Tertiary institutions in Gombe suffer setback over non-funding

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In Gombe State, there has been disquiet and palpable fear over the fate of five tertiary institutions established by the former governor of the state, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo. Five higher institutions of learning in the state; Gombe State University of Science and Technology, Kumo; Gombe State Polytechnic, Bajoga; College of Education, Billiri; College for Legal and Islamic Studies, Nafada and College of Health Technology, Kaltungo were established by the previous administration in the state.

Upon investigation, since the taking over by the present administration, the State University of Science and Technology, Kumo neither receives its usual running cost nor the salaries of its staff for nearly seven months and the registration exercise for the newly admitted candidates was also put on hold.

Recall that, the present administration of Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya had on July 22nd, 2019 constituted an 11-member committee under the Chairmanship of Professor Buba Bajoga to review the status of all the five higher institutions in the state which were established by the previous.  The committee was saddled with the responsibility to among other things, assess the potentials and relevance or otherwise of the said institutions to the educational development of the state.

The terms of reference of the committee were to review the establishment of the institutions from inception to date, assess the potentials and relevance or otherwise of the institutions to the educational and overall socio-economic development needs of Gombe state, assess the viability and sustainability vis-à-vis the financial status of the state, make such other or further recommendations as deem fit under the circumstance.

The committee was given 30 days to submit its report to the state government and advised to hold a public hearing. During the inauguration of the committee, Governor Yahaya said, ‘’As we are all aware, Gombe State has of recent witnessed a phenomenal and ambitious proliferation of Tertiary Institutions, which ordinarily could be viewed as a positive development.

 However, to the critical mind, there appear more questions than answers associated with the establishment of these institutions in the areas of funding, provision of infrastructure equipment and facilities, meeting manpower requirements their relevance and sustainability plans among others.” Barely four months after the committee was inaugurated and three months after the expiration of the 30 days timeframe given to them for the submission of its report, Daylight Reporters gathered that the committee is yet to formally present the report to the governor.

Sources from a member of the committee who pleaded anonymity informed our reporter that, some members of the committee have allegedly pre-empted the committee’s recommendations to the governor which did not go down well to him, that’s why he was tight-lipped over the issue. ‘’We were given a responsibility of which we worked and documented our reports as required for the best interest of the state without prejudice or massaging someone’s ego. We collected submissions and held a public hearing and the report is a representation of the will of the people of the entire state.” He said.

 Also reacting on the matter, the immediate past Commissioner for Higher Education in the state, Dr. Muhammad Isa Wade has said that, it’s unfortunate that the present administration instead of supporting the educational institutions in the state which is the bedrock of societal development, the reverse is the case which is detrimental. ‘’The other four institutions and the Gombe State University of Science and Technology, Kumo, were established in good faith to accommodates the snowballing demand for admission from our secondary leavers and the National University Commission has recently contributed N54m to the university and there’re so many opportunities to grab for the sustenance of the institutions, it isn’t the sole responsibility of the state government.’’ He said. Dr. Wade has further said that the University was to accommodate 500 new students from the backlog of the 2018 admission but the institution have received more than 2000 application from qualified candidates and that is to show you how timely and important is the university and other institutions are to the development of the state and the education sector.

 On October 26, 2017, the National Universities Commission (NUC) granted approval for the establishment of the Gombe State University of Science and Technology, Kumo, as the 2nd State University in Gombe State, making it the 46th State University, 86th Public University and 154th University in Nigeria. A lecturer in the Gombe State University of Science and Technology which is one of the affected institutions who does not want his name to be mentioned lamented that staff have not been paid their salaries for seven months now. He said the non-payment of the salaries has inflicted hardship on the university employees as they have families to cater for.

He also pointed out that the University is much needed by the citizens of the state to complement the Gombe State University revealing that it received about 3, 000 applicants. Also responding, an educationist in the state Dr. Sani Yakubu said the non-payment of salaries affected over 7, 000 staff in the five new institutions.

 He added that it is improper for governor Yahaya to stop funding of the schools ‘since they were duly established by law and accredited by regulatory bodies to operate. He also noted that the law establishing the schools stipulated that they will be jointly funded by the state grants and local government grants. The academic further said that the College of Education, Billiri had recently received the sum of N621 million as intervention funds by TETFUND saying if the new institutions do not operate well, they will lose such grants.

On whether the new schools are not needed, the academic said the old institutions in the state are unable to admit the increasing number of applicants seeking admissions annually. According to him, in the 2017/2018 session, the Gombe State University received over 14, 000 applications but was able to admit only 4, 500. This is even as he added that the Federal University, Kashere only admits not more than 3, 000 yearly many of whom are not indigenes of the state.

 He, therefore, urged the state government to reconsider the new institutions in the best interest of Gombe people. However, when contacted, the state Commissioner for Higher Education Meshack Laulco said the allegation that the state government suspended funding of the five new institutions was untrue. According to him, the incumbent government faces some financial constraints as a result of the huge debt it inherited, hence it decided to stabilize the economy of the state. He said the government had last week settled five months salary arrears of the staff of the Gombe State University of Science and Technology. The Commissioner pledged that the outstanding salaries of the other schools will be paid very soon.

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