The Federal Government on Wednesday approved the establishment on nine new private universities in the country.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo.
President Goodluck Jonathan traveled to Sokoto where he attended the 90th birthday of former President Shehu Shagari.
The Minister of Aviation, Mr. Osita Chidoka; the Minister of State, Finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda; the Minister of Water Resources, Mrs. Sarah Ochekpe; and the Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, briefed State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.
Chidoka listed the new universities as Augustine University, Ilara, Lagos State; Chrisland University, Owode, Ogun State; Christopher University, Mowe, Ogun State; Hallmark University, Ijebu Itele, Ogun State; Kings University, Ode Omu, Osun State; Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, Orode, Delta State; Mountain Top University, Ogun State, Ritman University, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State and Summit University, Ofa, Kwara State.
When asked what the Federal Government was doing to stop some private universities from charging exorbitant fees, Shekarau said the government was helpless.
He said like private hospitals or nursery schools, owners of private universities were free to charge fees that would give returns on their investments.
The minister said the only concern of the government was to ensure that the schools were of standard in terms of facilities and staffing among others.
He said the saving grace was that all Federal Government-owned universities were tuition-free.
He said, “As far as the government is concerned, all Federal Government universities are tuition-free. Whatever the universities are charging is so minimal for some day-to-day activities: sports fees, union fees and some other fees.
“Of recent, I had cause to ask the National Universities Commission to regulate tuition in public universities because there is a university that is charging as low as N20,000, N15,000. Some charge between N30,000 and N80,000 or so which is a composition of a number of different kinds of fees. But basically, no university owned by government is charging tuition fee.
“But the private universities are like any other private institutions: private primary schools, private secondary schools. All that is the responsibility of government is to ensure that the standards are maintained.
“We are to ensure that they are operating within the minimum required standard, and that is the responsibility of the NUC in terms of their facilities, staffing and so on.
“The accreditation of any universities or courses has nothing to do with the fees they charge just like the private hospitals.
“Government really does not have anything to do as far as what the private institutions are charging. Tuition is free in public schools.”