The programme initiated by President Goodluck Jonathan on January 8 during the anti-fuel subsidy removal protests by organised Labour and civil society groups is part of efforts to reduce the cost of transportation for Nigerians.
At the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting where the approval was announced yesterday, the government also endorsed the issuance of provisional licences to five new private universities in the country.
On the N15 billion revolving loan for public transport, Information Minister Labaran Maku said: “What Mr. President is trying to do is to ensure that for once this country develops the capacity for mass transportation and this has been done both through the railways, waterways as well as road transportation. What we approve today will support the purchase of 1,240 high capacity buses for disbursement to competent transport investors in the country. As you do know, this is a revolving loan. Government guarantees the loan at zero per cent interest so that transport investors can have assess to these vehicles and therefore use them to reduce the cost of transportation in all the major cities across the country. .
“The buses are given on the basis of a thorough scrutiny on the capacity of the transporters to run them on a sustainable basis. Also, those companies that have been given the nod to supply the buses have accepted to set up infrastructure in Nigeria for a sustainable supply of spare parts as well as the maintenance of these vehicles. In the next couple of years, government will only patronise those companies that are prepared to site manufacturing plants in Nigeria.”
The five new universities bring the total number of universities in the country to 122. Each of the new universities has an older university as a mentor. .
The universities include Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State (with University of Technology, Akure, as its mentor); Evangel University, Akaeze, Ebonyi State (with University of Nigeria, Nsukka, as its mentor); Gregory University, Uturu, Abia State (with University of Nigeria, Nsukka, as its mentor); McPherson University, Seriki Sotayo, Ogun State (with University of Ibadan as its mentor) and Southwestern University, Okun Owa, Ogun State (with University of Lagos as its mentor).
Maku, the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’i and Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Samuel Ortom, told journalists at the end of the meeting chaired by Vice President Namadi Sambo that the council approved the new universities because the existing 117 universities were “grossly inadequate” to serve a population of over 168 million Nigerians.
Maku noted: “The gross inadequacy of this figure in relation to the population size of our country is glaring. This has continued to be a challenge. Therefore, strategies being adopted by the Ministry of Education to address this challenge include encouraging private individuals and groups with unquestionable commitment to education to establish private universities.”
He stated that the establishment of more private universities was also an antidote to the proliferation of illegal universities and degree-awarding institutions across the country.
He said: “It is in realisation of this that the Ministry of Education came to council seeking its approval for the issuance of provisional licences for the establishment of five private universities.”
Rufa’i added that the licences for the new universities were issued for only three years at the end of which those that have done well would be given full approval while those that have under-performed would have their licences revoked.
Maku also stated that the new Sapele Power Plant is expected to generate about 225 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.