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TEN Nigerian universities have successfully emerged among the 18 African universities selected for World Bank-sponsored project, African Centres of Excellence (ACE).
The new ACEs in Nigeria and their project titles are: Redeemers University, Mowe, Ogun State (African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, ACEGID); Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (Centre for Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment); African University of Science and Technology, Abuja (Pan-African Materials Institute (PAMI); Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (Centre of Excellence on Neglected Tropical Diseases and Forensic Biotechnology); University of Benin (Centre for Excellence in Reproductive Health and Innovation); University of Jos (Phytomedicine Research and Development, ACEPRD) and the University of Port Harcourt (ACE Centre for Oil Field Chemicals).
Receiving a World Bank delegation in his office in Abuja, the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, stated that the achievement was an indication that Nigerian universities were doing well.
The minister assured the World Bank team of Nigerian government's commitment to the development of universities in line with global best practices. Wike also commended the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) for ensuring that the nation's universities were shortlisted.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, said that the project was aimed at developing higher education by promoting regional specialisation among universities and addressing common regional development challenges. He said that it was also aimed at strengthening the capacities of benefiting universities to deliver high-quality training and applied research.
"This is a very proud day for Nigeria. In the past five years, we have been hearing about the ranking of our universities in the world. I am insisting that I am more interested in the capacity and the capabilities of our researchers solving problems in their immediate environment," he said.
He tasked the benefitting universities to remain focused and provide what it takes to sustain the centres, stressing that first and second generation universities in the country should provide leadership in research. He assured the delegation that they have what it takes to be centres of excellence in Africa and that they could count on NUC's support.
According to the World Bank Task Team Leader on the proposed project, Mr. Andreas Blom, Nigeria is the first in the bank's tour of seven countries because it is the largest and the most important country on the continent. "Nigeria will play the biggest role in this regional project. We have 18 countries participating in the project and Nigeria has 10 out of the 18 Africa's centres for excellence. It is a clear demonstration of the potential and talents of Nigeria in the region."
Blom explained further that the bank embarked on the African Centres of Excellence project for two reasons: many countries on the continent have asked for support for their higher education, and that Africa is a continent on the move with high growth rate, skills gap and need for professional human capital. He noted that the World Bank's mission is to reduce poverty in West and Central Africa.