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A two-man delegation, from the World Bank (WB), on Monday, 10 February, 2014, paid a courtesy call on the Supervising Minister of Education, Barrister Nyesom Wike, to brief him on the success recorded by some Nigerian universities in the African Centres of Excellence (ACE) project.
Welcoming the delegation, joined by the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius A. Okojie, OON, and some Management staff of the Commission, the Supervising Minister expressed pride in the Nigerian University System (NUS), stating that Nigerian universities had been vindicated.
While conveying gratitude to the bank for the support given to the Nigerian university system, the Minister stated that the nation was in dire need of development in the specified areas and expressed hope that more grants would be given for more areas of need.
Barrister Wike assured the Bank that monies allocated would be judiciously spent, to ensure that set goals were achieved. He guaranteed the bank that the ACE would be a success, to ensure that more Centres emerged from Nigerian universities in the next phase.
He congratulated the successful universities, especially Redeemers University, African University of Science and Technology and Benue State University, for their confidence in competing with and succeeding among federal universities, which, he said, were much older.
The Minister also commended the NUC for providing a level playing field for all Nigerian universities to compete, regardless of proprietorship.
The Executive Secretary, NUC, who expressed joy at the feat which the nation had achieved, stated that, he was more interested in ensuring that Nigerian universities met the needs of the country, than the issue of their ranking, globally.
Professor Okojie commended the global bank for its interest in addressing the challenges of sub-Saharan Africa, stating that, although the project posed a big challenge to Nigeria, the nation would rise up to it. He expressed confidence in the competence and capacity of the NUC and pleaded with the universities not to present any distractions that could derail the project. He promised that the NUC would be actively involved in the project, to monitor and supervise its development.
Giving a summary of the progress of the project, NUC Deputy Director, ICT Projects, Dr. Joshua Atah, said that, in mid-2012, discussions were held on projects that would support research and post-graduate training in regional universities, adding that the World Bank team had come for further technical discussions on project implementation, including financing agreements, procurement plans and funds disbursement.
The leader of the World Bank delegation and Task Team Leader for ACE, Mr. Andreas Blom, expressed delight at the strong working relationship which existed between Nigeria and the bank and commended the involvement of the Federal Ministry of Education,
saying that it was fundamental to get support at the highest level, for the success of the project. He also maintained that skills development was key to the progress of a nation and pledged the bank’s commitment and support for the project.
Giving a vote of thanks on behalf of the Centres of Excellence, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Jos, Professor Hayward Mafuyai, extolled the leadership of the Federal Government, Federal Ministry of Education and NUC.
He noted that universities were established to meet the needs of the environment, adding that Nigerian academics had risen to the challenge of rebuilding the university system, as was evident in the quality of the proposals submitted.
He said that the project would serve as an avenue for participating universities to glean best practices and pledged that they would not let the opportunity slip through their fingers.