President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday lamented that over 60 per cent of lecturers in Nigerian universities do not hold Ph.D qualification and insisted that deliberate actions must be taken by his government to reduce the figure to 10 per cent.
To that effect, he said he would set up an inter-ministerial committee that will work out modalities for Nigerians who are interested in education to go to the best schools to qualify and come back to impart knowledge to our youths.
He stated this while inaugurating the Presidential Committee on Award of Post-Graduate Scholar-ship to first class graduates at the council chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He charged the members to screen and select the best on merit devoid of quota consideration so that the country can build the needed human capacity to develop the country.
According to him, the expectation of the outside world was that Nigeria was a force to be reckoned with in the continent and had to lead the way to ensuring that capacities for sustainable development was built to remove dependence of the Nigerian economy from oil.
For a start, Jonathan said 100 first class graduates would be selected from the federal and state universities in the country and screened to get the best of them for post graduate courses in the first top 25 universities around the world in specialised areas like science, engineering and economic management so that they would come back with competences to transfer knowledge and develop the country.
He charged the committee to assist the students to secure the admission as left with them, they would not be able to do so, adding that after training, they would be expected to work for the government who funded them for five years after which they would be free to work anywhere they choose.
"This idea is for our best brains to form the core of human tools that would drive the sustainable transition for this country. The information I got from the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commi-ssion (NUC) is that about 60 per cent of our academic staff in Nigerian universities don't have PhD, that is quite embarrassing, that is not good enough.
"I will set up an inter-ministerial department to work with some of you in the academics to come up with policies for robust training for young men and women who are interested in academics to go anywhere in the world, we must reduce that, there is no way that we have up to 60 per cent academic staff without PhDs, it should not be more than 10 per cent, those who are starting before they go for their Masters and PhDs. it should be transitional phase, if you must lecture, then first degree and second degree should be transitional phase," he said.
"We will work and see how we can bridge this gap, it is not something that government can solve within the next one or two years but we may come up with a robust programme that over the years we must bridge that gap till we get a team of academic staff that are university materials to be lecturers in our tertiary institutions. Our challenges as a nation are enormous but definitely, I believe with the commitment of Nigerians, this country will be transformed," he said.
Jonathan stressed the need for the development of human tool which he said was critical for transformation and to achieve that, he said there was need for transformation of the educational system of the country from the primary to tertiary levels through selecting and exposing them to form the first core of human tools to lead the transformation.
"Every year we should tap from among our best brains, selecting our best brains, we are starting with 100 because we have not made adequate arrangement for funding but the number will increase when we make budgetary allocation for it in 2013. We select our best brain in the area of science, engineering and some areas of economics and expose them to the best facilities available in the world.
The ministry of education and this committee will have to travel to these universities to negotiate for positions in the top 25 universities in the world.
"The idea is the best brains, for you to benefit, you must have first class, it is based purely on merit, no quota. We are giving opportunity for first brains. We are going to spend money, so we need to tap a little of what they get, so in the first five years, they should work as lecturers or researchers", he stressed.
Responding, the Chairman of the Committee and Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Professor Julius Okogie assured him that it was a right step to take as investment in human capacity development was core to sustainable development.
He pledged the readiness of the Committee to work assiduously to ensure that the dream of the scheme was realised, adding that with the best brains selected to serve in the committee, they will do all to ensure that only the best were selected to benefit so that the aim would be achieved.
He noted that examination methods currently used by universities was different from what it used to be which may lead to turning out of First Class students without their showing exceptional abilities though he stated that they will devise a means to weed out those though they have first class, are not really in that category.
Other members to work with Okogie on the Committee are Professor Musa Yakubu, Dr. Jemila Shuara, Professor Musa Alabe, Mrs. H Abdulkadir, Professor J.D. Kwari and Professor Sani Sule.
Also on the Committee are Professors Mohammed Onogu, Ikenna Onyibe, Olurotimi Tayo and William Okowa while Secretary of the Committee will be taken from Ministry of Education.