Tobi Soniyi and Shola Oyeyipo
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Dr. Wale Babalakin, and the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof.Rahmon Bello, have said that government alone cannot fund education.
They all spoke at the UNILAG at 55 anniversary and 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards held at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Osinbajo said attaining the best level of university education, which would enable Nigerian universities to compete favourably internationally, could not be left for government alone. He said private organisations such as alumni and others must assist government to develop the higher institutions of learning.
Commending UNILAG alumni which had a multi-billion naira fund raising for the purpose of infrastructural development on the campus, the vice president said: ‘It is important that we do so because just as the pro-chancellor pointed out, government alone cannot support universities to the extent that is required, to keep them even at the current levels. A lot will have to come from the alumni and the private sector. That’s how great universities all over the world are run.
“I am so excited to see that our project today, the fund raising project, is one that has clearly shown the way to go with respect to developing our university.” The VP, who was a law lecturer in the university, commended the school for pioneering innovative means of making the institution best among its peers.
“I want to say that UNILAG has proved time and time again to be not just a university of first-choice but also the University of firsts! So many firsts in different areas; just reading about Doctor Olukoya, he was the first to clone genes. Hardly anyone would know that the pastor and founder of Mountain of Fire and Miracles was also the first to clone genes. That is an absolutely outstanding thing.
“The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God was also the first Nigerian to get a PhD in a Nigerian university in Applied Mathematics and Engineering. I think that there are so many other firsts, but the most important thing today is to ensure that those firsts do not become the last.
“We must ensure we continue in the great traditions of the University of Lagos and this is why I am so excited to see a lot of committed alumni who want to see to it that our university goes from glory to glory.”
Babalakin, who had spoken earlier, commended the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for setting up a committee to explore alternative funding for higher institutions of learning. He expressed regret that no university in Nigeria was rated among the best 800 in the world. According to him, that is unacceptable.
Babalakin noted that the nation’s educational system was at a crossroads saying, “We have to change the structure of the universities structure to do better.”
Relying on statistics from the Nigerian University Commission, Babalakin said the nation needed N1.6 trillion to finance universities annually.
He said: “If the government is to fund all the federal universities, it would require about N1.6trn. Government cannot spend money on one single item. So, we have to find a creative way to fund university education.”
Also speaking, the Vice Chancellor said coping with the increasing students’ population remained a challenge. He said there was challenge of hostel accommodation.
He said: “Funding is a serious challenging. We are therefore calling for alternative sources of funding for university education. We are looking forward to government allowing us to seek alternative sources of funding.”
Some of the award recipients were Dr. John Abebe; Mr. Mustafa Chike-Obi; Senator Victor Ndoma Egba (SAN); Mr. Godwin Obla (SAN); Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; Mrs. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita; Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, Dr. Daniel Kolawole Olukoya; the Vice Chancellor, Prof Rahmon Adisa Bella, and Dr. Wale Babalakin.