NUC team disrupts exam, lectures at illegal varsities

THE PUNCH Newspaper- Segun Olugbile

The ‘students’ had already taken their seats for the second semester examination.

Invigilators, lecturers and the coordinators of the centre had distributed the question papers. They were about to write a paper on accounting and business administration when the members of the National Universities Commission’s Committee on Closure of Illegal Universities in Nigeria entered the premises of Victory Grammar School, Ikeja, being used as the Lagos campus of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Enugu, Enugu State on Saturday.

The team, led by its Chairman, Prof. Ebenezer Adebowale, headed towards one of the classrooms designated for the examination. Adebowale introduced himself and the mission of the team, and subsequently ordered that the examination be stopped.

“This examination will not hold. It is illegal. It is not known to the NUC and to the Nigerian law. The operators are doing this in contravention of the law and we are here to let you know that unaccredited programmes and unapproved institutions cannot operate in Nigeria ,” he said.

Before the students could understand what was happening, their lecturers and the coordinator of the centre had fled the premises of the school. In fact, one of the officials, who was inside the examination hall, denied having anything to do with the centre before he escaped from the centre.

The baffled students sat rooted to their seats, mouth agape, hands on the heads, clicking their teeth with their pens in regret. Sighs of regrets and disappointment took over the premises. ESUT, Lagos satellite campus, it was gathered, started operation four years ago. Our correspondent learnt the operators had been using a decoy to carry on their business.

On that Saturday, small banners advertising that the place was an ICAN examination study centre were mounted at conspicuous corners of the school. Some of the students of the institution who spoke with our correspondent disclosed that each of them paid between N100, 000 and N150, 000 per session depending on the course of study. One of them, who simply identified herself as Bola, a 300 Level student of Business administration, said she paid N100, 000 as tuition for the 2009/2010 session.

Her confused colleagues later milled around Adebowale and his team, seeking to know the implication of the closure of the centre. One of them, Mr. B. Balogun, pleaded with the team to consider the interest of the students by allowing them to continue the programme.

But Adebowale said, “Like I said earlier, we are from the NUC and we are here to let you know that the programmes being run here are illegal, they are not known to the NUC regulations and the Nigerian law. So, any certificate issued to you by this so - called institution will not be recognised by the Nigerian government, you will not be mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps Scheme and you will not be able to use the certificate for further studies anywhere in Nigeria . Nobody will employ you with a certificate from any illegal institution and so, don’t waste your time and money.

“The operators of these illegal programmes are violating the law of the land. You can see that what they are doing is illegal, otherwise they would not have run away when we came in,” he said.

“So all my years here and investment will end in futility,” another student, Mr. Abiodun Adekunle, cried out in response to Adebowale’s explanation.

Adekunle, who spoke on behalf of the students, said that majority of the students in the illegal institution were products of the nation’s polytechnic sector.

He identified disparity in career progression and salaries of bachelor’s degree holders and Higher National Diploma certificates holders; the nation’s craze for university degree and the urge for personal development as some of the reasons responsible for their desperation.

“I can tell you that over 90 per cent of us here are HND holders and the discrimination we are facing in our various offices forced most of us to register here. They even fooled us that the programmes were being done in affiliation with ESUT. So, how do we get our money back? Who is going to help us to force these people to refund our money? The NUC must help us and these people must be arrested and jailed,” he said in frustration.

According to him, over 1,200 students are undergoing various programmes in the satellite campus while another unconfirmed number of students are taking part in similar programmes being run by the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State .

To corroborate his colleague, another business administration student, who simply identified himself as Chinedu, said he decided to register for the degree programme after enduring discrimination as an HND holder in his office for 14 years. “I joined my company 14 years ago with HND certificate but each time I expected the management to promote me, they would just bring younger people with a degree but who lacked experience and placed them over me. I became disoriented and wanted to leave but I discovered that my friends were having similar problem in other companies. So, I decided to enrol for this programme three years ago, but look at what is happening to me. Three years wasted, over N400, 000 gone down the drain just like that?” he asked.

Lamenting his fate, another 300 level student of accountancy, who works with a firm in Lagos , Abiola Oladejo, said though what the NUC was doing was right, it should not be at the expense of the students. “NUC should educate the public more on the status of universities in the country. If I had known that this programme was illegal, I would not have enrolled in the first instance. How do I get my money back now? LASU did the same thing to me; I was there to do a programme and seven years after completion, I have not been given my certificate. I want university education but I cannot go to private universities because of high tuition.”

Adebowale, however, advised the students to cooperate with the NUC in order to get a refund from the illegal operators of the centre. He also advised them to go and register at the National Open University of Nigeria instead of enriching illegal operators of universities.

He added that the decision of the Federal Government to create six new universities was part of the measures being taken to widen access to university education. “But we will not compromise standard because many Nigerians desire university education,” he said.

Unknown to the students, the Federal Government had scrapped all satellite campuses in the country since 2000.

Adebowale, whose team was in Lagos in continuation of the battle the NUC had declared against 42 illegal universities in the country, also visited the campus of Christ Message International University , Okota, Lagos . At the illegal university owned by a popular female preacher, Bishop Bolanle Odeleke, some students undergoing Master’s degree were receiving lectures when the team arrived. The Acting Registrar of the institution, Pastor Gabriel Okafor, told the team that what the institution was doing was legal as the university was in affiliation with the Lagos State University , Ojo. But Adebowale challenged him to produce the institution’s operational licence issued to the proprietor by the NUC. But rather than producing it, Okafor said it was being processed.

Asked what programmes the institution had on offer, the acting registrar said the institution was running programme in theology. But Adebowale brought out a handbill of the university calling on candidates to come and register for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in business administration, psychology, theology and Ph.D in divinity.

“What you are doing here is illegal. This institution is not in affiliation with LASU and you don’t have any right whatsoever to award any degree. This institution is closed down forthwith and the proprietor should report to NUC Abuja, immediately,” Adebowale said.

At LASU, the Head, Public Relations Unit, Mrs. Anthonia Oyeniji, said the institution was not in affiliation with Christ Message International University.

A copy of an MBA certificate issued to one Onyekachukwu N. Vera on September 20, 2008, pasted on the walls of Okafor’s office was enough to prove that the illegal institution had been awarding degrees to ignorant Nigerians.

Members of the team were shocked to see a first degree holder teaching Master’s students at one of the lecture rooms of the illegal institution. This infuriated Adebowale who ordered the students to leave the class. Facing the students, he said, “That is what we are saying, how can a degree holder be teaching you courses in a Master’s class? This is not right. You don’t even have qualified lecturers, no library and no structure. Why do some people like to take the law into their hands? This is an illegal and unaccredited university, stop wasting your time, we are closing down this university right away,” he said.

Apart from these two institutions, over 40 other illegal universities had been shut down by the team since the NUC commissioned it to flush out illegal degree mills out of the nation’s university system.

Adebowale disclosed that most of the university operators were capitalising on the inadequate space in the nation’s university system to rip off Nigerians of their hard- earned money.

These degree mills, he said, had not been licensed by the Federal Government, adding that their existence violated the nation’s National Minimum Standards on Education. Specifically, Adebowale said that over 43 illegal universities violated Act CAP E3 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

He, however, said that the NUC would not spare any effort to nip the activities of illegal operators of universities in the bud.

“We will prosecute all of the proprietors of these institutions. In fact, some of them are already being prosecuted,” he said.

He disclosed that about eight other illegal universities were currently undergoing further investigations with a view to closing them down and prosecuting their proprietors.

“The purpose of these actions is to prosecute the proprietors and recover illegal fees and charges on subscribers,” he said.

But the NUC has problems prosecuting illegal universities’ operators because the law setting up the agency only empowers it to close down such institutions.

“We have a problem with prosecuting these people because the law of the NUC only allows us to close down illegal universities. The only thing we are doing now is to charge proprietors of these institutions for obtaining money under false pretence. Until our own law is amended, that is the only thing we can do,” Head, Legal Unit of NUC, Mr. Moses Awe, said.

He, however, explained that the NUC law had been sent to the National Assembly for amendment. “We are still waiting for the amendment of the NUC Act but while we wait, we will continue to use Section 419 to prosecute operators of illegal universities,” he said.


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