The House of Representatives has called on the Federal government to set up a strategic N15billion Coronavirus Emergency Fund for Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions as part of its response to the impact of the pandemic on academic, research and administrative operations.
The House made the call as part of its resolutions at plenary on Tuesday and in response to a motion moved by Hon. Steve Azaiki over the suspension of academic activities at tertiary institutions as a result of the COVID-19.
According to Azaiki, the structure of Nigeria’s university and tertiary institutions may never remain the same especially in the absence of an effective therapy or vaccine for the COVID-19 as well as mass testing and even a new strategic infusion of federal funding.
The rep member further explained that while school enrollment translates to revenue, this revenue may be cut short considering the short-term economic and social shocks of the ‘stay-at-home’ orders coupled with difficulties of containing the virus.
Azaiki further stated that there are estimates that universities and tertiary institutions will experience at least a 15% reduction in enrollment, as many students will likely decline and postpone their enrollment in the new session.
He also noted that many parents and guardians who may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic may be unable to afford tuition for their wards to continue going to school and therefore, pursuing higher education may become a thing of luxury.
Among other things, Rep Azaiki raised concerns about the need to ensure the provision of appropriate student support scheme (COVID–19 Student Emergency Grant) for those affected by the impact of the pandemic physically, economically and mentally, especially the vulnerable students’ groups e.g. persons living with disabilities, students with trauma or mental health issues, refugees or displaced persons within the tertiary education system.
He made reference to the United States, saying that the government recently provided the sum of $14.3Billion for higher education, with $12.4Billion split between emergency grants to student and money to colleges for expenses directly related to coronavirus and the disruption of campus operations, as $1Billion would be targeted at historically black colleges and universities, while $300 million will be given to colleges most affected by coronavirus.
Hon. Ndudi Godwin Elumelu, Hon. Muktar Betara Aliyu, Hon. Fred Obua, Hon. Francis Ottah Agbo, Hon. Makwe Livinus, Hon. Umana Aniekan, Hon. Olaide Adewale Akinremi, Hon. Kabiru I.Tukura, and Hon. Mahmud Abdullahi Gaya all sponsored the motion.
Consequently, the House reached a resolution, urging the Federal Government to set up a strategic N15Billion Naira Coronavirus Emergency Fund for Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions.
It also urged Nigerian Universities and Tertiary Institutions to launch a Coronavirus Student Emergency Fund, where indigent and vulnerable students can apply for student emergency grant to assist them recover from the economic impact of the COVID–19 pandemic.
Furthermore, the House urged the Government to immediately establish an Infectious Diseases Research Institute in six selected government universities across the six geo-political zones of the country, which will be given specific research funding by the FG.
They also called on the Federal Government to empower some special universities to build the capacity to do the required testing so as to meet up with the national demand on testing due to rising number of coronavirus cases.
As the world continues to seek solutions to the COVID-19, the reps urged the Federal Government to constitute a team that will comprise of representatives of the government, academia and relevant stakeholders to undertake a study tour to Madagascar and Senegal to explore the reported progress in indigenous research into a possible cure for the virus and bring back relevant knowledge to the country.