…As FG pledges to sustain them
By Gabriel Dike
The World Bank says it has invested $70 million (about N26 billion) in the ten Africa Centres of Excellence (ACE) located in universities in the country as a means to boost research in some key areas that would provide solutions to national issues.
Representative of the Country Director of World Bank in Nigeria, Mr. La Banque Mondaile, who said the $70 million was embarked upon for the ten ACEs projects in Nigeria since 2015 when the projects took off, commended the partnership between the Federal Government and the global bank.
He disclosed this at the 7th regional workshop of the Africa Centres of Excellence in Lagos which was attended by top officials of World Bank, Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof Rasheed Adamu, Vice Chancellors, Association of African Universities and ACE members from nine countries.
The ten Nigerian universities where the centres are cited are: Redeemer University, Mowe, African University of Science and Technology, Abuja, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaira, University of Jos, University of Benin, University of Port Harcourt, Bayero University, Kano, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and Benue State University, Makurdi.
Mondaile disclosed that World Bank would spend $165 million on the 22 ACEs in the nine member countries and that the intervention is for three years in areas of reproductive health.
He explained that ACE project has substantial regional outreach with universities in Nigeria for the first time attracting students from the sub-region, including The Gambia. He stated that more than 1,900 regional students had enrolled in centres across West Africa.
The Federal Government assured the World Bank and other partners of its determination to promote and sustain the 10 ACE in Nigeria to ensure research findings are used to tackle national problems.
Prof. Anthony Anwukah, the Minister of State for Education, told the gathering that the federal government through the Ministry of Education would continue to work hard to ensure the sustainability of the project beyond its initial life cycle adding that “the federal government of Nigeria is proud of the ACE project and satisfied with the progress made.’’
According to him, the federal government through the ACE experience is revolutionizing higher education in terms of research and postgraduate training noting that the government is “scaling up this programme to accommodate more institutions as well as more Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs).” He urged the NUC, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TEFUND) and Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) to collaborate with one another to fashion out ways of sustaining the ACE project beyond the World Bank intervention.
The minister disclosed that the government through the NUC allowed all Nigerian universities, irrespective of ownership to participate in the ACE project even as he acknowledged the roles played by the Association of African Universities, NUC and the World Bank to ensure the success of the project.
The Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof Adamu said the idea of ACE was conceived four years ago to stimulate research in health, science, agriculture and other key areas and that the 7th ACE workshop is meant as a mid-term review of the project in 22 ACEs in Africa including the 10 in Nigeria. The NUC boss disclosed that the commission is committed to the ACE project noting that the Commission has completed accreditation of the 10 centres in Nigeria and 90 per cent were found worthy. He demanded for transparency and accountability from those in charge of the centres.
He disclosed that NUC would work with the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology to draw up a roadmap for the 10 centres. The World Bank in collaboration with West and Central African countries launched the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) project in April 2014.