to other places. The questions Nigerians should be asking Professor Julius Okogie is: why wait until the figure reached sixty-five to announce a blanket shut-down and promise to prosecute the offenders now when the NUC was aware of their existence years ago?
Certainly, Professor Okogie must have heard of the old adage, “A stitch in time saves nine.” Why were the proprietors of the first illegal institutions to be identified not prosecuted in order to send a strong message to anybody else wanting to attempt the crime that it would not pay? Let me provide one answer which should not shock most Nigerians, and if he is honest with himself, should not come as surprise to Okogie himself. The answer is CORRUPTION.
The NUC had become increasingly corrupt and had allowed institutions in Nigeria to evolve a culture of “anything goes”. Professor Okogie will almost develop a heart attack if some of the top officials of the NUC were forced to declare their assets publicly. To be quite candid, he heads one of the most corrupt organizations in Nigeria today. The sudden effort to sanitize the NUC is nothing but a face-saving device for the Commission.
Before Okogie and his top officials cry “foul” they need to be reminded of some criminal activities which had been going on for years. Permit me to limit the discussion to one for now. Accreditation exercises are supposed to be conducted with integrity and dispassionately. The university authorities present to the panel whatever is honestly available, in terms of human and material resources, in the university and the panel decides whether they have met the minimum requirement for accreditation of the course(s) on offer.
Unfortunately, that straight forward process had been subverted by the Nigerian Factor. Irrespective of who pays for the transport and accommodation of panel members, there is always an “envelope” at the end. Generally, the university favours an all-male panel. Invariably, there are members of the accreditation panel wanting to be “entertained” with “Bush Meat”. Falsification of reports become easier if the leader of the delegation is the one most disposed to “entertainment”.
To facilitate the corrupt transactions which will follow, almost all the staff of the university attending to the august visitors are females, young ladies “dressed to entice”, and giving the impression they are “available”. From that corrupt beginning, everything else follows like clock work. One of our staff at VANGUARD who resigned his appointment to join one of the private universities, as well as a close associate at the Nigerian Institute of Management, NIM, told me of their experience with two universities.
There was a great deal of similarities between the two experiences. For instance, the two universities borrowed laboratory equipment from complaisant universities in order to beef up their accreditation results. They also paid heavily for established Professors to be listed among their faculty even when it was understood that those luminaries would never teach in their universities.
Once the panel departs, the laboratories take their real shape and the compromised and compromising professors disappear into thin air. Permit me to close this article by focusing on one university listed among the 65 – University of Education, Winneba, Ghana.