The decision of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai, and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, to situate the Nigerian Army University and Nigerian Air Force University in their respective hometowns has become a topic of debate.
The army university was established in 2018 in Biu, Borno State, where Buratai hails from, while the proposed air force university will be located in Bauchi, where Abubakar is from.
The army university has already been approved by the National Universities Commission even as the Federal Executive Council gave its nod for a N2bn take-off grant for the university which would be accessed from Tertiary Education Trust Fund.
Less than a year later, however, the chief of air staff has decided to replicate Buratai’s feat.
In a statement recently, Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, hailed Abubakar for using his good offices to establish a university in the state.
Mohammed also commended the CAS for the earlier establishment of the Air Force Special Operation Command in Bauchi.
Speaking with Saturday PUNCH, however, human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), described the establishment of universities in the hometowns of service chiefs as an abuse of office.
Falana said it was unfortunate that service chiefs were taking actions in contravention of the federal character principle.
He said, “The Nigerian Defence Academy already exists and it awards certificates. The same NDA is not well funded and yet the military is establishing new universities in the hometowns of service chiefs.
“Interestingly, NDA, the army university and the new air force university and other institutions are mostly concentrated in the North. This is against the federal character principle.”
Top military officers who spoke on condition of anonymity said the establishment of the new military universities were not only the height of nepotism but abuse of taxpayers’ funds.
A brigadier general, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said, “What the service chiefs are doing is nothing but a waste of taxpayers’ money. It is even worse that the Federal Government is allowing them to do this at a time when we need to curb waste.
“It’s even worse that our troops fighting insecurity are told there is not enough money for equipment but there is money for new military universities.
“The service chiefs have been in office for over four years and have turned themselves into politicians, taking projects to their hometowns like constituency projects.”
An air commodore, who also wished to remain anonymous, said there was already an Air Force Institute of Technology in Kaduna which was approved by the NUC.
He said the institute was already offering courses on aeronautics, aerospace engineering and avionics and wondered why there was a need to establish more institutions.
He said, “FEC has approved N2bn for the take-off of the army university. That is already a waste of taxpayers’ funds.
“We already have AFIT in Kaduna which teaches aeronautics and other professional courses. The sad thing is that the army university is even offering courses like Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and Arabic when it should be strictly specialised courses.
“Even conventional public universities are complaining of lack of funds. Is this the best time for the military to establish new schools?”
When contacted on the telephone, the Director of Information, NAF, Air Commodore Ibikunle Daramola, promised to call back but had yet to do so as of press time.
Similarly, the Spokesman for the Nigerian Army, Col Sagir Musa, said he would call back with a response but had not done so as of the time of filing this report.