…laments poor funding of tertiary institutions
Africa’s foremost businessman and Chairman of Aliko Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has made yet another critical intervention in the educational sector by donating fully equipped 2,160-bed space hostels to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
The students’ hall of residence, which comprises 10 blocks of 360 rooms, was built at a colossal sum of N1.2 billion. It is coming after similar gestures to Bayero University, Kano and University of Ibadan, where the business mogul donated multi-billion naira business school complexes respectively as part of his contribution to educational development in the country.
The new students’ hall of residence was commissioned to commemorate the 41st convocation ceremonies of the university, which in turn conferred on Dangote and the renowned labour leader, Hassan Sumonu, honourary doctorate degree.
The prolific investor, while lamenting poor funding of the nation’s public universities, said he was moved to build the structures having realised that the student population at universities had recorded significant increase without a corresponding growth in terms of infrastructure. He lamented that the situation had remained a subsisting and growing challenge as Nigerian public universities continue to grapple with underfunding. “Thus, I will like to use this opportunity to enjoin the Federal Government to consider allocating special funds to the universities to enable them to improve on research and upgrade their infrastructure. “Such special intervention has become imperative given the perennial funding challenges facing our universities,” he stated. He, however, posited that Federal Government alone could not shoulder the entire burden of funding tertiary education due to competing needs of other sectors that also demand priority attention, stressing that this is where public private partnership (PPP) can and should come in to fill the gap.
The President of Dangote Group further enjoined the private sector to adopt a new approach towards supporting the Federal Government in tackling the funding deficit in higher institutions of learning. He said: “I strongly believe the private sector must go beyond just the payment of the two per cent Education Levy and be ready to join hands with state and Federal Government in expanded funding for tertiary education in Nigeria. This will ensure that our institutions of higher learning are positioned to produce graduates who can transform this nation. “If there are two things that I am passionate about, they are education and entrepreneurship. I believe they go hand in hand. Some years ago, as Chairman of the National Committee on Job Creation, my committee strived to fashion strategies for integrating entrepreneurship into our national educational curriculum, in line with what obtains in the Western world.” While expressing gratitude on the award conferred on him, Dangote described ABU as “an institution famed for its incredibly thorough academic tradition, the quality of faculty, and the enriching experiences of life within its walls.” “Today, the university has lived to its billing as a melting pot for ideologies by honouring a renowned socialist and champion of employees’ rights, Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu and myself, for being a leading capitalist and investor in employment generating enterprises,” he said. Dangote noted that: “It is also with a deep sense of fulfillment that today’s occasion is also being used for the commissioning of 10 blocks of student hostels, which consists of 360 fully equipped rooms with capacity for housing 2,160 students, built at a cost of N1.2 billion donated by the Aliko Dangote Foundation to Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria. “Our intervention is designed to lessen the plight of students who suffer acute accommodation challenges within the campus. We have brought similar intervention to University of Ibadan (UI) and Bayero University Kano (BUK)amongst other institutions,” Dangote stated. Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, who officially opened the hostel, said Dangote’s philanthropic spirit should be emulated by others who have been blessed by God. El-Rufai, who is an alumnus of the university, said both government and the private sector could partner to lift the educational sector in Nigeria, pointing out that if not for the efforts of the university management, the institution was already dying. The Vice Chancellor, Professor Ibrahim Garba, who was very excited at the magnitude of the structures, said the university was the largest in West Africa and described the Aliko Dangote hostel project as a “big relief,” saying lack of adequate accommodation was one of the nightmares of the university. He told the audience that Dangote’s kind-heartedness to the university was immeasurable, saying of the 50,000 students of the university, the institution could hardly accommodate 10,000 and that the new hostel was the first addition after 40 years to the hostels built by the university. National President of the ABU Alumni Association, Prof. Ahmed Tijani Mora, had recently noted that the contribution of the Aliko Dangote Foundation to the educational sector and more importantly to the school was unprecedented. Dangote, through his Foundation, had only recently donated a world class Dangote Business School worth N1.2 billion to Bayero University Kano, and built another one in University of Ibadan worth N250 million. He also donated N200 million to Katsina State University. In the same vein, funding was also provided for the construction of a 500-capacity student hostel complex at the University of Science and Technology, Wudil in Kano State. The Foundation gave N118 million for a squash complex project at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka main campus and another N50 million to the University of Port Harcourt.