Nigeria: Why We Established Three New Universities - Governor

Governor Okowa says the new universities will broaden access to university education

Delta Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, has said that the creation of three new universities in the state was to broaden Deltan's access to university education.

Mr Okowa stated this on Wednesday in Asaba while inaugurating an eight-member Project Management Committee for the three newly-established universities in the state.

The Committee has Commissioner for Higher Education, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare as Chairman, with Ambassador Godson Echegile, Prof. Emmanuel Nwanze, Prof. John Enaohwo, Prof. Abednigo Ekoko, Prof. Sam Ukala, and Ejiro Udjo as members. Bridget Odobor will serve as Secretary.

Governor Okowa said members of the committee were carefully chosen based on their track records in the academia, public administration and the private sector, adding that they were men of deep intellect and managerial acumen.

'"I have absolute confidence in their ability to get the job done," Mr Okowa said.

The governor said those criticising the establishment of four universities in the state had no knowledge of the critical data available to the government.

On March 26, the National Universities Commission granted the state government operating licences for three new universities in Asaba, Agbor and Ozoro.

"With that approval, we have scaled the major hurdle for their establishment," Mr Okowa said. "What remains now is for us as an administration to set in motion the appropriate structures and operational modalities for their successful take-off in the 2021/2022 academic session.

"In line with the process-driven character of this administration, it behoves us to have a Project Management Committee to midwife the successful transition/take-off of these universities - Dennis Osadebey University, Asaba, University of Delta, Agbor, and Delta State University of Science and Technology, Ozoro.

"I am aware there are some who question the rationale for having four universities in the state. It is because such people are not privy to the data available to government and are therefore, understandably not conversant with the harsh reality confronting multiplied thousands of qualified secondary school graduates in their quest for university education.

"As a government, we are daily confronted with the sense of gloom and doom experienced by these young men and women who cannot gain admission into the existing public universities due to inadequate space.

"I will cite some statistics. In the JAMB report of 2018. 80,131 Deltans representing 4.85 per cent of total applicants, sat for the board's university entrance examination.

"However, only a fraction of those who passed could be admitted. Also, for the 2019/2020 academic session, 25,896 candidates from the State chose Delta State University as first choice. Out of this number, 22,358 qualified but only 4,854 candidates could be admitted.

"As you can see, even the State-owned DELSU has reached its full-carrying capacity."

Governor Okowa lamented that majority of Deltans could not afford the fees charged by private universities.

According to him, frustrated, some of the youth resort to anti-social vices while many join the migrant train in search of greener pastures in Europe using unorthodox methods, with all the grave dangers associated with such.

He added, "It is therefore incumbent on us as an administration to broaden access to university education for our bright students, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering, law, ICT, and architecture.

"Our administration has worked very hard to curb youth restiveness in the State through various entrepreneurship development programmes.

"Our efforts in this regard stand the risk of coming to naught if every year, more secondary school graduates are left stranded not because they are not qualified but simply because there is not enough space in the existing public universities to accommodate them.

"The State Government is fully aware of the financial implications of establishing new universities.

"We have not taken this decision lightly nor have we acted hastily. The decision to establish new universities was one of the outcomes from the first-ever Delta State Education Summit in February 2016.

"It is our considered view that the benefits of having these universities far outweigh the cost. In fact, it makes more economic sense for the State Government to upgrade the institutions as we have done because not only will these universities inherit infrastructure and personnel of the previous institutions, it will also guarantee good return on investment.

"We are confident that these new universities will go a long way to satisfy our people's aspirations and yearnings for good, quality education, while ensuring that the State Government gets full value for its money."

The committee, which has eight weeks to complete the assignment has the following terms of reference: "To take stock of personnel, moveable assets as well as liabilities of the transitory institutions namely: College of Education, Agbor; Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro and Delta State University, Anwai Campus;

"To work out strategies for the smooth transition of the institutions to the new universities, including the winding down of all ongoing certificate and diploma programmes hitherto mounted therein;

"To advise the State Government on the prioritization of programmes and projects of the new institutions and determine the take-off programmes to be offered as the new institutions prepare for admission of fresh in-takes for the 2021/2022 academic year;

"To work out strategies for sustainable sourcing of funds for the new institutions and to make such other recommendations that would facilitate the effective take-off of the institutions in a manner that meets the short and long-term aspirations of Deltans,"

The Chairman of the Committee, Mr Muoboghare, thanked Governor Okowa for the choice of members of the committee.

He assured the governor that his committee would work hard to submit its report within the stipulated period.

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