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The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie, has blamed the continued loss of research grant opportunities by Nigerian universities and academics to poor proposal writing skills.
He stated this in his opening remarks, recently, at a 3-Day Workshop organized by the NUC in conjunction with Morehouse College, Atlanta, USA, and Gregory University (GU), Uturu.
Professor Okojie noted that there were idle funds domiciled at the World Bank and other International Donor Organisations that could be accessed by academics as grant for research purposes and used to address significant problems in areas such as the environment, health, water, food security, power as well as women and children related issues.
He regretted that only 266 million naira, out of a 3 billion naira research grant intended for Nigerian academics domiciled at the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), had been accessed, due to substandard research proposals, noting that grant winning proposals were a product of good mentorship. He added that the workshop was timely, as it would not only impact on the participants, the technical skills of writing good proposals, but would also teach them how to identify, apply and select topical global issues that could attract such funding.
As a young lecturer, he recalled how he had benefited from the Fulbright Fellowship as a result of good mentorship and a good proposal which was packaged properly with beautiful illustrations. To make demand-driven research more effective and facilitate national development and global competitiveness, he advised universities without research and development centres to establish same for the benefit of their staff and students. He reminded members of the academia that the country looked up to them for solutions to the numerous challenges we encounter as a nation.
Professor Okojie also identified poor retirement of funds by some beneficiaries of grants as a challenge that discouraged donors. He advised beneficiaries to always ensure transparency and accountability by making adequate retirement whenever they were given such grants, as this would go a long way in sustaining the trust and confidence of the donors and enable other academics to benefit.
He informed participants that 10 Nigerian universities had emerged winners out of the 18 African universities selected as African Centres of Excellence (ACE’s) under the World Bank-sponsored ACE Project. He disclosed that the other proposals that were not selected by the World Bank would be submitted to TETFund for consideration.
The Chairman, Local Organizing Committee (LOC), and NUC Visiting Professor, Adebisi Balogun, stated that the Workshop was organised in order to train participants, particularly academics, on how to write good quality grant proposals to attract funds that would boost research in the Nigerian University System (NUS) and make Nigerian universities globally visible.
He added that research was the bedrock upon which teaching and community service were hinged. Professor Balogun noted the importance of research as a potent factor in knowledge creation and transmission, for national and global development, adding that the need for capacity building for Nigerian academics in sustaining research culture and grantsmanship could not be over emphasized.
He informed participants on the expertise of the resource persons who were eminent scholars drawn from various fields, including Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM), Humanities and Social Science to make for a broad and quality discourse.
The LOC Chairman, who explained that the workshop was scheduled for August last year, but for the industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), noted that 200 billion naira out of the 1.3 trillion naira agreed to by the Federal Government of Nigeria and the ASUU for the development of the universities had been released as first tranche.
He, however, observed that the data from the World Development Report and the indices of human development showed a gradual decline in research activities for which Nigerian universities were known in the early 60s and late 80s.
Professor Balogun commended the Executive Secretary for his continued support to the entire NUS.
In his remarks, the Chancellor of Gregory University, Uturu, Chief Gregory Ibe, highlighted some of his efforts towards attracting funds from International Agencies to the NUS. Some of these efforts, he noted, included equipping about 20 Nigerian universities with teaching facilities through the support of the World Bank in 1994 and his partnership with the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP) to attract funds to different states of the federation. He observed that academics in the NUS have failed to maximise the opportunity to obtain grants which abound in the African Development Bank (AfDB), as a result of poor proposal writing skills. Chief Ibe noted that Gregory University had been in partnership with the Morehouse College for the purpose of adopting knowledge in different areas of interest and replicating same in Nigeria.
The Vice-Chancellor of Gregory University, Professor Juliet Elu, noted that the workshop was conceived in order to help universities access funds to complement Governments' allocation as all universities needed alternative sources of funding to live-up to expectation.