Stakeholders are currently expressing concerns over what appears as an unbridled proliferation of private health institutions in Niger State lately, which many fear may be operating without approval from the appropriate authorities.
The fears are fueled by the fact that many of these institutions, which claim to be affiliates of some recognised and reputable public institutions in the country, operate from the premises of primary or secondary schools, but run degree programmes of the institutions they claim to be affiliated to.
One of such institutions is the Pan African College of Science and Management Sciences, which is said to belong to one Mr. Olatunji Afolayan.
It currently operates from the compound of High Hope International School (a private secondary school) at Tunga Goro, Chanchaga Local Government Area of Niger State, on the outskirts of Minna, the state capital.
It also operates from the premises of the Brighter International School (another primary and secondary school) near the NNPC Mega Plaza, off the Eastern bye pass, Minna, as its temporary campus and lecture theatre for its numerous students.
One Dr Abubakar Jimoh Adejoh, the registrar of the college said that the college is indeed an affiliate of the University of Ibadan.
He told Tribune Education in a brief interview in Minna that the college awards BSc degree in Public Health, BSc in Medical Laboratory Science, BSc in Environmental Health and the diploma in Community Health, among others.
“Ours is not a satellite campus, but (we are) an affiliate body with the University of Ibadan Consultancy Services Unit,” he said, adding that all the programmes are run on the part-time basis (with lectures scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays).
But concerns have been expressed by candidates and other stakeholders as to the authenticity of the college’s purported affiliation with the University of Ibadan, given its distance from the premier university.
Adejoh said those fears are unfounded.
One Mrs. Helen Abu, who claimed to be the coordinator of the University of Ibadan Consultancy Services Unit, told Tribune Education on telephone that she, in conjunction with some of the staff of the unit, had visited the venues being used by the Pan African College of Sciences and Management Sciences in Minna on inspection tour, and had certified the places not only conducive but fit for both the lecturers and students of the college.
Tribune Education tried to authenticate the claim that the institution is affiliated to the University of Ibadan, in Oyo State. The university’s Director of Public Communication, Mr Olatunji Oladejo, was not aware of such affiliation.
After repeated enquiries, he flatly told this newspaper that the university “has no relationship with the college. You can quote me on that,” he said.
Strangely too, the Deputy Registrar (Academics), Dr Ikeoluwapo Moody, was not aware either. While speaking with Tribune Education on a telephone, Mrs Moody expressed doubts that the college could be running degree programmes with the intent to issue certificates of the University of Ibadan.
But when she was told that a certain Mrs Helen Abu of the Consultancy Services Unit of the university had validated the claim and activities of the college, Dr Moody, though acknowledged knowing Mrs Abu, advised Tribune Education to speak with her (Abu).
When Tribune Education visited the Consultancy Services Unit on Wednesday in Ibadan, Mrs Abu was said to be on leave. When contacted by telephone, she said what the unit runs in the Pan African College in Minna are “professional Bachelor” degrees and not the normal academic bachelor degree per se.
“The programme is not for school leavers; this is what we always tell candidates. If you want to do the regular programme of the University of Ibadan, go and obtain JAMB (sic!) and do the exam,” she said.
Who is the programme for then? Tribune Education probed further.
“It’s for the workforce (sic!). People with PhD do it. Someone spoke with me yesterday; he has Masters, he has PhD and he enrolled in the programme, being a professional programme,” Mrs Abu quipped.
But is the university aware the unit is running those programmes with the Minna-based college? Mrs Abu insisted “they are aware; our papers are with them.”
It is curious that a unit of the premier university could be running degree and diploma programmes in a college in Niger State without the knowledge and input of the university’s central administration.
Does the unit have the mandate or the expertise to run degree programmes, ‘professional’ or otherwise?
Pan African College of Sciences is not the only private health institution giving stakeholders concerns in Niger State. The investigation revealed further that presently, similar health institutions are operating in Gwada, Shiroro Local Government of Niger State as well as in a primary school at Katere Gwari area of Minna metropolis.
These all claim to be operating in affiliation with some recognized institutions in states far exceeding 200 kilometres from their base. They also have something in common: these ‘health institutions’ are operating without science laboratories for practical industrial work experiments.
Reacting to the development, the provost of the Newgate College of Health Technology, Minna, Dr. Edozie Felix Odiah, said there was nothing bad in having multiple health institutions in the state, provided they are operating with the necessary approval.
“In fact, we want more legally accredited and licensed institutions in Niger State to help our children have access to quality education as government alone cannot do it,” he said.
He, however, said it would be unfortunate if some institutions falsely claim to be affiliates of some respected public institutions, adding that such trend is not urgently arrested, it would have telling negative implications in the future, as graduates from such unapproved health institutions would find their way into hospitals as health workers where they will manage patients and take care of children, pregnant women as well as accident victims.