The World Bank, in collaboration with the National Universities Commission (NUC), has made available $8 million (N1.5bn) to the African University of Science and Technology, Abuja, dedicated for researches in the areas of material sciences. This is in its determined move to boost research findings in Nigerian universities.
With this, the African University of Science and Technology would join other nine Nigerian universities, who have already been selected, as centres of excellence and are to be funded by the World Bank in areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, health sciences and agriculture.
Julius Okojie, executive secretary, NUC, said the university had met all the requirements of the World Bank, noting that the objective of the African Centres of Excellence was to promote regional specialisation among participating universities within areas that address particular regional development concern.
“When we had the issue of the dreaded Ebola virus, Redeemers University rose to the occasion and its laboratory was efficient in detecting the virus. It is currently among the centres of excellence and had got world attention on key research issues.
“When Turkey did something on material science, all their professors abroad came back home and supported the research. We have a brand new opportunity now to be at the centre stage of research and we cannot miss it. If out of 19 centres of excellence,10 are from Nigeria; if we don’t succeed, then there is a problem,” Okojie said.
In his remarks, Charles Chidume, vice president, academics, African University of Science and Technology, said: “With the support of NUC in guiding us up to this level, we would not let our country down on this.
“Our duty basically is to ensure that our research findings connect with the concerns of our people in solving their basic problems. We have published several journals since January, and we are currently researching at two diseases that take away the lives of our people: cancer and cardiovascular diseases.”
The African Centres of Excellence comprises of Redeemers University, Mowe, Ogun State (for genomics of infectious diseases); African University of Science and Technology, Abuja (pan-African materials institute); Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (for agric development and sustainable environment); Ahmadu Bello University Zaria (on neglected tropical diseases and forensic biotechnology).
Further in the list include: University of Jos (phytomedicine research and development); University of Benin (for reproductive health and innovation); University of Port Harcourt (for oil fields chemicals); Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (on ICT-driven knowledge park); Bayero University, Kano (in dryland agriculture), and Benue State University, Makurdi (for food technology and research).
The African Centres of Excellence is a competitive regional spread across seven countries – Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Republic of Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo and Senegal. Universities in these countries compete for slots on the projects and Nigeria won 10 out of the 19 approved centres.