The State Of Higher Education In Nigeria


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The State Of Higher Education In Nigeria




Roy Chikwem


January 2, 2006

The recent findings on the state of higher education in Nigeria as conducted by the World Bank and UNESCO had confirmed the degradation of the Nigerian educational system. Nigeria was a country that produced world-class university graduates that could compete with their counterparts around the world and hard work was their watchword. Today, we only produce the worst set of uneducated tertiary graduates that cannot structure a simple sentence.

Prior to the Nigerian oil industry evolution in the late 1960s, the Nigerian economy was wholly-funded by revenue generated from cash crops such as groundnut, cocoa and palm oil, all produced from the northern, western and eastern part of Nigeria respectively. Then, the fruits of hard work were imbedded in the heart and mind of every student because they saw how hardworking their parents were on the farms and moral education was part of family responsibilities. Today, students are unable to compete in a healthy academic atmosphere due to the destructive role of the family, government, and the university community.

Regrettably, most parents lack all ingredients to be called fathers and mothers because the family structure has been destroyed. These so-called parents hardly oversee the growth and development of their children, rather they chase after the fruits of the world. Family values and respect are now things of the past. These parents prefer to buy admission letters for their children rather than encouraging them to properly prepare for their examinations. And for the parents who refuse to engage in these illegal and immoral practices, they are victimized and their children end up staying at home for years until their parents or the students learn how to beat or cheat the system. Most of these parents always use a famous proverb to justify their unwarranted actions, which goes as follows: "If you can’t beat them, then join them". But these parents fail to realize that they are destroying the future of their children and unborn children without consideration of the long-term consequences and implications.

Recently, domestic and foreign corporations based in Nigeria like Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Texaco, Citibank, Accenture, Nestle, Cadbury, Guinness are all on a massive recruitment drive to hire Nigerian graduates from foreign institutions based in Europe, Asia, America, South Africa, and including other West African countries like Ghana, Libya. These corporations lack trust and confidence in the Nigerian educational system. However, we discovered corporations were willing to offer high paying salaries ranging from $30,000 to $150,000 annually, which include the full paid vacation aboard, relocation expenses, five-star accommodation, housing allowance, resettlement allowance, medical benefits, fuel allowance, vehicle maintenance allowance, security allowance, stock options, housing loan, children tuition allowance and annual bonus. But the Nigerian trained graduates are offered practically nothing compared to their foreign trained counterparts. These Nigerian trained graduates are offered salaries between $2,000 and $5,000 annually without any benefits.


These corporations justified their actions based on the fact that, they spend huge millions of Naira in retraining Nigerian graduates to perform their jobs, which were supposed to be learnt at their respective institution of higher learning. However, they claim that foreign trained graduates are well-trained and equipped to carry out their respective duties. For example, Shell Nigeria has an intensive one-year program for Nigerian trained graduates to improve the technical knowledge of graduates before they may be “considered” for employment into Shell Nigeria. The program is called "Shell Intensive Training Program (SITP)" and it is automatically waived for all foreign trained graduates. In addition, the Nigerian government and its agencies prefer to award contracts to foreign companies rather than Nigerian companies.

The Nigerian government has also played a destructive role in destroying the educational system in Nigeria. Students now go to school on empty stomach coupled with lack of clean water and bad sanitary condition. There are no textbooks to be found in the libraries and lack of improved teaching technological equipments. Students are forced to "learn" in dilapidated buildings. However, most Nigerian students are naturally gifted and talented, and they still excel beyond our imagination with all the odds against them.

In the past, Institution like Yaba College of Technology, University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University and University of Nsukka were all real centers of academic excellence. But the Federal Government of Nigeria went ahead to create and established a governmental agency called Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to regulate admission standards into Nigerian institutions of higher learning. This unprecedented, unwarranted and mismanaged agency then introduced and encouraged schemes like catchments areas, cut off marks, federal character, state of origin (instead of state of birth) without testing its limitations and effects on the educational system.


Unfortunately, prospective students into the universities and polytechnics simply have to bribe their way into these institutions.  These are usually done with the aid of JAMB officials under the falsehood of Vice Chancellors (VC), Deans, Head of Department (HOD) lists, and other all-outrageous admission lists. Hence, these students are illegally admitted into the institution and they find it difficult to maintain their academic grades. Then, these students resort to cultism, prostitution and armed robbery as a means of remaining on campus. Most regrettably, hard work and academic excellence are no longer the yardstick by which academic success are been measured in Nigeria.


The "no hard work syndrome" has eaten so deeply into the educational system in Nigeria, which an ex-speaker in Nigerian House of Representatives had to illegally acquire a fraudulent degree, purportedly awarded by the University of Toronto, Canada.  Consequently, the said politician had to step down from his position.  But using a powerful network, the same ex-speaker has since been on the payroll of a Nigerian governmental agency. What a shame?

Some Vice Chancellors, governors and top government officials have secured loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) without utilizing or implementing those funds into any educational projects. Rather, these loans are converted to personal loans for purchasing big houses aboard, marrying beautiful wives, driving luxury cars and acquiring outrageous chieftaincy titles. Today, Nigeria has a national debt of $35 Billion and we are nowhere close in paying off the debt.

There are also some students who are far richer than their lecturers and parents; hence, they seek admission into tertiary institutions, just to have bachelors and higher degrees to their names. These students dislike the ideology of hard work and merited academic certificate; rather they prefer to take the easiest means. Prostitution houses or rings are now prevalence in institutions like UNILAG, UNIBEN, and among other first, second, third generation, private and state universities. The prostitution activities on campus are widely patronized by lecturers and by highly connected individuals in the society.


Unfortunately, well-connected students use their illegally acquired wealth to influence the outcome of their examinations and they use cultism to terrorize those who fail to bend to their rules. Most of these students are already murderers, rapists and armed robbers before they graduate. In fact, many of these so-called connected students align themselves with government officials and they display their wealth on campus openly. The result of this phenomenon is that graduating students pass through school without learning anything and they are faced with their limitations when they cannot perform at their place of employment or they cannot compete at the job market.

However, most lecturers should share the blame for the state of the Nigerian educational system. Some lecturers refuse to pass students until they buy their prepared lecture note "handouts" or sex is offered by their female students against their will. This situation is so bad that it is a living nightmare for female students including single and married students because these lecturers would make sure they fail these students until sex is exchanged for passing grades. And, some lecturers are converting to part-time politicians and others have decided to join the corporate world, whereby polluting the noble profession of teaching.


There is a massive migration of extraordinary professors into foreign institutions because there are no incentives to advance their profession in Nigeria and the Nigerian government chooses to pay them whatever they feel. These professors are highly-under paid and lack all adequate infrastructures to carry out their duties effectively and efficiently in Nigeria. Some institutions of higher learning in Nigeria are prevalent in "awarding" or better still selling honorary degrees to the highest bidder. The good healthy relationship between lecturers and students are no longer present, instead these lecturers take advantage of these students for their own personal gains.

Hence, we can no longer continue to pass blames among each other without dealing with the issues at stake. The Nigerian educational system has a problem and it needs a solution. It is also time to dismantle or reorganize the role of the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the Nigerian tertiary administration need to redesign the curriculum to focus more on self-employment rather than working for established corporations. The Nigerian government needs to put into place a program that would seek to encourage the return of professors and professionals who are presently in the Diaspora.

Finally, the Federal Government of Nigeria need to curb the violence of cultism in the Nigerian tertiary institutions by incorporating the recommendations of Ben Oguntuase (former Capone, National Association of Seadogs - Pyrates Confraternity) issued during the Anti-Cult Week Symposium at the University of Lagos on November 3, 1999. He proposed that the leadership of all the fraternities (cult groups) in Nigeria should get together with representatives of the university community and the Ministry of Education should constitute a National Inter-fraternity Council (NIFC). NIFC should be charged with the following responsibilities:



Identify all fraternities in Nigerian tertiary institutions and prepare a comprehensive register of representatives of all fraternities


Establish NIFC at the campus, state, national level to register, approve and monitor fraternal activities.


Establish guidelines for the existence and operation of fraternities on campus.


Develop appropriate framework for minimizing and dealing with inter-fraternity conflicts as well as formulate programs that will enhance inter-fraternity harmony through collaborative activities aimed at providing service to the communities, and competitive activities as in sports and academics.


Develop framework to monitor and report on the composite academic performance of each fraternity and recommend appropriate rewards for academic excellence.


Develop programs to disarm all fraternities and surrender their weapons to NIFC or the appropriate authorities.


However, all these recommendations are useless and unachievable until the Nigerian government becomes more accountable, corrupt-free, and answerable to the people. Do not be deceived by the so-called Nigerian leaders who claim to be sympathetic to the need of the Nigerian educational system because most of them have their children schooling in foreign institutions and they donate heavily in dollars to all these foreign institutions, without giving a penny to their community. We sincerely hope and pray that, it would not be too late to salvage the Nigerian educational system.



Roy Chikwem is a Delaware based member of Amnesty International, USA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He is a socio-political activist and the author of Fundamentals of Salesmanship.





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