The Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Dr Wale Babalakin, has called for the immediate revitalisation of Nigerian universities so they can go beyond the 800th position in the world universities’ ranking.
Babalakin, who said that at least one Nigerian university should be among the top 100 in the next five years, made this known at the University of Ilorin’s Third Annual Registry Lecture Series, titled ‘Public Service Rules And University Administration: Re-engineering For Excellence’.
In a statement to The PUNCH on Sunday, Babalakin, who is also the Chairman of the Federal Government Renegotiation Committee with the Academic Staff Unions of Universities said his committee had realised that for Nigeria to position itself as a leading nation, it must improve its educational system.
“We have discovered that one of the challenges of the educational system in Nigeria is funding. We have also determined the average cost of funding every course. For example, for UNILORIN, with a population of 50,000 students, based on the average cost of N1.2m required yearly per student, the university requires N60bn per annum to reposition itself as a first-rate university in the world. Where is this money going to come from?
“From my experience with various universities, all UNILORIN has today is government allocation to pay salaries; some insignificant figure for recurrent and capital expenditure – definitely less than N1bn annually – and TETFund, which cannot afford to give the university N1bn yearly. In total, you have about N12bn and you require N60bn. Where will the difference come from?” Babalakin asked.
Explaining that various arguments have been put forward on where the difference should come from, the legal practitioner said, “A school of thought is that the money must come from government. If the government can afford it, why not? But where will it come from? Our position, as negotiators for the government, is that somebody must pay – either government or someone else – but we are not willing to delay the revitalisation of Nigerian universities.
“We are not willing to be number 800 in the world. In the next five years, one Nigerian university must be in the top 100. It will be a celebration if there are many more. Our employers will decide where the money is going to come from but this is the volume of money required to revitalise universities.
“Nigeria is not a wealthy country. By the time you divide the gross income by the population, you will see that the country is very poor. That is why leaders have been warned that Nigeria may become the poverty capital of the world,” he said.
Proffering solutions to the problem, Babalakin said the situation was not hopeless. “We must use our capacity and intellect to create a larger economy to create greater resources that will be enough to go round everyone.”
He advised the university to review its rules every 10 years, as opposed to annually, so as to have a harmonised guide for administrators.
Urging Nigerians to remain committed to the task of restoring the country’s lost glory in spite of the many challenges, Babalakin said, “Whatever happens, I assure you with the words of former United States President, John F. Kennedy that the torch has been passed to a new generation that will not be deterred by obstacles.”