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Buhari commiserates with family of late industrialist, Chief Emmanuel Adesoye

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President Muhammadu Buhari commiserates with the government and people of Kwara State over the loss of renowned industrialist, quantity surveyor and philanthropist, Chief Emmanuel Olatunji Adesoye.

This was contained in a statement signed President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Fermi Adesina, adding that Buhari sends condolences to all the professional colleagues, business associates and family members of the educationist, who spent his entire life in service of humanity, especially in helping the under privileged acquire quality education.

“The President believes that the life and times of the industrialist and educationist deserve documentation for posterity, as he defied many odds to courageously set up many companies and an educational institution that had since turned into one of the best in the country.

“Buhari commends the late Asiwaju of Offa for his patriotism, wisdom and discipline, which also clearly translated into his many awards as a foremost quantity surveyor.

“The President prays that the almighty God will receive the soul of the departed, and comfort his family,” the statement concluded.

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Is the proliferation of universities a blessing to Nigeria?

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By Ephraims Sheyin

Nigeria currently has 171 universities, according to National Universities Commission (NUC) records.

Of the figure, 91 are public institutions with 44 owned by the federal government while 48 are owned by state governments. The remaining 79 are private.

But with the doubtful quality of most universities, and the rising number of candidates competing for the very limited admission slots – an annual average of two million, according to JAMB figures – the debate over whether the proliferation of universities is a blessing, or even a curse, has continued to rage.

While some Nigerians believe that the nation’s 200 million people deserve even more universities, others have argued that more attention should be paid to strengthening existing ones to meet required standards and boost the quality of graduates.

Stakeholders opposed to more universities have often pointed out that Nigerian universities are finding it extremely difficult to break into the top 600 varsities in global ratings.

They often recall the galling claims by employers that Nigerian graduates are unemployable and will, thus, suggest more attention to existing universities to shore up quality so that graduates of Nigerian universities can compete favourably with their counterparts the world over.

Prof. Sylvestre Usman, a university lecturer and consistent critic of the proliferation of universities in the country, recently cited two states – Edo and Kogi – to buttress his claims that NUC was too liberal to people seeking licences to own universities.

“The Edo government has not given much attention to its Ambrose Alli University, Epkoma, but the state government has established another university, the Edo University, Iyamho.

“Workers in both institutions are owed salaries. Some for 24 months! Last week, protesting workers of the Edo varsity accused government of `forgetting’ them. Running a university is capital intensive. Why NUC granted a license for an additional university to Edo is difficult to understand,’’ he said.

He said that the same scenario was already brewing in Kogi.

“Kogi has one state university at Anyigba, which is very poorly funded, but Gov. Yahaya Bello has announced plans to establish Confluence University of Science and Technology to be cited in Osara, Adavi Local Government Area.

“Very soon, government will erect some structures there and call it a university. Some states, like Ondo, even have up to three universities. If we don’t check situations like this, we shall be ridiculing ourselves and embarrassing the education sector,’’ he said.

Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), shares Usman’s views and accuses the federal and state governments of using universities to curry political favour instead of promoting quality education targeted at development and growth.

“The federal and state governments establish universities without adequate plans for their funding and growth. In most cases, there is no need for these institutions.

“The proliferation of universities is not good for Nigeria. We create more universities than we can handle. Universities are established after a mass of ground work. There must be need assessment and a clear programme for it.

“Many of the universities established in the last 10 to 15 years were just `creations of our political action’; they have turned universities to mere constituency projects. We cannot expect the best from the schools because we have no plan for the academic staff and the infrastructure.

“Before creating any university, there must be concrete blueprint for the take off of the institutions, but we create them and leave them to suffer.’’

He accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of creating 11 universities “by mere pronouncements’’ because he wanted a federal university in every state.

Noting that some states had three universities, he said that others merely wanted to copy them by establishing more state-owned universities.

“This is not what we need. Why will a state have more than one university when it cannot successfully fund the one it has? My take is that proliferation is not something that should be encouraged because when we proliferate, we sacrifice quality.’’

He alleged that political leaders hardly care about the quality of the universities because their children don’t go to “such mushroom universities’’.

Dr Lazarus Maigoro, ASUU Chairman, University of Jos, agrees with his president.

“Federal and state governments establish universities without any plan for them. For instance, why do we need a university of transportation, or that of Information and Communication Technology?

“All these courses can be taken care of by existing public universities.

“Clearly, the proliferation of university education will not help us; it is grossly affecting the quality of education in the country,” he fumed.

Maigoro expressed the fear that many universities might soon “collapse and go under, like the public primary and secondary schools’’, if adequate care was not taken.

He claimed that the fear of such collapse was at the heart of ASUU’s fight with government over the years.

Dr Williams Wodi of the University of Port Harcourt has also cautioned against the proliferation of universities and argued that the situation was “hurting and ridiculing’’ the education sector.

“Proliferation of universities cannot be a good thing, especially as the authorities have not addressed the main problems affecting growth of university education in the country.

“It is good that the Federal Government wants to create access to tertiary education, but it is bad that quality of education is usually not looked into.

“The argument that close to two million Nigerians apply to write JAMB yearly shouldn’t be the basis for which government must decide to create more universities,’’ he said.

Wodi said that some of the private universities operating in the country were “glorified secondary schools’’ because they lacked the required infrastructure and manpower.

He said that universities across Europe and North America were properly thought out before they are established.

Dr Abdulmalik Jamal of Tatari Ali Polytechnic, Bauchi has also decried the proliferation of universities and regretted that most of them were meant to serve political reasons and are grossly ill-equipped to serve their purposes.

“The situation is unhealthy and has been a major factor responsible for the falling quality of university graduates,’’ he argued.

He called for the streamlining of the process of establishing new universities while existing ones should be re-structured and repositioned to achieve desired mandates.

“The country is not in need of more universities for now,’’ he declared, urging strict monitoring and supervision of private universities as most of them were operating like commercial ventures.

Lending his voice to the debate, Dr Kabir Hassan of the Department of MicroBiology, Bauchi State University, said that it was disheartening that more universities were springing up, yet the narrative of research and development in the country had remained unchanged.

“Daily, you see universities springing up without really trying to find out what impact the existing ones have made in the political, social and economic development of Nigeria.

“Most of the universities do not even have enough personnel, auditorium, lecture theatre, hostels, libraries because they are under-funded,” he said.

Prof. Aminu Chiroma of Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola, on his part, opined that majority of the new generation universities in Nigeria were set up purely for political reasons and looked ‘adhoc’ in nature.

Chiroma, Head of Department, Environmental and Life Sciences Education, equally said that most of the universities were established without plans.

“These new generation universities are creating problems and worsening the already precarious situation in the education sector,’’ he lamented.

Prof. Muhammed Usman of Federal College of Education, Yola, said that the proliferation of universities in the country was having a negative effect on the old generation universities.

He said that the newly established universities lacked academic manpower and had continued to short-change the old universities by taking away their qualified lecturers.

Dr Nigel Bachama, Head of Economics Department, Gombe State University, advised government to focus on improving infrastructures of the existing universities, instead of establishing new ones.

He lamented that some of the new universities relied ‘solely’ on “Visiting Lecturers” to operate, a development unhealthy for the education sector.

He advised government to watch out for private universities established without the requisite staffing, who often employed all sorts of characters to lecture their students.

Dr Langa Hassan, Provost, College of Education, Billiri in Gombe State, also feels that the proliferation of universities is gradually reducing the quality of education in older institutions.

He observed that lecturers in older institutions engaged as Visiting Lecturers often ‘shuttle’ between one university and the other, instead of concentrating in the schools they were employed.

But, in spite of the criticisms trailing the proliferation of the universities, some key stakeholders in the education sector say it is a necessity and a blessing to the country. Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, the Executive Secretary of NUC, is one of them.

“The university system is growing and there is the need for more universities to come on board,’’ he told managements of federal universities recently.

He said that there was the need for more universities as the existing ones could no longer cope with the large number of yearly applications for admission.

Prof. Chukwuma Ozumba, former Vice Chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka shares his opinion.

“Many young Nigerians who desire education cannot get because of the shortage of universities to absorb candidates,’’ Ozumba, who is currently the Chief Executive Officer, Lion Science Park, University of Nigeria, said.

He bemoaned the lack of adequate manpower to solve many challenging problems of the country due to lack of adequate university system.

“The number of tertiary institutions, when compared to the number of students who require them, is not enough because so many candidates apply to JAMB but how many get admission?

“The critical element is trained manpower and we don’t have it. China and South Korea concentrated on qualitative education focusing on sciences. We don’t have enough quality hands, so when we talk of proliferation of universities, we may not be right because we need more training institutions.

“We need a science-based economy that can thrive through the establishment of science-based universities,’’ he said.

Prof. Uche Ikonne, Vice Chancellor, Abia State University, Uturu, also supports more universities coming on board.

“The existing universities remain a far cry, considering the country’s population growth rate. The way the nation’s population is growing on a daily basis, I am not sure we have enough universities.’’

He said that what was of utmost importance was how to ensure standard among the existing universities through appropriate monitoring by the regulatory agencies of government, and lauded the performance of the NUC toward entrenching quality in the university system.

Ikonne said that Nigeria should place emphasis on the establishment of specialised universities that could train graduates in specialised fields.

According to him, what Nigeria needs now are specialised institutions in such fields as Medicine, Science, Technology, Agriculture, among others.

He also said that the federal government had no business funding so many universities because of the large size of the country.

Mr Enyi Harbor, the immediate past National Secretary of National Proprietors of Private Schools in Nigeria, spoke in the same vein.

“There is nothing wrong with opening more universities to meet the increasing needs of education. Every year, over two million candidates apply to enter higher institution in Nigeria and at the end only about 40 per cent are absorbed.

“This has given rise to a lot of our children seeking higher education outside the country, even in countries where standards are far below ours.

“So, we even need more universities or increase in the capacity of existing ones to take in more students.”

Mr Ike Onyechere, Founder, Exams Ethics Marshall International (EEMI)), has also said that the establishment of more universities was desirable in view of the need to create more spaces for qualified admission seekers.

Onyechere, however, said that the maintenance of standards must also be taken seriously.

He said that some private universities were doing better than most public universities, urging regulatory agencies to pay more attention to maintaining global best practices and standards.

“Many universities are established by businessmen as profit making ventures. So, efforts must be made to ensure that students are not short changed.

“Minimum academic standards must also be enforced to eliminate the danger of a private university being just a certificate mill in pursuit of profit motive.”

Onyechere expressed dissatisfaction with the classes of degrees awarded by private universities, noting that huge numbers of disproportionate first class degrees being churned out by some private universities had raised questions about the quality.

Prof. Clement Kolawole of the Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, also believes that the nation needs more universities with close to two million qualified applicants fighting for the less than 600,000 admission slots in the universities every year.

“The almost 1.2 million applicants not admitted annually wait to join another 1.5 million applicants the following year. Thus, the vicious circle of endlessly seeking admission continues.

“We need more universities to meet the aspiration of those who seek admission every year. The argument that the government should strengthen existing universities instead of establishing more is self-defeatist.

“However, if public universities are inadequately funded as they are presently, it will be foolhardy to establish new ones. To that extent, establishing new ones without adequately funding the existing institutions tantamount to proliferation and thus, exercise in futility.

“I believe governments across the national and sub-national levels can adequately fund the existing ones as well as new ones if they summon the political will and courage to cut down on unnecessary expenditure elsewhere and channel the saved funds to financing education.’’

Prof. Zachary Gundu, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Benue State University, Makurdi, also believes the country needs more universities to cater for the increasing demand for university education.

“ Nigeria’s population grows at an amazing rate, so we need more universities to cater for the growth. The issue with the university education is planning and not proliferation of universities.

“In spite of the numerous universities in the country, people still rush outside the country on a yearly basis for oversea studies because candidates with impressive JAMB scores do not secure admission,’’ he noted.

But as the debates rages on, Prof. Noah Oyedeji of the Department of Educational Management, Faculty of Education, University of Ilorin, has said that the solution to the proliferation of universities lies in the resuscitation of Technical Colleges

The don said that the number of students seeking university education outweighs the available spaces due to population explosion and blamed the proliferation of universities on the obsession for paper qualification.

Analysts agree with Oyedeji and blame that situation on the age-old disparity that places the university degree far above the Higher National Diploma (HND) obtained at the Polytechnics and other institutions.

They say that the desperation for university education will continue until government takes practical measures to end the discriminatory policy so as to reduce a situation where young Nigerians see the university education as the only ultimate.

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Coronavirus: Facts and figures on confirmed, death and recovery cases

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Cambodia, Egypt, Nepal, Sri Lanca

The ongoing Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak that started in Wuhan, Hubei, China in December 2019 has not taken its toll on 65 territories of the world but would have sparked xenophobic and racial discrimination for Asians had international diplomacy not well handled.

Nigeria on February 28, 2020 woke to the unfortunate breaking news of the first case of Coronavirus in Lagos which has since been ushered by the preventive dos and don’ts mechanism even as scores who had contact with the Italian have been tracked for quarantine.

Professor Maduike Ezeibe of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture might have claimed to discover its cure plus that of Lassa Fever; President Donald Trump of United States might have believed the virus would one day disappear like a miracle despite all due scientific efforts which could not stop the forefront nation in modern medicine to have recorded its first death to the raging virus.

China which is the origin of Coronavirus has so far recorded the highest cases of infection and death.

But thankfully, there are cases where Coronavirus patients recover.

Here are quick rundown of figures of the widespread of Coronavirus across the globe, death and recovery cases:

Total persons infected: 87,692
Total territories/countries: 65
Death cases: 2,995
Recovered cases: 42,793

Coronavirus confirmed cases:

Countries with 1 case: Nigeria, Egypt and 18 other countries
Countries with 2 cases: Brazil, Belgium and Russia
3 Highest cases: China with (79,826); South Korea (3,736); Italy: (1,128)

Coronavirus death cases:

Countries with death record: 12
Countries with 0 death: 53
Countries with 1 death: United States (out of 70); Thailand (out of 42); Taiwan (out of 40); Australia (out of 26) and Philippines (out of 3).
Countries with 2 death: France (out of 104); Honk Kong (out of 98)
3 Highest cases: China (2,870); Iran (54); Italy (29)

Coronavirus recovery cases:

3 Highest recovery: China (42,109); Iran (175); Singapore (74)
Whereas Cambodia, Egypt, Nepal, Sri Lanca had single cases and of which they have recovered.

 

*Olakunle Adeniyi, a journalist and IT Consultant, writes from Ilorin at adeniyiolakunle@yahoo.com.

 

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Analysis: Four times Trump, US against Nigeria in 8 months

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The United States Government has since the second quarter of 2019 taken major measures against Nigeria, the most populous nation on the continent.

Although the two countries are allies, the U.S., in its explanation of each action, made it clear that Nigeria either disregarded warnings or failed to do enough on the issues acted upon.

At different times in the past eight months, the world power made four decisions that triggered local and international discourse.

On three occasions, the self-acclaimed ‘giant of Africa’ promised to make amendments. But in response to one, Nigeria presidency not only protested, it chastised President Donald Trump and counselled his administration to focus on problems affecting America.

Pros and cons of U.S. declarations are being asserted but the latter in clear lead. Nigerians are piqued for the reason that they cannot fathom how the leadership forgot that a stitch in time saves nine.

Citizens, home and abroad, are continuing the conversation in private and public.

THE TIMELINE

May 14, 2019: The U.S Embassy in Nigeria announced the indefinite suspension of interview waivers for renewals, otherwise known as the “Dropbox” process.

“All applicants in Nigeria seeking a nonimmigrant visa to the United States must apply online, and will be required to appear in-person at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or U.S. Consulate General in Lagos to submit their application for review.

“Applicants must appear at the location they specified when applying for the visa renewal”, a statement issued read.

The U.S. explained that Nigeria’s processing procedures are regularly reviewed in order to assess the ability to quickly, efficiently, and securely process visa applications.

A retired Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Olukunle Bamgbose and Amb. Dapo Fafowora, a former Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, in separate reactions, believed that there was no serious implication.

However, the Nigerian government seemed bothered. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, disclosed that the ministry promptly engaged the U.S. to make visa issuance less difficult for genuine citizens.

Onyeama lamented that most of the inimical migrant decisions taken by some countries were caused by disobedient Nigerians.

“Those who do not obey the rule (i.e. overstay their visas) of other countries have more negative impact on those who obeyed,” the minister said.

“We have engaged with the U.S government. We are trying to work through them and they are looking at various alternative and solutions to make less difficult for the genuine visitors.

“We are doing what we can, they (U.S. Embassy) told me that there would be expedited interview for certain people; that there would be flexibility to request for an interview.”

August 27, 2019: Just as Nigerians adjusted to the new system, the U.S. announced that they will be required to pay a visa issuance fee, or reciprocity fee, for all approved applications for nonimmigrant visas in B, F, H1B, I, L, and R visa classifications.

“The reciprocity fee will be charged in addition to the nonimmigrant visa application fee, also known as the MRV fee, which all applicants pay at the time of application”, the Embassy in Nigeria said.

“Nigerian citizens whose applications for a nonimmigrant visa are denied will not be charged the new reciprocity fee. Both reciprocity and MRV fees are non-refundable, and their amounts vary based on visa classification”.

This time, America pointedly blamed Nigeria, affirming that its decision was an eye for an eye.

The Embassy recalled that since early 2018, the U.S. government engaged the Nigerian government to request a change in the fees charged to U.S. citizens for certain visa categories.

“After eighteen months of review and consultations, the government of Nigeria has not changed its fee structure for U.S. citizen visa applicants, requiring the U.S. Department of State to enact new reciprocity fees in accordance with our visa laws”, it justified.

Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, directed the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Muhammad Babandede, to act immediately.

A statement by the ministry acknowledged that “there were engagements with the United States Embassy on the issue and in the aftermath, a committee was set up to conduct due diligence in line with the Ministry’s extant policy on reciprocity of visa fees.

“The committee had concluded its assignment and submitted a report but the issuance of authorization for its recommendations was delayed due to transition processes in the ministry at the policy level.”

The government then revealed that it had approved the decrease of visa charges payable by U.S. citizens.

Yet, the hurried slash failed to stop the revenge as America executed its resolution precisely forty-eight hours later. Till date, Nigerians still pay the fee.

December 20, 2019: America confirmed that it beamed its searchlight on religion in Nigeria and discovered that there was a high level of intolerance.

The United States listed Nigeria among countries that engage in “violations of religious freedom”.

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said Comoros, Russia, Uzbekistan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Sudan are on a “Special Watch List” for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom”.

While the Christian leadership in Nigeria hailed the categorization, President Muhammadu Buhari’s special adviser on media, Femi Adesina, denounced it. The unwavering spokesman fulminated and declared that the U.S. is not ‘world police’.

“The United States itself has a lot to chew solving its own problems not to talk of poke-nosing into another country. Nobody has appointed them the policeman of the world. Let them face their own issues,” he said on Channels TV.

Adesina told America and other foreign powers to respect the internal issues of Nigeria, stressing that the government doing business with them does not mean the nation’s sovereignty should not appreciated.

It is unclear if moves to salvage the situation has commenced before America’s next review which may include Nigeria among “Countries of Particular Concern”, a more damaging status.

January 31, 2020: The U.S. hit Nigeria again with immigration ban. Henceforth, its citizens and those of Eritrea, Sudan, Tanzania, Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar will not get visas that can lead to permanent residency.

“These countries, for the most part, want to be helpful but for a variety of different reasons simply failed to meet those minimum requirements that we laid out,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said.

Wolf assured that non-immigrant visas – visitor, business or medical – would still be issued.

In his proclamation, President Trump said Nigeria does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, which is necessary for the protection of the national security and public safety of the U.S.

“Nigeria also presents a high risk, relative to other countries in the world, of terrorist travel to the United States”, Trump averred.

Accepting the facts, President Buhari established a committee to study and address updated requirements relating to the assessment of compliance with certain security criteria by foreign governments.

Critics are feeding on these circumstances, but it’s not been too bad for Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) administration. Despite the critical pronouncements, the U.S. recently – twice in four days actually – offered some kind words.

Trump, in his January 31 proclamation, described Nigeria as “an important strategic partner in the global fight against terrorism”.

Also, on February 3, after the signing of the agreement between the U.S., the Bailiwick of Jersey and Nigeria, for the return of $308 million stolen by late General Sani Abacha, America called the deal “a symbol of the weight” it places on the fight against corruption.

“We welcome President Buhari’s personal commitment to that fight”, Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokesperson, said in a statement.

In an interview, Norris Campbell, a political and foreign affairs analyst, posited that America retaliated because “they were compelled to respond”.

She remarked that all events are playing out against several backdrops including the U.S. 2020 election.

“Trump’s base responds positively to anti-immigration policies. So while this might not affect the larger number of Nigerians who come to the U.S. for non-immigrant purposes, it will be popular on the campaign trail”, Campbell said.

“Second reason, of course, is our abysmal human rights records and the United States’ continual admonition that we do better. The persecution of journalists and Christians in particular was always going to get a reaction. Addition to this debacle was the Sowore saga and the recent execution of the CAN Chairman (Lawan Andimi).

“Third reason is security. We’re the third most terrorized nation in the world. Our inability to police our borders, our less-than-secure passport issuance system, lax airport security checks and our Africa-wide visa-on-arrival policy was always going to raise concerns.

“Apart from the reputational damage, the ban won’t significantly affect Nigeria, as it is targeted towards professionals looking to settle abroad. We have 200 million people to worry about at home.

“It points to a lack of diplomatic relations that we let this happen, despite the repeated warnings we received. I do not expect a reversal anytime before the U.S. Elections.”

On what Nigeria should do, Campbell urged the government to employ better diplomatic relations with America and other western countries.

“One also hopes, for Nigeria’s sake rather than America’s, that the security loopholes highlighted by the Americans are closed as a matter of urgency by this government”, the expert added.

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