The Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts on Thursday in Abuja expressed reservation over the plan by the Chinese Government to establish a university of transportation for Nigeria.
The committee members made their position known during discussions on the omission of the Eastern rail corridor in the 2016-2018 external borrowing plan.
Senator Philip Gyunka, the Vice-Chairman of the committee, said instead of building new universities, the faculties of engineering in existing institutions could be upgraded to perform in various transport capacities.
Gyunka said: “Rather than establishing a new university, why not look at the competences that exist in our existing structures and build them up?
“We have enough universities already. It is better we look at quality and not quantity adding to the rate of unemployed graduates.”
He said that the Maritime Academy, Oron, Cross River, could serve the same purpose for training Nigerians on special transport fields.
Senator Enyinaya Abaribe said instead of building a new university just to train Nigerians on rail maintenance, they could be sent abroad for training.
He said that the Chinese Government could not be building a transport university free as they were not philanthropists.
Abaribe said: “Nigeria railways have been in existence for so many years and were run without building a new university, we want you to look at this matter again.
“The reason that we have engineering departments and faculties in universities is so that if you have funding you can take them abroad. Why won’t you upgrade them?
“Why must we set up another brand new university? It doesn’t in any way enhance people.
“What is the Nigeria Railway Corporation doing?
“’We have good engineering students in Lagos, in Zaria that can be trained, the Chinese Government are not doing us any favour, the university cannot be free and they are not Father Christmas.”
However, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said that there was no issue if the committee wanted the idea of the university of transportation dropped.
Amaechi said that the Chinese Government had agreed to build the university free to train Nigerians that would continue to run the rail lines.
He said: “You will agree with me that the quality of education is very low and we are not spending anything to establish this university.
“It is the contractor and the Chinese Government that will establish this university.
“They will import the teachers, who will teach and grow knowledge; the graduates of that school will become teachers.
“This university is not a university for engineering alone, it is a university of transportation that will deal with railway transportation, aviation and maritime, we are looking at two universities, it will be a specialised university.”
He said that the Chinese Government would train Nigerians free before handing over the rail projects.