UNN And Rot In Nigerian Universities

Casmir Igbokwe

The University of Nigeria Nsukka, (UNN) set out to restore the dignity of man. To an extent, it succeeded in doing that. But the rot I saw in that great institution recently has seriously eroded whatever dignity it tried to restore. As Nigerian prayer warriors will say, let’s use the school as a point of contact to reach the Federal Government. This, hopefully, could result in a complete overhaul of our education system.

READ ALSO: Day storm wreaked havoc in UNN

At UNN, my alma mater, most of the infrastructures have become an eyesore. The Faculty of Arts building, an architectural masterpiece erected when I was about to leave the institution over 26 years ago, is one of them. Parts of the walls have turned to green from the original colour. When it rains, water drops from the V-shaped concrete roof to the floor of the building. It leaves it flooded and messy.

Faculty of Arts building, UNN

The halls of residence are not better. When I visited late July, windstorm had blown off part of the roof of Eni Njoku hostel. And students still lived there. Behind the Kwame Nkrumah hall was a heap of refuse. The great Mbanefo hostel is no more. It is completely dilapidated and abandoned.

Also abandoned are the great Zik’s flats, which used to house thousands of students. Inhabiting the place now are numerous reptiles and weeds. The streetlights are also not working.

One of the abandoned Zik’s flats in UNN

Besides, the population of students has greatly outnumbered the available infrastructure. A senior lecturer in the school confided in me that no single classroom is sufficient for students anymore. In almost all the departments, you have over 200 students struggling for space in a classroom meant to accommodate about 60 people.

At the time of my visit, overgrown grasses had taken over parts of the school compound. The stadium area was the worst hit. It was as if the school no longer had workers tending to its environmental needs.

From my enquiries, I gathered that the company handling such work in the school, Total Facility, abandoned it because the school owed its workers.

Some staff members said past vice-chancellors cleaned up the environment of the university, but the incumbent, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, allegedly messed it up. His predecessors, some of them alleged, could point at what they built, but this one has nothing to show.

I went to the VC’s office to seek answers to some nagging questions. I didn’t meet him. He was said to have travelled. When I later called the public relations officer of the school, Mr. Okwun Omeaku, he urged me to revisit and see whether the situation was still the same. He said the grasses had been cut. On the abandoned buildings, Omeaku noted that it was more than 10 years since the buildings were abandoned.

He added, “Two vice-chancellors have come and gone before Ozumba, the incumbent, came. He has renovated hostels. The Federal Government does not build hostels anymore and it’s been long they stopped it. Institutions are crying. There is underfunding of education. And when you increase school fees by just N1, students will shut down the school. Before the Treasury Single Account (TSA) came in, this university was known to be paying on the 26th of every month. But with TSA, every money is locked up. Before you even get approval, you may have served out your tenure.”

READ ALSO: NABTEB Registrar – Sacked board chairman tried to change TSA signatories

Conversely, private universities appear neater and better run. Covenant University in Ota, Ogun State, is a typical example.

In saner societies, a university environment is cool, calm and clean. I remember Cardiff University, my other alma mater, with nostalgia. You could eat in their toilets if you wished. Ideally, for one to be able to concentrate and produce a great research work, one needs an environment that is conducive to learning.

Our public universities cannot provide that. They have failed and fallen short of the glory of education. Many other public institutions in Nigeria have also failed. Is it public secondary schools? Is it Nigeria telecommunications? Is it Nigeria Airways? Is it the general hospitals? You can add your own to the list.

The question is: what is wrong with us? We visit other countries and see how things work. But in our own country, we do the opposite. We go on sabbatical to other universities abroad. We enjoy their state-of-the art facilities. We return home to ruin our own.

I wonder if foreign students still come to our universities. I wonder if foreign lecturers still come for sabbatical in our schools. I wonder the type of research work that will emerge from this kind of system.

The problem is such that only the University of Ibadan falls within the first 1,000 in the current world university rankings. It is ranked 991st worldwide and 14th in Africa. No other Nigerian university appeared in this global ranking.

READ ALSO: Making UI a world class varsity

In those days, when the students’ union was strong, students would have protested. Not anymore. Now, they grumble. The lecturers also grumble. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) frequently goes on strike to press home its demands for better welfare and better universities. Nothing much happens afterwards.

That is why many rich parents don’t send their children to public schools anymore. From private primary and secondary schools, they go to private universities.

The Federal Government should think seriously of how to tackle the rot in our universities. In the 2018 budget, the amount allocated to education is 7 percent. This is grossly inadequate. Can’t we reallocate part of our humongous security votes to education? Can’t the universities look beyond admission and screening fees in generating income to augment government allocations?

There is no reason whatsoever why our universities should be citadels of rot. For once, let us be ashamed of ourselves and take action immediately.

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Re: The security outfits called SARS and DSS

Dear Casmir, I read your write-up on SARS and DSS. You really hit the nail on the head. They are more heartless/too brutal to innocent citizens. Thanks for being the voice for the voiceless. Your write-up was superb. That was why Acting President Osinbajo took action against them. Keep it up!

– Bob Jeak, +2347068870034

The truth remains that Nigerian security outfits manifest themselves as paid agents of destruction and have refused to show any sign of change. They are just errand boys of politicians, depending on whose bidding is higher. But my happiness is that the harvest day must one day come.

– Chidi Ekpewerechi, CLO Nigeria, 08108262429

Security outfits now act with impunity, total disrespect for human rights, law and order, just like their commander-in-chief. When Gov. Wike raised the alarm about the criminal operations of SARS, many thought he was playing politics. It is no longer news that SARS kidnap, rob and engage in criminal vices. DSS now owns the nation. They block, barricade, invade and harass Nigerians at will even in the dead of the night. EFCC is now an arm of the executive, doing Buhari and APC’s dirty jobs. Thank you for speaking out. I just pray they come not after you. God bless your pen and the womb that begat thee.

– Goodnews, +2349067785181

I wish to contradict Owei Lekemfa by saying that the fear of DSS is the beginning of wisdom, especially whenever one of them at Awka called Mili is involved. The said Mili was indicted in the judgement of Hon. Justice Arinze Akabua in the murder of Obiesie Michael Okwuchukwu Ramsy Anekwu “OMORA”. Even the EFCC, which is investigating the self-made man called Samuel Ortom, is more corrupt than corrupt people. I can prove my case beyond reasonable doubt. It is high time we checkmated some mobile policemen who use guns to extort from taxi and bus drivers their hard-earned income.

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, JP, 08063730644

Our DSS and SARS are working against the ambit of the law and the Inspector-General of Police should call them to order before they truncate our democracy. Their work is to protect life and property but why do they victimise people? It is very unfair.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, +2348062887535

Rred hot IGBOKWE, your security votes write-up is a bomb; if only EFCC would stick to their constitutional duties rather than being used by the ruling party. APC should know that what goes around comes around. You are a great writer. Keep it up.

– C. Nwankwo, Awka, +2349057609797

  • First published in The Sun of Monday, August 20, 2018.

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