Nigerian Army University for insurgency?

By Editorial Board |   07 September 2018   |   3:58 am  

PHOTO: VOA Hausa

A two billion naira worth of an Army University to tackle insurgency in the North East should be regarded as an idea whose time should not come at a time like this. It is not a product of good thinking when so many citizens are suffering in different internally displaced people’s camps in the country, not to talk of congested ones in the North East.

So, the report the other day credited to the army authorities that N2 billion had been set aside for the establishment of an Army University in Borno State to enhance military capacity in the area, should be regarded as a huge joke to be dismissed immediately. It is wasteful, otiose and reckless!

This newspaper believes that we are in a constitutional democracy and so information about such a serious public policy on defence education should have been in the public domain for debate before announcement that has been somewhat embarrassing and unconscionable. What has happened to the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna, a military university? Has the faculty or the governance system of the NDA, Kaduna collapsed? What manner of ad-hocism is this?

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The N2 billion reportedly approved by government for the takeoff of another Nigerian Army University is an insult to education. What can N2 billion accomplish in the context of a standard university? Not even a standard supermarket would vote such an insulting sum of money for such a capital- intensive project!

Specifically, government should forget this unnecessary distraction of establishing another military university when the NDA in Kaduna is already there and offering relevant degree programmes for the military at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. We don’t need another army university for whatever purpose.

Whatever specialised or unique military education needed should be realised through the NDA curriculum. If there is any need for the reform of the NDA as a military university, there should be no constraint in the circumstances. The Nigerian army authorities and government should be reasonable enough to make rational and valid decisions that would benefit the country rather than throwing money around. We are persuaded that there is no type of training needed by the military that cannot be run at the NDA or the numerous regular universities in the country.

There are some concomitant fundamental questions, in this regard: Are there benefits for throwing universities at all emerging challenges without genuine attention to the existing ones? In 2012, the Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil, Kano State was upgraded to a degree-awarding institution and recognised by the National Universities Commission (NUC) as the 37th Federal University in the country. A Maritime University has been established in Niger Delta area even when the Petroleum Training Institute Warri has not been receiving due attention. The Ministry of Communications has been bandying a plan of an ICT University when the Digital Divide Institute of the same ministry is nothing to write home about.

What is the global rating of even the old generation universities in the country when none of the accredited 40 federal universities, 44 state universities and 74 private universities can make even the best 10 in Africa in the same global context? There is no university in the world’s most populous black nation on earth that can be a reference point when employable skills index of global universities comes to be discussed yet we are establishing more universities.

What is the essence of establishing specific universities for the various arms of the armed forces? Soon, we shall be talking about the Nigerian Customs University; Navy University, Air Force University, Immigration University and Prisons Service University because of constant jail breaks.

News about the proposed military university, to be established in Biu, Borno State, was disclosed by the Executive Secretary, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Abdullahi Baffa, when the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.Gen. Tukur Buratai visited the headquarters of the agency in Abuja. Baffa said the approval for the take-off fund was given by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

On his own part, General Buratai said the university would be tailored to meet the contemporary needs of the military. But how could this be when the university would offer admission to both military and civilian population? What other needs do the military have that cannot be realised through the NDA as we asked before?

It is curious that Buratai had told the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, while receiving the university’s Certificate of Occupancy in Maiduguri, that the university would serve as a solutions centre especially for specific challenges facing the army and North East. This is baffling.

The challenge facing the army in the North East is the Boko Haram insurgency. Does it mean that a university is being established for insurgency? And again, does it mean that the insurgency will be there forever? This is a precarious turn of events. Government should be wary not to lay a dangerous precedent that will hurt the country.

There is militancy in the Niger Delta and lingering pro-Biafra activism in the South East, among other challenges across the federation. Are we going to establish specific universities to tackle each of these problems?

There is therefore absolutely no sense in any plan to establish a military university in the North East because of Boko Haram insurgency. The Federal Government should drop this idea that is flawed in all ramifications.

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What is worse, most of the 158 universities in the country are lacking in basic infrastructural facilities for quality and well-rounded education. Government should fund the institutions to be globally competitive – and to be able to solve local problems. Yes, university education that cannot address local problems should be regarded as a waste and therefore requires urgent reform and robust investment, not mere funding and establishment of more rickety ones.

Therefore, we strongly urge the Federal Government to equip the NDA to be able to implement all relevant training courses needed in a military university.

The NDA was upgraded to a university in 1985 and has expanded its programmes ever since. It offers five-year training programme, which includes four years of academic studies and one year of military training. It also trains the officer corps of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force.

While its core mission remains the five-year cadet officer training “Regular Combatant Course,” since 2002, a four-year military programme was added.
It is obvious that the NDA has everything that may be required of a military university. And so the N2 billion earmarked for a brand new university in Borno should be invested in curriculum and facility upgrade at the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna. That is the only path of honour, in this regard, lest we will regard the proposed Army University in Borno as yet another white elephant that the power elite would like to showcase. Again, it remains what it is: a white elephant, after all.

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