Just before we inaugrate the governing councils – Dr. Muiz Banire

In recent past and in not less than three interventions, I have interrogated the question of the survival of our tertiary institutions in the face of the numerous and seemingly countless daunting challenges confronting the institutions (See my columns on “Secondary education and culture of bullying”

https://www.sunnewsonline.com/secondary-education-and-culture-of-bullying , 2nd December, 2021, I penned the piece, “Tertiary Education and the Future of Nigeria: Another Perspective!”

https://www.sunnewsonline.com/tertiary-education-and-the-future-of-nigeria-another-perspective and 20th day of January, 2022, I wrote the piece published under the title “NUC: Please Save the Nation”


It is now common knowledge or trite that the tertiary institutions are poorly funded. It is equally a notorious fact that incessant strikes in the institutions are crippling the realization of the objectives; that the syllabi and the courses taught in most of the tertiary institutions are stale and no more relevant, even to the society it seeks to serve. It is also not in doubt that most of the products of the tertiary institutions are substandard, just as it is a fact, that the tertiary institutions lack the right caliber of personnel. That the staff, both academic and non-academic are poorly renumerated is a statement of fact. To my mind, most of the afflictions affecting the tertiary institutions are incurable by the acts of the government.

Fundamentally, most of these challenges revolve round the issue of funding. The truth however remains that the government is in no position to adequately fund the extant institutions, much less the new ones that are being daily proliferated for purely political and other and parochial reasons.

In virtually all the public funded tertiary institutions, the infrastructure has collapsed. The libraries are skeletal while most of laboratories are shadows of themselves. The lecture rooms, where they exist, are best described as poultry blocks. Most of the campuses are like war ravaged zones. I believe it is simply apt to state that most of the tertiary institutions are in a state of coma, begging for urgent revival, or resurrection due to death. Beyond the funding issue, the most debilitating curse spiraling in the institutions is dearth of competent staff, particularly in the academic. As at the time that I exited the academic community as an academic staff in 2010, there had been severe dearth of competent academic personnel in the country. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that rather than the situation improving, for several reasons, it has been on the decline and degenerating badly. In fact, as at date, I categorically state that the situation has reached a crisis situation.

As I remarked above, the products emanating from the tertiary institutions are not that great so as to fill the vacuum by way of regeneration. Even the few ones that can be said to be exceptional out of talent, not necessarily because of ability, or the knowledge impacted on them, are not ready and willing to stay in the academic for obvious reasons, the basic of which is poor renumeration. The challenge of even non-availability of teaching tools is still staring us in the face. The few competent academic staff are, by way of brain drain, leaving the country in droves, just like the medical personnel. The good ones that are not migrating, are leaving for greener pastures by way of alternative employment. The privileged ones that have studied abroad are not returning to help as the system cannot afford to absorb nor retain them. The consequence of this scarcity of competent personnel is that the country is making do with whatever is available.

We now find out that most of the academic staff dotting and gracing our tertiary institutions today are there by default of the only employment available, not out of choice and are most times, incompetent. Even where they are competent, they are in the academic just physically and not in soul. The morale is lacking. For those proliferating the tertiary institutions, particularly courtesy of the regulatory bodies such as the National Universities Commission and its peers, they are doing severe injustice and damage to the country. This includes the licensed private institutions.

Running a tertiary institution is not all about brick and mortals, but the presence of qualified personnel. No soothsayer needs to tell us that this is greatly lacking in the country. This reality made me to suggest that the country should start running a collegiate system in order to reduce the number of personnel required by the tertiary institutions, particularly the public institutions. By way of illustration, we can just for the entire southwest run a law program in a faculty with a facility to accommodate minimum of two thousand students and ditto for other courses in advantaged institutions.

Instead of seven to eight lecturers required for a course, competent maximum of two academic staff will do the job. This enables not only proper renumeration of the competent staff but also reduces the financial exposures of the institutions. By this, we substantially solve the challenge of non-availability of competent personnel. All that I have stated above, are just background to my destination in this discourse. Now that we appreciate that there is funding challenge in all ramifications in our institutions; now that we know that the government lacks the capacity to fund the institutions; now that we know the infrastructural and personnel challenges are impairing the quality of our products; now that we know that uniform conditions of service cannot apply in our tertiary institutions; now that we know that incessant strikes of all strata of people in our institutions is impacting our education; now that we know that the government cannot effectively regulate the standard of our education etc., how do we then address the issues and change the narrative in our institutions?

This is the crux of this engagement to which we shall now turn. In terms of funding, there is the established fact that the fees, if any, payable by the students of the tertiary institutions cannot sustain the institutions, thus demanding improvisation. There are so many ways to skin a cat in this respect. Attract endowments and donations to the institutions. Who can effectively do this other than the Governing Councils? None. Market outcomes of researches carried out by the institutions. Again, the Council is best placed to do this after adequately funding the research works. Attracting the best personnel through sufficient or adequate reward system, it is the Council that is suitable to determine the best package for its staff depending on its ambition.
The Council sets the standard attainable for the institution and its staff. Now that there appears to be in place students’ loans and scholarships of all forms, the Council is best suited to determine appropriate fees payable by its students. By extension, the Council is best suited to determine the appropriation of the institution’s funds in line with its ambition and priorities. I can continue to replicate circumstances in which the Council is best suited to deal in the administration of tertiary institutions. Now to the present obtainable scenario. The Council that we believe is best calibrated to effectively execute the policies and policies of the institutions is tied to the apron of so many other bodies that are continuously impairing its works. The Council reports through the Permanent Secretary on one hand to the Minister for Education, who, invariably, most times, is a politician and sees things from microscopic lens of politics.

In reality, most Councils are even made to go through the Director of Tertiary Institutions or any other so-designated director in the Ministry of Education. The Parliament exercises not only oversight role but even appropriatory functions in contemporary times over the tertiary institutions.

Taking policy position now becomes a bureaucratic challenge, sometimes demanding compromise before approval is given or obtained for execution. Accreditation of courses and programmes is equally not free from the strangulation of the National Universities Commission and its ilks; who, again in most instances, command obeisance and compromise. Any resistance in those instances signals the death of the program or policy no matter how robust same is. The little funding appropriated for the tertiary institutions are never disbursed without shackles.

Without fear of contradiction, the best that happens in most instances after all sacrifices to the various bodies (idols) including the national appropriation body, the parliament with its distractive and undesirable oversight functions to the institutions, will be fifty percent of the appropriated sums.

With the ways and manner, the fund has travelled (“waka” as in local parlance), the tertiary institutions officials commence their own feast on the remnants. This is the story and fate of the institutions and in the face of the scenario, the Council and the management of the tertiary institutions are often helpless. The message I am struggling to pass across is that there is a need to urgently insulate the meagre appropriated sums to the tertiary institutions from the hawks. The road to achieving this is to ensure the Councils are independent and at best accountable to the parliament to the extent of the sum appropriated.

The management must, under no circumstances, be made answerable to the Executive nor the parliament over other sums. They must be made accountable only to their Councils. The internally generated revenue of the institutions must equally be protected from the above bodies. For the purpose of retention of the best personnel, the Councils must have the independent mandate of determining the renumeration packages of their personnel which need not be uniform.

There is no rocket science nor anything esoteric in this, as the private universities practice that presently. How does it make sense for an academic staff in an urban area to be paid the same renumeration with that in the rural areas when the rate of rents and economic indices, particularly inflation, differs? It is certainly absurd. The ability of the Councils to determine this will attract the best staff and engender competition. This is the way to ensure healthy competition in our tertiary institutions and is the global practice. Again, to fund the infrastructure of the institutions, the Councils need the free hand to generate fund directly and indirectly, that which is even permissible by their enabling laws.

The Council must be able to ingenuously put in place diverse schemes capable of addressing the infrastructural deficit. This is only doable where the Councils enjoy independence. Furthermore, each tertiary institution needs to enjoy the liberty, through its Council, to set its own admission criteria. Why must it be uniform? Ambition and thresholds set by its Senate and Council always differ. I have used the instances above to illustrate the capacity, or what ought to be the capacity of the Councils, where they are independent and populated by the right caliber of members. If there is concurrence on this point, then I believe that the government is putting the cart before the horse as is proverbially said. Have the government structured the ways and manners the Councils will function?

Have the government conceded independence to the Councils? Are those issues highlighted above amongst others settled? Without all these agreed, it is premature to set up the Councils in the usual manner in which it has always been done. Certainly, we cannot continue to do the same thing in the same way and expect a different result. The government needs to preparatorily dialogue these issues with all the stakeholders in the tertiary institutions and outside. It is certainly premature to be doing the inauguration of the Councils. Tertiary institution Councils are not like any other board of parastatals and agencies. Composition of Governing Councils, as in the past, must cease to be avenue for political patronage.

It is not everything that must be politicized. Now that the composition has been announced but the inauguration yet to be done, can we apply break in the interim and do the needful? This is the way to go in my view otherwise, the birthing of the Councils will signal another round of crisis in the tertiary institutions, as different modules will be obtainable leading to discordant tunes.

In the most likely event that the government will proceed to inaugurate the Councils, I suggest that the Chairmen of Councils, after inauguration, jointly consult with the relevant stakeholders and make these demands of the government. From the circulated list, I still can see some eminent Nigerians that are desirous of effecting changes in the institutions and not accepting the positions out of ego or material need.

These group of patriots, in the name of preserving their reputation, needs to undertake this journey otherwise the end could be perilous. This is my simple admonition to those responsible for the constitution of the Councils and the nominees. Ire o! It is well.

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