As of November 27, 2023, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the National Universities Commission, has granted approval for a total of 147 private universities. These institutions coexist with universities owned by both the Federal and state governments.
The proliferation of private universities in Nigeria is attributed to ongoing industrial actions, inadequate funding, and challenges within public universities. The number of private universities has surged from three in 1999 to 147 in 2023, with the National Universities Commission reporting over 270 pending requests for new private university establishments.
A review of private universities by PUNCH online, based on information obtained from the NUC’s website, reveals that many of these institutions are established by religious organizations and current or former politicians.
Here is a breakdown of some private universities associated with Nigerian politicians:
Bells University, Ogun State: Founded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, this institution also includes former Governor of Gombe State Ibrahim Dakwambo and former Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello on its board.
American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State: Owned by former Vice-President and 2023 presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar.
Amaj University, Kwali, Abuja: Established by former Governor of Sokoto State Attahiru Bafarawa in 2023, making it one of the newest private universities in the country.
Hensard University, Bayelsa State: Recently licensed, this university is owned by former Governor of Bayelsa State Seriake Dickson.
PAMO University of Medical Sciences, Rivers State: Founded by former Governor of Rivers State Peter Odili, with former military administrator Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar and Senator Abu Ibrahim on its board.
Baze University, Abuja: Founded by former Senator and vice-presidential candidate Datti Baba-Ahmed during the 2023 presidential election.
Eastern Palms University, Imo State: Established by former Governor of Imo State and Senator Rochas Okorocha.
Edwin Clark University: Founded by former federal commissioner of Information and elder statesman Edwin Clark.
Sports University, Delta State: The first private university of sports, owned by current Senator Ned Nwoko, who obtained the license in 2021.
Furthermore, other private universities also have past and present politicians serving on their Boards of Trustees and governing councils. Notable examples include Kings University in Odemu, Osun State, with current First Lady and former Senator Remi Tinubu as a board member; Achievers University with Governor Rotimi Akeredolu on its Board of Trustees; Abuja-based Nile University with Abike Dabiri-Erewa and Senator Osita Izunaso on the governing council; and Gregory University Uturu in Abia State, chaired by PDP chieftain Sam Ohuabunwa. Additionally, Kaduna-based Greenfield University has former House of Representatives member Muhammed Usman among its board members.