The chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC), Mr Ekpo Nta, has said that the Nigerian university system is enmeshed in corruption-related practices.
He gave as proof public comments, complaints and several petitions against the university system received by various regulatory bodies and the ICPC. The chairman stated this during his maiden press conference/media luncheon with newsmen in Abuja, yesterday.
Nta, who said that the essence of the parley was to strengthen mutual understanding between the commission and the media and as well as present a three-volume report of an ICPC-commissioned University Systems Study and Review (USSR) which conducted a pilot study on three universities in the country, namely: University of Nigeria, Nsukka (federal university), Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye (state university) and Salem University Lokoja (private university).
"The USSR is a fact-finding and problem-solving strategy that involves the examination of current policies, practices, procedures, behaviours and systems of public bodies to determine if they aid corruption and to what extent they are prone to do.
"Evidence has shown that a whole range of corruption-related practices have become rampant in the higher education system with devastating consequences not only on the system and individual institutions but on the larger society as well," Nta said.
He said that the situation whereby Nigeria's tertiary institutions that were expected to be at the vanguard of ethical education to correct the ills of the society have themselves become the haven for corruption was unacceptable.
The USSR team was set up by the ICPC in collaboration with the National Universities Commission (NUC) under the chairmanship of Prof. Peter Okebukola and its membership was drawn from the ranks of the investigative staff of the ICPC with high-level NUC representation.
According Nta, the study indicted the pilot institutions in key areas of admission processes, examination administration, teaching and learning services, appointments, promotion and discipline of staff, contract awards and procurement process, management of funds and research administration of which he said the system was characterised by all manners of irregularities with sexual harassment as the most rampant.
The continued defiance of NUC by universities over satellite campuses which the chairman described as "cash factories" where victims obtain unusable qualifications was another issue of serious concern to ICPC.
Nta said that the study was inconclusive and at the end of the pilot phase, the outcome was to be discussed with the selected institutions for questioning and if found wanting would be prosecuted.
He said that the template for the conduct of USSR would be applied to other Nigerian universities and extended to other tertiary institutions in the higher education sector.
The chairman, who was in company of ICPC board members, said that the choice of the university system for the anti-corruption searchlight was a proactive measure of prevention.