Delta State Government has claimed that no government-owned university in Nigeria, is as well funded as the Delta State University, DELSU, Abraka.
The Delta government disclosed this on Thursday during a press briefing in Asaba, the State Capital, to address allegations by the opposition political party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), over the proposed new universities the state government has planned to setup.
The APC is saying that the three new universities will undermine the status of Delta State University (DELSU), Abraka.
The opposition party also accused the state government of trying to put the existing state university to extinction by withdrawing the best lecturers to the new ones, providing special salary package for the lecturers in University of Delta, Agbor and that the ownership of the new universities was unknown.
Other accusations include poor funding of the existing universities, transfer of 15 associate professors to University of Agbor, establishment of law faculty at Owa-Alero to de-market the one in Oleh, amongst other allegations.
But in a joint press briefing, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu and his counterpart in the Ministry of Higher Education, Prof Patrick Muoboghare yesterday, assured Deltans that the creation of the three universities across the state was aimed at ensuring that all prospective students gained admission.
Prof Muoboghare said the need to address the increasing number of Deltans denied admission into universities across the country, necessitated the setting up of the universities, adding that it was also on concerns on the low admission into colleges of education and the need to appropriate resources meaningfully.
He explained that, for example, the one medical school in DELSU could not take care of the number of admission seekers, as well as other courses.
“Presently, over 20,000 Deltans were left out in the admission process across universities in the country. This figure is likely to increase in the coming years. The low admission in colleges of education in the state prompted the upgrade of the one in Agbor to a university and this also caused the conversion of one of the three polytechnics to a university of technology,” he explained.
On financing, Prof Muoboghare said “no government university, be it federal or state was better funded than DELSU. Payment of salaries of the university staff had been regular and promptly, even as funding had not been denied the institution.
“When the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on strike over earned allowances, DELSU was not affected because the state government had met its obligation by settling all allowances.”
The Higher Education Commissioner argued that if DELSU was playing the role of supplying the news universities, it should be seen as something good, and an indication that the institution of about 30 years, had come of age.
According to him, it was a normal development, citing the case of University of Ibadan, established in 1947, as the supplier of lecturers when other universities were set up in the early 1960s, describing the development as growth mechanism against frustration of supposed stagnated lecturers.
On the allegation that the ownership of the new universities was unknown, Muoboghare affirmed that the state government got it right from beginning, saying due process was followed by sending executive bills to the Delta State House of Assembly for proper legislation on their status.
He said that the ownership was key in the licensing of the universities for operation by the National Universities Commission (NUC), saying that if ownership was unknown, the NUC would not have granted the three new universities license to operate.
On public private partnership (PPP), Muoboghare stressed that no government university can survive if it shut out the participation of the private sector, stating that government would welcome private partnership in developing critical infrastructures for the universities, such as in building hostels and electricity.
“The era where government provided everything is in the past. The opposition party must not to play politics with education. We want our future generation educated, and we will do everything to ensure that,” he swore.
On his part, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, added that the involvement of the PPP in the area of hostels, was to address issues of insecurity and high cost of getting on outside the campus.
He described the situation of the APC in the state as unenviable, saying the party had looked round and was unable to find faults with the state government but to criticize the establishment of the three new universities, stating that the opposition was clutching to the wrong straw.
“We do not envy the people in the opposition. They have looked round and have not been able to fault us. Unfortunately, what they are holding on to is the wrong straw,” Aniagwu said.
He reassured Deltans that the state government creation of the three new universities was solely to create avenues for students seeking admission and to provide job for graduates.