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Nigerian Universities, the interference of Professional bodies, and the time bomb

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Having worked with multidisciplinary teams during my PhD at the Department of Engineering of the University of Leicester and postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Electric Power Engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), I decided to experiment the acceptability of a multidisciplinary team in Engineering departments in Nigerian universities in 21st century on my return in 2015. Then, I was already due to be a Senior Lecturer in ABU since 2014. So I sent my CV and an application letter for the position of Associate Professor to the VC through the Head of Electrical Engineering Department of one of our public universities in November 2015. And I received the following not very surprising reply.
“Having perused your application documents, I found them interesting and relevant to the need of the department. However, I cannot pass your application for further processing because of the post applied for. For your information, the Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nig. (COREN) has fixed the bar of an Engineering lecturer who is not registered with COREN at Lecturer I regardless of the number of his/her publications.”
The question that came to my mind was that is the regulation of engineering lecturers in universities part of the mandates of COREN? I read the reply again and he was very emphatic on my PhD and postdoctoral research experience and the relevance to his department. I was made to understand that the University has no academic staff in the area of high voltage engineering, but for them to utilize my experience in high voltage engineering, if I was actually ready to move there, I have to accept to be demoted for 4 years because COREN said so. And I can’t grow no matter my research output till I am registered with COREN. Amazing offer! It will take a complete idiot to accept such an offer. That is the reality of the compartmentalization of our university system and the destruction of the Nigerian university system and the structure by supposed professionals.
This was completely different from my experience in my two universities in Europe. Prof. Len Dissado had a first degree in chemistry and a PhD in chemistry but was a Professor of Engineering at Leicester because his research area was in Dielectrics, a topic very relevant to High Voltage Engineering. He was retained as Emeritus when I left in 2012. Dr. Steve S. Dodd had his first degree in Physics and PhD in Physics but was employed as a Senior Lecturer in Engineering (High Voltage Engineering group) because his research area was in Electrical insulation materials. He retired as a Reader in High Voltage Engineering. The HoD of the Electric Power Engineering as at the time I left the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in 2015 had a PhD in Physics and was a Professor of Electric Power Engineering. Universities in the rest of the world are closing gaps, while we are widening the gap. Since I could not close the gap, so we decided to have a High Voltage Laboratory in the Physics department.
In universities, we are academics and research workers. Irrespective of the field, we are employed to teach and do research. The yardstick for evaluating your performance is research output. Engineering graduates in academia are not left out. They are not employed as Engineers. Universities have their Engineers to do the engineering work. As an academic, you can be COREN registered to enable you to practice outside the university but not for the classroom and research labs in the university. I once asked a colleague some years back if as a university worker, he is an Engineer for real or a teacher and he was silent. I asked about the value of COREN registration in his teaching of Engineering courses, research output, and student project supervision and he could not give me a straight answer.
I still find it weird that COREN, a body regulating practicing engineers on the field is now setting standards for promotion in the Engineering departments of Nigerian universities. They will soon be telling Nigerian universities what to teach and what not to teach. The other councils of professionals will soon follow to set what they perceived as standards for the respective faculties or departments.
The interference of the Councils of professionals in the affairs of Nigerian universities has grown beyond setting promotion guidelines. They are now deciding the establishment of faculties and the duplication of academic departments. It does not matter the burden of running such faculties and departments on the universities. I am still wondering how they are able to twist the hands of NUC and the universities’ Senate and Governing Council to achieve all that. Not long ago, the Faculty of medicine in Nigerian public universities were converted to Colleges of Medical Sciences with 4 faculties and several departments, thanks to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.
What baffled me was the fact that the Department of Biochemistry, for example, that has taught medical students the biochemistry they know since the inception of the study of medicine in Nigerian universities is suddenly no more qualified to teach medical students because the Lecturers do not have a degree in medicine. Very amazing! We now have duplicated Biochemistry departments across Nigerian universities that they called “Medical Biochemistry” in the college of medicine. The “medical biochemistry” will possibly be taught by the Medical Doctors based on what they learned from the Biochemists in life science while in medical school. Could this be a case of trading quality for ego?
We also, for example, have a medical microbiology department in the college of medicine, a microbiology
department in the faculty of life science, and a vet microbiology department in the faculty of Veterinary medicine.
The microbiologists will be able to explain to us the difference between the different versions of the microbiology.
I was in Norway in 2014 when the Norwegian couple at NTNU shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine with a Professor at the University College London (UCL). I tried to check the structure of these 2 universities. The faculty of medicine at NTNU has no biochemistry department. The Department of Biotechnology and Food Sciences, a replica of the Biochemistry department, is in the faculty of natural science and they provide service to the faculty of Medicine as we had before the coming of the colleges of medicine in Nigerian universities.
How the increased number of departments helping to improve the quality of our academic output is what I can’t figure out. Rather than the duplication of service departments that will only increase the number of academic departments and won’t really add much value to the system but increased running cost, we should have created a college of life sciences and pulled the relevant faculties and departments into it.
Individualistic research is going extinct and most of the novelties of the 21st century are from interdisciplinary researches. One of the winners of the 2014 Nobel prize in medicine John O’Keefe is a neuroscientist in the Faculty of life sciences at the UCL with his degrees in Psychology. But the others, May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser are both neuroscientists from the Faculty of Medicine at NTNU and received their first degree from the Department of Psychology and PhD in neurophysiology at the Faculty of Medicine in Oslo.
There is nothing more fascinating than the fusing of different ideas together to produce a unique product. That is the exploration in the 21st century. The world has left us behind in individualistic ideology and moved into multidisciplinary academics. If we must make progress in our universities, we must break our erected artificial barriers that are keeping us apart. The academics in physical sciences and engineering must come together with possibly a research centre that is into cutting-edge research that will involve research groups from all the relevant departments. Same way to bring life science and medical complex together.
I have seen graduates of mathematics that became Professors of Econometrics in Economics departments in universities in Europe, but not in Nigerian universities. I have seen a graduate of Chemistry that became a Professor of Engineering in Europe, but not in Nigerian universities. I have seen a graduate of Physics that became a Professor of Electric Power Engineering in Europe, but not in Nigerian universities. In Nigeria, I have seen Engr (Prof) XXX boldly written on our doors in the department but not in the universities in Europe. Are we having an identity crisis?
Professional bodies that are supposed to focus on the regulation of Professionals in the field should focus on their mandate and not be given free hands to change University policies as it pleases them. If we don’t end their interference, just like the medical council, COREN could wake up one day to tell our universities that there is a need for colleges of Engineering with departments of mathematics and physics to service the college because those in Mathematics and Physics departments are not qualified to teach engineering students because they don’t have engineering degrees. Vet council, Pharmaceuticals council, builders council, architects council, Quantity surveyors council, etc, may follow. So, how are we going to handle that?
Let’s stick to the founding principles of the university. Universities have world standards. We can stick to our British standard or borrow a leaf from the world’s top universities to improve our system, instead of allowing professional bodies to manipulate us and create barriers within the university system that will further slow down the progress we are to make.
Our universities are not in it’s best form and we have to do what we have to do to improve them. We should be more preoccupied with that. We should be discussing how to reposition Nigerian universities to be able to stand up to our various challenges and not duplicate departments without facilities because some Councils of professionals said so.
Finally, to my colleagues in Electric power engineering or high voltage engineering in Nigerian universities, you are welcome to experience our High Voltage Materials Laboratory in the Department of Physics, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. We have a 400 kV DC generator and 100 kV AC source with a partial discharge measurement system to serve you. Join us to learn the physics of electric power equipment. We do not have barriers!

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Dr. Muhd Sani Umar Rijiyar Lemo: PLEASE RE-OPEN OUR BORDER WITH NIGER REPUBLIC: A REMINDER TO OUR LEADERS!

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President Bola Ahmad Tinubu

 

By Prof Muhd Sani Umar R/Lemo

October 30, 2023.

In the name of Allāh, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. We are immensely grateful to Him for sparing our lives, and giving us the health and wherewithal to live to this moment.

There is no doubt that people are complaining about the rising cost of living, poverty and inflation that we are facing in the country. This is the reason why we will keep drawing the attention of our leaders to the burden of the masses resting on their shoulders. Indeed this leadership is a voluntary task that they acceded to bear; not a mere honour and privilege given them nor an opportunity for their personal pleasure and luxury. Rather, they have been entrusted with the responsibility of the millions of people under them; a trust that will surely be accounted for before Allāh SWT. He says in the Qur’ān:
“And fulfil (every) covenant. Verily, the covenant will be questioned about.” [Al-Isrā’:34]

Therefore it is the responsibility of the leaders to map ways to alleviate the distressing hardship people are currently facing in the country. Although it is known that Allah SWT is the provider of wealth and sustenance, but His provision is subject to the responsibility and role an individual plays in realizing it. When the leaders neglect to play those roles, they will be responsible for the situation it will result in.

It is important for our leaders to know and understand that one of the important pillars of leadership is the protection of lives, health, faith, wealth, property and honor of the people being governed.

Insecurity is still one of the most serious issues we are facing, although we have witnessed some of our governors making good efforts in that regard. It is our hope that all governors will join hands with the federal government and try their best, while we continue to pray for Allah’s divine help in solving the problem. We are confident in His promise that:
“And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our ways.” [Al-‘Ankabūt:69]

Our economy is continuously deteriorating, and the masses are plunging deeper into hardship. It is the duty of the government to find ways to ease the lives of the people. Taking actions that will further sink the masses into misery is tantamount to falling into the first category of the people in the prayers of the Prophet SAW that:
“O Allah, whoever is in charge of the affairs of my nation and is harsh on them, then be harsh on him, and whoever is in charge of the affairs of my nation and is kind to them, then be kind to him.” [Muslim:3/1828]
Every Muslim should hope to be part of the latter and away from the former category.

It is common knowledge that one of the fundamental sources of ease of doing business is the freedom to traverse between places in search of livelihood. Allah says in the Qur’ān:
“He it is Who has made the earth subservient to you; so walk in its paths and eat of His provision.” [Al-Mulk:15]
In another verse He says:
“He has known that there will be among you those who are ill and others travelling throughout the land seeking [something] of the bounty of Allāh” [Al-Muzzammil:20]
And He also says:
“And when the (Juma’ah) prayer has been concluded, disperse within the land and seek from the bounty of Allāh.” [Al-Jumu‘ah:10]

Thus, to travel between one place to another is a means of seeking from the riches Allah SWT endowed the world with. Hence, giving people the freedom to traverse borders in search of things that are beneficial to them and the society is part of the rights accorded to them by Allah SWT, and preventing them from doing so is denying them that divine right for which they will have to account in front of Allah.

Recently, the federal government announced that it had directed for the opening of land borders, and lifted the ban on importation of some foods and other products needed by our people.

This measure will surely boost the commercial viability of the nation, because import and export of goods and services between societies is one of the basic transactional norms in human lives.

Unfortunately, despite the directive from the Federal Governtment, while the southern borders remain freely accessible, land borders on the northern part of the country, are still closed. This means that the respite this measure will bring to the nation will not be enjoyed by the northern people. The Nigeria-Niger border plays a vital role in the socioeconomic well-being of the Northern states, and its continued closure has dealt a heavy blow to commercial activities on both sides. Thus, persistence of this measures means that the Northern part of the country is being alienated from their national entitlement.

Yes, the recent coup in Niger Republic has been cited as the reason for taking this drastic action. Neither the people of the North nor the Nigerien people played a role in the execution of the said coup, therefore it is not right to punish either for someone else’s wrongdoing. Also, two wrongs can never make a right.
Furthermore, this coup is not the first coup that took place in an African nation nor the West African states. Yet this measure taken by our government has not been taken elsewhere in similar cases. The illegitimacy of the coup should not be an excuse to take a measure that will consequently punish the northern region. The best way to attain justice is rectify any wrongdoing through rightful means.
Similarly, it is important to remind our leaders that protecting the interest and well-being of our nation is superior to the protection of any external interest beside it. It is apparent that the border closure may be a strategy to compel the military government into submission, may serve or protect an external interest vested by some countries elsewhere and some regional bodies, but none of these interested parties experience any part of the resultant hardship.

In conventional norms, all external interests that are in conflict with our national interest should not be entertained. It is not right for the government to punish its citizens for that interest’s sake.

Therefore, we are calling on our the Federal government to act swiftly; our northern leaders, legislators, ministers and elders should speak out on this issue and draw the attention of the federal government to the wrongs being committed against an innocent people. It’s their duty to repeatedly speak on this issue, organise conferences and meet the relevant authorities involved in order to find a solution. We are living in a society where your rights are easily denied if your voice of resistance is not loudly heard. We must collectively rise, speak out, write and meet relavent stakeholders on our problems. When southern land borders remain open and their markets thrive, our northern borders that boost our economy should not remain closed putting our markets and populace into hardship.

Our leaders should be aware of their responsibility and the consequences of their actions which will all be adjudged before Allah SWT.

The Prophet SAW narrated the story of a woman who tied her cat indoors, without feeding it or allowing it to forage for food until it died, which led her to abide in the hell fire [Reported by Muslim:4/2243]

If this is the ramification of her action towards a cat, what then will be the consequence of blocking millions of people from their rightful means of livelihood without provision of another relief? For a life of a single human being in the eyes of Allah is far more precious than that of a cat. He (SWT) says: “And indeed We have honoured the Children of Adam.” [Al-Isrā’:70]

In the end we will all return to Allah SWT and stand before Him to account for our actions after this ephemeral life. “Say ‘The enjoyment of this world is little.ʼ” [An-Nisā’:77]
Our faith, religion, and nationalism should motivate us to do what is right.

(Note: This article was originally from a recorded program in Hausa transcribed and translated to English for wider circulation)

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The ECOWAS-NIGER WAR, “STILL BOOTING”? By Haruna Adamu Hadejia

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Haruna Adamu Hadejia

 

The republic of Niger has become a point of reference in these days, probably as a new world “laboratory” for sovereignty test. It has shown the world that African countries are beginning to resist the western powers’ long and assumed perpetual dictatorship. Many people around the world have defined the republic of Niger and Africa in general as paupers until recently.
Lately, France shuns the ultimatum given by Military Junta in Niger for france’s envoy to exit. One wonders, why did they want to stick? While on one hand, the ECOWAS seems to be booting (undecided) on the possibility of; strike or not to strike. The hypothesis (Ho) and (H1) on the war remain unclear while sanction is quietly working in Niger with some adverse effect on both Niger and specifically north western part of Nigeria largely on economy.

Many people postulates that the ECOWAS formation in (1975) was facilitated by the western world just to protect their interest; get advice and decisions from them and simply implement what they want. Many were of the opinion that even the ultimatum given by ECOWAS to Niger was engineered by the western world.

The worrying issue before the western world and ECOWAS in particular in my opinion is that, they have not yet found genuine coefficient of staging war as they intended to do. Why? Because the citizens of Niger not necessarily the MILITARY simply say “NO, allow us to solve our own problems” coupled with the brethren support from neighboring African nations around Niger such as Mali. This coalition really angers the west and the 11 countries out of 15 in ECOWAS. Niger also gained additional sympathy from other parts of the world and has this has opened up a platform for all nations to rediscover or re-trace their independence.
It was reported that, the Presidents of Egypt and Algeria advised the ECOWAS not to venture into war. They have the bitter experience of what it takes to be at war front, they still have some left over of such happenings in their countries.

Our President is of course, at the center of ECOWAS BEING ITS CURRENT Chair and also the President of Nigeria which is well respected in the world. However, with the present on-going rancor in Niger we are beginning to respectfully shrink in the eyes of some nations especially our close friend, Niger who respects us more than any nation in the world. But today, the algorithm has changed. Citizens of Niger knew only Nigeria not ECOWAS. Should anything happen to the citizens, their fingers will only point at Nigerians being their brothers and not the whole of ECOWAS. How do we recover such respect and prevent further spill of the trust they have in us??

As postulated in my last publication of August 5 by Kano online Times, the giant nations have other ways to deal with ECOWAS in the event that the war didn’t take place. One of them has started coming up; the world bank is threatening to freeze the accounts of ECOWAS if they couldn’t execute this war. Possible compressing of foreign Aids to ECOWAS, introduction of some strong financial and economic policies on ECOWAS, or what?

Again, what would it look like now that, Prigozhin the leader of private security Wagner organization of Kremlin is dead? This is someone that was smelled to be in Africa to contract the war before his death. Will the US, France and their allies have a dinner for having at least one their blockages being removed? Similarly, what is Putin going to do differently now that Prigozhin is dead; perhaps become a stronger independent contractor to solely fight for and on behalf of the Niger Junta in the name of “liberation” and love for them while tapping their uranium which they will be willing to sell at lesser proceeds? Yeah, this could aptly be forecast as another opportunity for Putin to cheaply annex Nigeria once kremlin steps into Niger.

My argument is that, all these self-anointed saviors of Africa are truly not to be trusted and must not be trusted. We will only breathe independent air thoroughly if all outsiders can stay clear of Africa and allow us to drive our processes and the possibility of achieving this is only when our leaders fairly lead us.
Recounting from the military takeover of power in Niger up to the time of border closure between Nigeria and Niger, we understand that many states all in the Northern Nigeria are concerned in many ways. Already, the war is subconsciously taking place politically, economically, socially. Recent visit to Maigatari market an export processing zone (border with Niger in Jigawa state) shows how deserted the market is. There is skew negatively of livestock, grains and other products, the mass exodus being witnessed on weekly basis by people from across the federation is evidently a sign of setback. The Machina market (in Yobe state) is equally going down by the day. The same story in Jibiya of Katsina state, the many market stalls are largely scanty because the occupants are no longer using them coupled with the insecurity there and no one to maintain the thatch sheds due to poor turnout of people for commercial activities. Summarily, the IGR of the local governments bordering Niger must have recorded significant losses in this respect.

Socially, it will take time to heal the wound created as a result of such border closure. The brothers and sisters that married from both countries can no longer see or trade with each other, just like South and North Korea, until such a time when the border is opened. What a distress!

At federal level, Nigerians are interested to know how much the country has economically lost from the electricity cut to Niger, custom and excise duty and from other sources such as money markets. Nigeria but North is being tested economically and socially???
The proverbial expression of Pandora must not be allowed to have a pIace in our midst, meaning a source of endless complications or trouble arising from simple miscalculation should not in a haste be used to jeopardize not only historical but sustainable relationship with our neighbor. Let our leaders not subject us to a test tube baby.

Simply, we all understand that ECOWAS is technologically “booting” to come up with alternative measures to handle the situation. After this scenario, what type of punishment will the west introduce to deal with us (citizens) again? I once said that the west, have multiple approaches to handle us perpetually and this must be resisted. This is the scenario Nigeria (Africans) have been subjected. The west is not willing to allow us to rest.

We must see this present circumstance as an attempt to change Africa heritage by the west while the time for resistance by Africans has finally arrived. I wish late Gawo Filinge of Niger, Aminu Kano, Sa’adu Zungur and similar social movers are alive just to analyze the on-going silent sanction on Niger and go back to sleep. Am sure, they will encourage Nigeria-Niger to be strong and endure the struggle. Because the more courage they have, the tendency for becoming greater in future as a result of being resilient.

Unknown to many, this tussle has opened doors of hope for Niger republic such as the need for them to think of generating their own power plant, identify other economic countries for ties to transact business and take advantage of currency swap, rediscover and export their unique mineral (uranium) for foreign exchange, introduce their own currency for trade and also integrate their culture as part of income generating avenue. They can harvest more from their national patriotism as exhibited by the recent solidarity demonstrations enjoyed by the new government from the citizens. On the other hand, Nigeria must intensify efforts to look inward and solidify its strategic path to protect our sovereignty. Though, these processes are quite starving and require sacrifice. Indeed, citizens must sacrifice to get things fixed.

A twitter friend called “Steve” responded to my early post 72 hours ago that, “Nigeria needs to invade asap, do not let Niger become base for Russia to invade Nigeria, Russia and China are coming for control and the gold”. This statement of his made me crazy and had to drop my pen and rest for a while before continued with my memo. If this notion of him is to be interpreted right, then my earlier opinion that we shouldn’t trust any of the “power holders” has been validated.

One nagging issue that keeps bugging some of the progressives around is must we be submissive to them? They just wanted to traced back what they mistakenly left behind during colonization and introduce a new scientific approach of modern colonization.

While “ba’a sauke girki ba”, another country in Africa has just thrown out civilian government in the republic of Gabon, Ali Bongo who has been in power since 2009 after winning third term election on last Saturday’s poll, August 26, 2023.

As am writing this piece, another episode happened in Rwanda a country which just hosted the “capacity building session” for our Nigeria’s Governors last week supported by the UN, with President Paul Kagame in office since year 2000 (23 years) for God’s sake, retires multiple senior army officers including influential General called James Kabarebe shortly after he learnt about military take-over in Gabon. Why is it happening now? Is Paul not sending a signal that he has all been driving wrong? Who influenced him to do this? In the interest of Rwanda which suffered irrecoverable genocide years ago or western interest? All these confusions must be justified by the power that be.

By whatever definition, Africa must not relegate itself in the eyes of the so-called super powers, taking advantage of telling us that we are corrupt while they created, initiated, seed and nurtured the basis for corruption from kindergarten to tertiary level of our political class.

Afterall, all nations can be super. They should be reminded that, if they earlier used a generic template to define all Africans, time has come to review the template after centuries and re-allocate “specific” ledger to each nation.

I come in peace!

Haruna Adamu Hadejia, a journalist and public affairs analyst, wrote this piece from Dutse, Jigawa State.

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Ministerial Nominee’s: Between Fair Proportions and Political Relevance.

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Minister Nominees

By Abubakar Sadiq Dauda

I will start with the following highlights:

Deputy Senate President,
Speaker House of Representatives,
National Chairmanship,
5 Senior Ministers,
5 Junior Ministers, were all allocated to the Northwest Geo-political zone, which happens to be the powerhouse of Northern politics.

Kano got the National Chairmanship position which doesn’t add any capital developmental stride to the state or region. That gave birth to the appointment of two of its indigenes as Junior Ministers because the leader of the party in the state is in no position to shout injustice since he graciously accepted a role meant for the North-central bloc.

Kaduna on the other hand, has a Speaker, thus one Ministerial nominee was picked. A fair share if u ask me. However, one of our very best, picked from this very North side (El-Rufai) was frustrated, thus he lost interest. Not his own individual loss, but our own collective loss.

Though at a time, he once said, the only way for the party and the President to pay him for his effort, is to give one of his own (Iyan Zazzau), the office of the speaker, which ought to have gone to the North-central. El-rufai request was graciously honoured. We may cry and wail but agreement is agreement.

Our very own greed and miscalculation will keep consuming us in terms of our relevance politically, and the development of the North as a whole. Once the Northwest lost relevance and control, the entire North will be on its knees.

Certainly, we were not shortchanged, we got outsmarted, that has always been the case whenever power shifts to the South.

Morally, the North got its own fair share. Politically, it got nailed, yet again!

Sadiq is a political observer, writes from Kano, Nigeria. Can be reached via sadiqdauda55@gmail.com

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