AFRICA’S foremost businessman and Aliko Dangote Foundation Chairman Alhaji Aliko Dangote donated at the weekend a 2,160-bed space hostel complex to the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State.
The hostel, comprising 10 blocks of 360 rooms, built at N1.2 billion, is coming after similar gestures to Bayero University, Kano and University of Ibadan, Ibadan, where the business mogul donated multi-billion naira business school complexes, respectively as part of his contribution to the education development in the country.
The inauguration of the hall of residence coincided with ABU’s 41st convocation during which the varsity conferred on Dangote and the renowned Labour leader Hassan Sumonu, honourary Doctorate degrees.
Also 15,787 graduating students were also awarded various degrees.
The President of Dangote Group explained that he was moved to build the structure having realised that the students’ population at the universities have recorded significant increase without a corresponding growth in terms of infrastructure.
He lamented that the situation has remained a subsisting and growing major challenge as public varsities grapple with under-funding.
Dangote said: “Thus, I will like to use this opportunity to enjoin the Federal Government to consider allocating special funds to the universities to enable them to improve on research and upgrade their infrastructure. Such special intervention has become imperative given the perennial funding challenges facing our universities.”
Dangote said the Federal Government alone could not shoulder the entire burden of funding tertiary education due to competing needs of other sectors that also demand priority attention. This is where Public Private Partnership (PPP) can and should come in to fill the gap.
He then enjoined the private sector to adopt a new approach towards supporting the federal government in tackling the funding deficit in the higher institutions of learning.
Dangote said: “I strongly believe the private sector must go beyond just the payment of the two per cent Education levy and be ready to join hands with the federal and governments in funding tertiary education. This will ensure that our institutions of higher learning are positioned to produce graduates who can transform this nation.
“If there are two things that I am passionate about, they are education and entrepreneurship. I believe they go hand in hand. Some years ago, as Chairman of the National Committee on Job Creation, my committee strived to fashion out strategies for integrating entrepreneurship into our national educational curriculum, in line with what obtains in the Western world.”
Expressing his gratitude on the award conferred on him, Dangote described ABU as “an institution famed for its incredibly thorough academic tradition, the quality of faculty, and the enriching experiences of life within its walls.
“Today, the university has lived to its billing as a melting pot for ideologies by honouring a renowned socialist and champion of employees’ rights, Alhaji Hassan Sunmonu and Myself, for being a leading capitalist and investor in employment generating enterprises.
”It is also with a deep sense of fulfilment that today’s occasion is also being used for the commissioning of 10 blocks of student hostels which consists of 360 fully equipped rooms with capacity for housing 2160 students, built at a cost of N1.2 billion donated by the Aliko Dangote Foundation to Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria.
“Our intervention is designed to lessen the plight of students who suffer acute accommodation challenges within the campus. We have brought similar intervention to University of Ibadan (UI) and Bayero University Kano (BUK) amongst other institutions.”
Kaduna State Governor Nasiru El-Rufai, who opened the hostel, recommended Dangote’s philanthropic spirit to others for emulation.
The governor, who is ABU’s alumnus, said both the government and the private sector can partner to lift the education sector in Nigeria pointing out that if not for the efforts of the university management, the institution was already dying.
Vice Chancellor Prof Ibrahim Garba said the university is the largest in West Africa and described the Aliko Dangote hostel project as a “big relief,” saying lack of adequate accommodation is one of the nightmares of the university.
Describing Dangote’s gesture as immeasurable, the vice chancellor said that of the 50,000 students of the university, the institution could hardly accommodate 10,000 and that the new hostel was the first addition after 40 years to the hostels built by the university.
Praising the Aliko Dangote Foundation, the Director Physical Planning and Municipal Services of the University, Muhammad Aminu Sambo, an engineer, said: “This is a big relief because the university has limited accommodation in relation to the numbers of students admitted every year. This is one of our nightmares.”