A student of the Zamfara State University, Talata Mafara has decried the silence of the state government over the fate of students enrolled in the institution since 2018.
The student, who spoke with SaharaReporters on Wednesday, said the school was established in 2017 by the former governor of the state, Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari, and was opened for admissions in 2018.
According to the student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the former governor created the institution because Zamfara was the only Northern state without a state university at the time.
He said students were enrolled in the 2018/2019 academic sessions taught by academic staff whose employment was based on a contract and the students had taken the first semester examination successfully in 2019 before a transition of power.
The student said the May 29 elections that brought in the current governor, Bello Matawalle had changed the fate of the students in the institution.
He told SaharaReporters that students were on first-semester break when they all got a notice to stay back at home for a while following a probe by the new administration into some maladministration and misappropriation of funds by the former governor of the state.
The student stated that the investigation the governor claimed to be conducting has now spanned over years, which is a major setback for the educational pursuit of enrolled students.
He pleaded with the state governor to issue a statement noting whether the university will cease to exist or continue so that students will know their fate and do what is necessary.
He said, ”This issue is about Zamfara State University, the one and only state-owned university in Zamfara.
”We are legally admitted by JAMB (Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board) in 2018/2019 session as the pioneer students of the school but Matawalle failed to sustain the university since he became the governor of the state
“He has refused to fund the university just because of his political interest.
“It’s well known to us that the past immediate governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari, was the initiator of Zamfara State University, Talata Mafara, because at that moment Zamfara State seemed to be the only Northern state that didn’t have a state university.
“After the bill for the creation of the state University was passed into law by the Zamfara State House of Assembly, Yari awarded the contract, and the construction began with immediate effect. Though he didn’t complete it during his tenure, he made sure that the building reached lintel level. This shows that Yari wanted to uplift the prosperity of the educational system in the state.
“Suddenly, after Matawalle was sworn in as the 4th governor of the state, he set up a committee to investigate everything concerning the state university. The committee members finished their primary assignment and submitted their formal report. Eventually, Matawalle suspended the ongoing construction of the state university, although the university had already begun the 2018/19 academic session.
“We were on the first-semester break when we got a notice that we should stay back at home till further notice. From that time till now, nothing has been said regarding our resumption. We don’t even know if the school will function again or we have to take another UTME (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination), but the governor has been silent.
”The students’ union members then visited the Anka Emirate Council where we met with the Emir of Anka and Chairman, Council of Chiefs, Zamfara Emirate. We also visited the office of the Commissioner of Education where we met Dr Ibrahim Abdullahi Spirow.
“We have also gone to the Directorate of Higher Education where we met Hon. SA Abdullahi Muhammad Gurbin Bore. Then we were at the Office of the Special Adviser on scholarship where we met Hon. SA Lukman Majidadi. We tried visiting the Speaker of the House of Assembly but he refused to see us.
”We also went to the Gummi Emirate Council where we met senior district officer of Gummi as the representative of emirs. All these visits form part of the struggle we made so they can speak to the governor to save our admission in ZAMSUT but nothing positive came out of them.
“Barely 2 weeks ago, the national body of the students went to the governor’s house for breaking of fast and he promised that he would say something after Eid-al-Fitr. Up till now, nothing has been said. And JAMB is about to close their portal for online registration, we want the governor to speak up so we can know our fate.
“We may agree that education and other major sectors went sour under the watch of the immediate past governor, and this happened as a result of his negligence and carelessness but Matawalle ought to have begun his governance on a good note.
“It is improper and unfair for him to abandon the state university. The university doesn’t have a standard governing board, by now, Mattawale ought to have ensured one is in place and changed the face of the university for good, not to ground all activities in the citadel of learning.
“Students in the state polytechnic are receiving lectures on their temporary site, while the construction of the new site has been stagnant. The construction did not affect academic activities. The construction in Zamfara State University too ought not to affect academic activities.
“The governor should remember that he not only suspended the ongoing construction of the university but has also grounded academic activities, so there’s a need for him to address the issue, to prevent the enrolled student from wandering around. We don’t know if we should wait for a better outcome or take another UTME.”
The student stated further that the Governor recently appointed a new Vice-Chancellor despite all that had happened. He, however, said the new Vice-Chancellor also experiences delays in accessing take-off grants to reconstruct the university and kick-start academic activities.
“Our former VC, Prof Muazu Gusau fought hard to get the take-off grants but his efforts yielded nothing. He has been appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of Federal University, Gusau.
“Now, Matawalle has appointed Professor Yahaya Zakari as the new VC. Since his appointment, he has also been moving helter-skelter, going to ministries just for them to release the take-off grant. If the governor knew he wouldn’t release the take-off grant, why did he appoint a new VC?” he quipped.
In a letter issued by the concerned citizens of Zamfara State to the governor, recommendations seeking a lasting solution to the problem were made.
It read partly, ”With the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor, we want to believe that the government is interested in proceeding with the university project. In view of this, we are calling on the government to address the issue of the university based on the recommendations related to the option as contained in our earlier later as follows:
“To immediately constitute Governing Council of the university; to pay the backlog salaries of the temporary staff of the university; recruit permanent academic and non-academic staff for the institution; direct the resumption of the academic activities of the university as soon as possible and the university should not run some of the courses approved by National University Commission (NUC) now due to lack of funds to hire enough lecturers pending the time when the university has enough or considerable manpower and financial resources.
”It not our desire to ridicule the government but it is sad to mention that government is playing politics with the issue of the institution. The government should know that the university is not for the previous administration rather it is for the state.
“We have several reasons to believe that government is playing politics with the university by deceitfully appointing the principal officers for 10 months without releasing funds for them to run the university.
“To add to this, the government donated the sum of N400 million and 100 million to the National Open University and the private university owned by Izala Group respectively, almost half of the amount the state-owned university needed to fully operate.
”The N1.2 billion needed by the state university can be paid in tranches, it doesn’t have to be paid in full at once. The government can split it into N300 million each month and within four months the payment will be completed.
“We are also aware of the huge amount of money spent by the government on some projects which are not as important as the university project such as buying exotic cars for political appointees, installation of CCTV cameras, renovation of government lodges, building of hotels, airport project and renovation of government house.
“The amount being paid monthly by the government to unnecessary political aides is more than the personnel and overhead cost of the university.
“To this end, we have set the record straight and now, that we have expressed our position, it is left for the government to decide either to continue playing politics with the university or to do the needful.”
Meanwhile, SaharaReporters had earlier reported how about 15 brand new Hilux vehicles were given to leaders of different ‘repentant’ banditry groups by the governor.
The governor, who gave out motorcycles too, also approved millions of naira to be given to the ‘repentant’ bandits as compensation.