By Godfrey AKON
The Federal Government has ordered a nationwide crackdown on illegal universities, colleges of education, polytechnics and monotechnics, urging relevant agencies to immediately apprehend and prosecute promoters of such institutions.
Minister of Education, Malam Adama Adamu, who gave the directive at a briefing in Abuja, mandated the National Universities Commission (NUC), National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), to work with relevant security agencies to commence the crackdown within their jurisdictions.
Adamu warned those promoting illegal institutions that the days of treating promoters of such institutions with kid gloves are over, stressing that anyone caught in the act will be severely punished.
The minister, who stated disclosed that 66 illegal degree mills have been identified by the National Universities Commission, advised that the processes of accreditation of tertiary institutions have been streamlined and that there is no reason whatsoever for any institution not to come forward for proper accreditation.
While decrying the menace of continuous proliferation of illegal universities in Nigeria, he said the practice has become a source of embarrassment to the nation, attributing the problem to unprecedented population growth and delay by government in establishing enough schools to keep pace with the educational demands of the populace.
“The end result has come to be the embracing of “illegally acquired” education through the cutting of corners by approved universities which create substandard satellite campuses, study centers and outreach centers.
“Worse still, is that these unapproved establishments are usually manned by unqualified or unrecognized personnel. The most outrageous, is the outright establishment of fake institutions masquerading as universities with all sorts of affiliations,” he said.
Speaking on major factors responsible for the recent upsurge in the number of illegal providers of degree-awarding institutions, the minister cited greed, fraud and endemic corruption in the society, noting that the major motivational issue here is to corrupt the education system by providing substandard institutions in return for the high fees they charge their students.
“Secondly, there exists, the problems of insufficient access for the large pool of qualified candidates that sit for the yearly Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations organised by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board.
“However, the existing admission spaces in the Universities might not have matched with the number of qualified candidates, the Federal Government through the National Universities Commission has increased access to University education through the increase in the number of licenses granted to establish universities from the initial three in 1999 to the present 165 in 2019. Many applications are still being processed by the National Universities Commission,” he said.
Adamu also noted that it has been discovered that a major factor that makes the illegal Universities thrive is that they have no set standard for entry requirements, adding that admission into such illegal outfits is available to anybody that can pay their fees.
He said the non-existence of specific sanctions for operating illegal tertiary institutions has also contributed to escalation in the phenomenon of illegal providers of tertiary education, particularly the illegal degree mills.
While noting that ministry is currently working with the National Assembly to breach the gap, he said the phenomenon of illegal providers of tertiary education is more notorious in the university subsector than the Polytechnic or College of Education subsector.
“It is also crucial to state that while some of the illegal providers are operating illegal institutions based in Nigeria, some are on-line in unapproved linkages and affiliations with substandard foreign institutions that have no accreditation or recognition of regulatory bodies either in Nigeran or their home countries.
“The proliferation of these institutions has made the job of regulatory agencies in the sector very difficult. Such institutions also default in taxes. They do not keep to the rules of the game. They have no admission quota, they run unaccredited courses with practically no standards. Their products are half baked and unemployable,” Adamu said.