By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives at it’s resumption yesterday Mandated the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency release the take-off grant meant for Universities across the country decades after of their establishment.
The House equally Mandated it’s Committee on Education to liaise with the relevant federal government agencies (Federal Ministry of Education and National Universities Commission), to take stock of universities affected, ensure compliance and report to the House within four weeks.
The resolutions of the House was as the result of a Motion sponsored by Hon. Unyime Idem Presenting Ukanafun/Oruk Anam Federal Constituency .
Presenting the motion on the “ Non-Release of Traditional rake-off grants to some Federal Universities across the country decades after their establishment” Hon. Idem said , that there are some federal universities in Nigeria that are yet to receive their traditional take-off grants decades after establishments and commencement of academic activities.
He said “Observe that take off grants are seed funds provided by the federal government to assist new universities prepare grounds for take-off of academic and other activities, support training and equipment that facilitate preparedness, or pay the salaries of pioneer workers, assist in the provision of requisite technology, books and other crucial materials needed to run the school at the beginning stage as well as professional development for teachers.
The lawmaker “Note that when the affected universities both second and third generation were established, they had to commence academic activities from existing secondary, technical schools or state universities as the case may be. The take -off grant aims at assisting the new schools to improve their facilities, rebuilding or renovating old and dilapidated structures or adding additional structures to serve the needs of a growing population.
“A classic example of a university yet to receive take off grant is University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State formerly known as the University of Cross River State (UNICROSS). It is a third-generation university established on October 1, 1991. It commenced academic activities without the traditional take off grant but had to grapple with its lean resources to manage its affairs.
“Owing to the peculiarity of the Town Campus surrounding, the University could not develop beyond what it is today because of ravine. It took the intervention of the then state government to acquire and donate the Annex campus to help the young university expand. The University later got its permanent site on the outskirt of the state capital where it presently occupies. It is now twenty-nine years after the Federal Government took over the University of Cross River State renaming it University of Uyo, the traditional take-off grant has not been released to the institution.
“Howbeit, some universities including but not limited to Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umuahia, University of Jos, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Anambra State, are yet to receive take-off grant decades after being established and this has hampered the development of the institutions.
“Aware that this unfortunate development has hampered the rapid provision of needed infrastructures at various main campuses of the affected universities, leading to the overstretching of existing facilities. The implication is that students are overcrowded in lecture hall and have resorted to having classes under trees, lecturers are sandwiched into inadequate offices while vital infrastructure are lacking. The consequence is that productivity is hampered while the quality of education and graduates continue to plummet.
“Further note that the failure of the federal government to release the said take-off to the affected Universities from the onset, has led to untold hardship since funds that would have been used for other projects were now deployed to provide immediate remediation.
“Worried that these Universities are still faced with the challenges of inability to provide a befitting physical facility, payment of staff promotion arrears, arrears of salary shortfalls, payment of earned allowances, and engagement of more staff to improve the staff-student-ratio. And the efforts made by successive administrations to get the federal government through the National Universities Commission (NUC) to address the issue have not yielded positive results.
“Instructive is the fact that that other universities created before and after these Universities have enjoyed the privilege of receiving take off grants. ranging from 2 billion to 5 billion naira.
“Note that In November 2017, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, graciously approved 6 billion naira as take-off grant for Maritime University Okerenkuku, Delta State. Also, Mr. President in August 2018 approved 2 billion naira as take-off grant for the Nigeria Army University Biu as has been the tradition.
“Hopeful that the release of the take-off grant to the Universities will help the affected citadels of learning a great deal to surmount some of their present challenges, achieve the dreams of the founding fathers, provide conducive learning and teaching environment for both staff and students and contribute their quota to development of middle-level manpower and scholarship”, he said.