Loan plea gives rise to angry protests

January 5, 2001

Nigeria's bid for a 30-year interest-free loan of $100 million (£67.5 million) from the World Bank to finance a university capacity building project has been met with angry protests.

Students and academics at the universities of Ibadan and Bayero protested against the discussions between a World Bank delegation led by William Saint and university officials.

Lukman Diso of the Academic Staff Union of Universities said: "It is not the business of the bank to supervise the meeting of debtors. We should decide whether to take the loan, not the bank."

Mr Saint narrowly escaped physical assault by students at the University of Ibadan when leaders of the ASUU formed a ring around him.

Dipo Fashina, the union's national president, told students: "We do not think it is in the interest of the university system for the government to borrow money that will give the World Bank power to control the development of university education."

Between 1991 and 1992 Nigeria borrowed $120 million (£81 million) from the World Bank for the expansion of federal universities but protesters said there was nothing to show for it.

Mr Saint said that the forthcoming loan was not aimed at privatising the university system but conceded the earlier loan had not been properly spent.

He said that the new project would support internet connectivity within the university system.

"The project is aimed at upgrading the quality of graduates produced by Nigerian universities by improving the quality of teaching staff. Presently, international employers of labour complain that Nigerian universities are half-baked and they spend a lot of money to retrain graduates," he said.

Tunde Adeniran, the minister of education, said that the government was still negotiating with the bank on the terms for the loan.

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