The Federal Government recently directed the National Universities Commission (NUC), the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) and the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) to work with security agencies and crack down on all illegal tertiary institutions within their jurisdictions. Apart from ordering for the arrest and prosecution of the operators of the illegal institutions, government warned that they should no longer be treated with kid gloves.
While disclosing this to journalists in Abuja, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, maintained that the proliferation of illegal tertiary institutions in the country has become embarrassing to government as well as a threat to the country’s education system. The affected institutions, according to the minister, include 66 illegal universities, 68 polytechnics and several colleges of education.
Outside these, government admitted that there are so many unapproved and illegal institutions that spring up daily in the country due to the quest for higher education certificates and the inability of many students to secure admission into higher institutions of their choice.
Some of these institutions, the minister disclosed, are physically based in the country while some others operate on online platforms in unapproved linkages and have affiliations with substandard foreign institutions. Also, these institutions do not have accreditation or recognition of regulatory bodies in Nigeria or their home countries.
It is indeed disturbing that the number of illegal tertiary institutions in the country is on the increase despite the presence of the regulatory agencies. We do not subscribe to the argument that the proliferation of illegal institutions has made the job of regulatory agencies difficult. The regulatory agencies should wake up from their slumber and close all illegal tertiary institutions operating in the country.
Their operators should be apprehended and diligently prosecuted for violating our laws. In fact, those that establish illegal universities must be prosecuted for violating the Education (National Minimum Standards etc) Act Cap E3 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. Those behind the establishment of the illegal institutions must not be allowed to remain in their inimical business.
The seeming slack in regulation by the concerned agencies may have been responsible for the existence of the illegal institutions. We condemn the establishment of illegal tertiary institutions in the country and urge those behind them to desist from such unpatriotic act. The importance of education in any society cannot be overemphasised. No doubt, education is very vital for the socio-economic development of any country.
The failure of successive governments to place high premium on education has been largely accountable for our underdevelopment. It is time for all tiers of government to accord education the pride of place in the scheme of things.
While we are aware that the craze for higher education amid limited admission spaces in existing higher institutions may have led these unscrupulous Nigerians to run illegal institutions, the government must close them forthwith. Above all, the regulatory agencies must increase their surveillance function and ensure that the illegal institutions do not operate again. We cannot condone the breach of our education laws by selfish and greedy individuals.
Last year, the NUC shut down 58 illegal universities in the country. Located in almost all the geo-political zones in the country, the banned universities did not have the national minimum standard for establishing such institutions. They were also not licensed by the Federal Government.
We, therefore, enjoin Nigerians, who are interested in establishing universities and other higher institutions to get approval from the NUC and other regulatory agencies before embarking on such projects. Since admission opportunities in the existing universities in the country are said to be insufficient, government should work towards establishing new ones.
In the interim, it can expand the existing tertiary institutions to enable them take more students. We think that this is the best way to prevent prospective students from patronising illegal universities.