• Ekanem Ibokessien

Nigerian Private Universities Converge on Ritman University

Staggering! That’s how the statistics are.

From Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien’s study, only 15 scientists and engineers per million (of the Nigerian population) is engaged in research and development – Brazil has 168; China, 459; India, 158; USA, 4,103. In the World Intellectual Property Organization annual ranking, Nigeria is perpetually missing…

Ritman University thus convened a first-of-its-kind meeting with proprietors of private universities from the North, South, East and West of Nigeria to brainstorm and find solutions to these and other problems. It was the first Conference of Proprietors of Private Universities in Nigeria.

In Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State; 6th June, 2016, university owners were in agreement that certain rules of government agencies do not help in growing the nation’s capacity to educate its citizens by private effort. One of such is the requirement that universities should be registered as Limited Liability Companies which consequently makes them subject to neck-breaking taxation.

This, Barr. Kingsley Chinda said defeats the very purpose for which private universities came into existence. Participants agreed that universities public or private are not strictly profit-making organizations. Chinda made it clear that by law, a university should be registered as Limited by Guarantee and treated as more or less a charity organization in taxation. But with the erroneous impression that private universities make lots of money,   too many financial demands are made on them. To make things worse, regulatory bodies hide vital information from operators of private varsities, Kingsley said.

The legal practitioner who was a resource person at the conference cited section 26 (1) of the Companies and Allied Matters Act to prove that a private university does not deserve taxation because even if it makes profit, much of it is ploughed back for research and development, thus complementing government efforts to educate its citizens.

Prof Charles Okoroafor, Acting Vice Chancellor of Gregory University Uturu, said the National Universities Commission (NUC) should be more open in dealing with private universities, and make known to those seeking licenses the financial implications of running such institutions.  He added that Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) has a duty to include private universities in its grants and aid. Prof C. C. Onochie, VC of Rennaissance University, Ugbawka reiterated that TETFUND should be for all universities – public or private.

Efana Usua, a Professor and acting VC of Obong University said the NUC needs to be more proactive and not let private varsities suffer under harsh rules of government agencies, adding that the commission should play effectively its role of setting and keeping standards.

The university proprietors and heads suggested ways of collaboration for private universities to help themselves. Mark Chiazor of Michael and Cecilia Ibru University said his institution is developing IT platforms for sharing information, ideas and resources among universities. He invited other private universities to collaborate with them in this regard. Prof Celestine Ntuen of Ritman University advised the Government to set up a National Science and Technology Foundation where public and private institutions should compete for research funding.

Proprietors present or represented at the conference came from all six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. They included Evangel University, Ebonyi; Renaissance University, Enugu; Paul University, Anambra; Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, Delta State.

From Akwa Ibom State came Ritman University, Ikot Ekpene and Obong University. Kwararafa University came from Taraba; and Samuel Adegboyega University from Edo.

There were also representatives from the University of Mkar in Benue State; Gregory University, Abia; Augustine University, Lagos; and Al Qalam University in Katsina.

Edidiong Esara 08/06/2016

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