Uche Usim, Zaria
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday commissioned the newly-built N7 billion ultra-modern post-graduate centre of excellence at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State, built by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in its efforts to deepen education and research in economics, finance, marketing, banking and finance, among others.
Speaking at the event, President Buhari said the edifice, which sits on a total floor area of 34,102.81sqm, will go a long way in bridging the gap of relevant experts in various social science fields.
He said his administration had sunk N1.3 trillion into education in its strategic effort to grow the sector.
He added that the construction of the project was a testimony to his administration’s effort at supporting qualitative learning from the primary through to the tertiary level.
The president said his administration, in its second term, will continue to accord education priority by ensuring adequate funding for the sector to make it affordable, qualitative and competitive with what was obtainable in more developed countries.
While commending the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for supporting the Federal Government’s investments in the educational sector as well as other keys areas of the economy tied to overall national development, he urged Bank to sustain such funding support for research and overall economic development.
In his keynote address at the event, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said the bank’s involvement in the funding and infrastructural support in the educational sector was borne out of the conviction that an educated workforce played a critical role in the advancement of the Nigerian economy and the society in general.
He added that the bank’s analysis of the factors responsible for the growth of successful economies, indicated that investment in education played a prominent role in driving innovation and growth in advanced and emerging economies, while also contributing to significant reductions in inequality. Hence, he said the CBN, being a knowledge-driven organisation, had to ensure the sustenance of improvements in institutions of higher learning across the country.
According to Mr. Emefiele, the Centre of Excellence project was also designed to accommodate the Central Bank of Nigeria Collaborative Postgraduate Programme (CBN-CPP), which he described as a child of necessity in the Bank’s intervention programme in the educational sub-sector. He explained that the project was conceived to produce a critical mass of skilled professionals that will be able to apply their knowledge towards supporting growth and continued innovation in our nation’s financial sector and the economy in general. “This was against the recognition that the dearth of skilled manpower constituted a binding constraint towards making Nigeria the number 1 hub for economic activity in Africa, he added.
He also disclosed that the three first-generation federal universities in the country across the six geo-political zones (Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, University of Ibadan (UI), Ibadan and the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka) were selected under the first phase of the intervention programme. He added that the programme was later expanded to cover six other tertiary institutions across Nigeria, which are nearing completion.
He added that the project was mainly to ensure that students at post-graduate levels in Economics, Accounting, Banking and Finance, Business Administration and Statistics study in a serene environment that would stimulate effective learning with a view to building human capacity for the financial services sub-sector.
Emefiele assured that the CBN, working closely with all the participating universities, had taken steps to ensure that this investment yields considerable benefits. Specifically, he said the curricula for the target disciplines had been reviewed and harmonized across board to ensure students are provided with the optimum level of knowledge relative to their peers in other parts of the globe.
“We believe that the Centres of Excellence will help support the government’s efforts towards reducing the incidence of brain drain, and curtail the huge foreign exchange being spent on school fees for Nigerians studying in other countries,” Emefiele said.
While disclosing that the three centres of excellence in Zaria, Enugu and Ibadan will commence operation in October 2019, he said the CBN expected the universities to take maximum advantage of the world-class facilities provided by the Bank to challenge their counterparts in London, New York and Dubai in the provision of training programmes in banking and finance-related disciplines for the global business community
He also thanked stakeholders in the Federal Ministry of Education, National Universities Commission (NUC), the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, and the contractor, Messrs Afdin Nigeria Limited, for their support in completing the project, stressing that such collaborations were necessary for progress.
The Post-Graduate School project, similar to the project inaugurated by President Buhari at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC) in January 2019, comprises a Faculty building and a block of rooms, as well as a 544-seater auditorium, four lecture and four tutorial rooms, traditional and e-libraries, and a telepresence room.
Meanwhile, the CBN Governor has disclosed plans by the Bank, in the near future, to also provide funding support for the health sector in the country, through the establishment of six diagnostic centres across the geo-political zones of the country.
He said the decision of the bank to support the health sector was based on the realization that education and health formed the bedrock of development in any society.
Also speaking, the Vice-Chancellor of ABU Zaria, Prof Ibrahim Garba, said the CBN Centre of Excellence was the single largest intervention project of the apex bank.
“The school is racing to upgrade itself. We’re working on taking the post-graduate school to the next level,” he said.