Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday night in Lagos declared that the government cannot support the universities as they want or even to keep them at their current levels.
He made the remark at the “2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards and Celebration of UNILAG at 55’’ organized by the Alumni Association of the University of Lagos and harped on public-private collaboration on university funding.
Osinbajo collaborated the views of Dr Wale Babalakin, the Chairman of Council and Pro-Chancellor of the University.
“We must ensure that we continue in the great traditions of the University of Lagos.
“This is why I am so excited to see a lot of very committed alumni who want to see to it that our university grows from glory to glory.
“And it is important that we do so because just as the pro-chancellor pointed out, the government cannot support the universities to the extent that is required, or to keep them even at the current levels.
“A lot will have to come from the alumni and the private sector.
“That is how great universities all over the world are run.
“And I am excited to see that our project today, the fundraising project, is one that has clearly shown the way to go with respect to developing our universities,’’ Osinbajo added.
The Vice President acknowledged that the event was a special occasion for him “and I was determined to stay till the very end.
“Because it is not often that one gets a chance to enjoy the company of many who have either been colleagues or seniors in the same university.
“And in any event, it is not often that one gets to celebrate the 55th anniversary of a great institution.
“I want to say that UNILAG has proved time and time again to be not just a university of first choice but also the University of `firsts’; so many firsts in so many different areas.’’
He said it was great to find that one of the awardees, Dr Daniel Olukoya, the Pastor and Founder of the Mountain of Fire Miracles Ministry, was the first to clone genes.
“That was absolutely an outstanding thing.
“The Pastor and Founder of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, (Pastor Enoch Adeboye) was also the first Nigerian to get a PhD in a Nigerian University in Applied Maths and Engineering.
“And I think that there are so many other firsts but I know that the most important thing for us today is to ensure that those firsts do not become the last.’’
Osinbajo congratulated the awardees because their achievements were worthy of celebration and such had indeed emanated from a great institution.
“I would like to thank everyone, for those of us who have managed to stay to the very end and to hope that when we celebrate our 60th you will all be here.
“And we will all be here to celebrate the 70th and 80th and 100th as well for the young ones amongst us,’’ he stated.
The Vice-Chancellor of UNILAG, Prof. Rahmon Bello, who bagged an honorary award, noted that the University’s landmark called for celebration as many graduates had passed through UNILAG in 55 years.
According to him in the past five years, he has been VC more than 285,000 graduated with half of that number having Post Graduate (PG) degrees.
The retiring VC said UNILAG had a student population of 58,000 but faced the highest challenge of accommodation as only 8,000-bed spaces existed.
“Efforts need to be increased for the accommodation of graduates and PG students,’’ he said and thanked the Alumni Association for embarking on a new 500-bed hostel.
Bello noted that the university was a leading one in the country but needed to catch up with other institutions in the continent and the globe.
Accordingly, he said the expectation was for the government to allow alternative sources of funding for higher institutions.
Babalakin had earlier observed that the university system in the country was on a crossroad as no Nigerian university was rated among the 80th best in the world.
“We have to change the structure of our universities to give them the impetus to do more,’’ he said, adding that even the cost of training per student was very high.
“The estimated cost of training an undergraduate is about N1.2 million per annum. UNILAG will require about N64 billion yearly to run while about N1.3 trillion is required by the FG to run universities per annum.
“The fund cannot be provided by the FG alone and we have to devise creative ways to fund the universities,’’ he added.
The Alumni President, Dr Sunny Kuku, in a welcome address said the awards took cognizance of those who contributed to the growth of the university in the past.
Kuku added that the fundraising targeting N3 billion was to build a new hostel for N2 billion, assist faculty development and provide infrastructure in the Alumni secretariat.
The award recipients included Dr John Abebe of Inducon Group; Mr Mustafa Chike-Obi, former MD of AMCON; Sen. Ndoma Egba, Chairman of NDDC; and Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila.
Others were Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, Head of the Civil Service of the Federation; Mr Godwin Obla, a legal luminary; Mr Mutiu Sunmonu, former MD of SPDC; while Mr Oluwaseun Badejo bagged the long service award.