The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the leadership of Mr Godwin Emefiele has made knowledge-based economy one of the main planks of his administration. In achieving this, he is paying an unrestrained attention to the positive impact such policy thrust is capable of having on the youth who form the bulk of the employable segment of the society. Also, it is to be understood why he has made it a point to take the policy to the university system where these young minds are nurtured and groomed. This informed the decision to set up centres of excellence in the nation’s tertiary institutions.

To add verve to that worthwhile policy, (CBN) embarked on the establishment of dedicated, special purpose education facilities in existing tertiary institutions as projects meant to shore up the capacity of those universities as part of effort to make them more relevant to the changing times. The model is designed as CBN Collaborative Postgraduate Programme (CBN-CPP). In initiating these projects, especially in tertiary institutions across the country, Emefiele is deliberately drawing attention to the fact that Nigerian universities have been facing myriads of problems ranging from inadequate financing to deteriorated infrastructure, autonomy, among others. These encumbrances tend to limit the capacity of the institutions in the country to compete at the global stage.

A respected authority in the ranking of universities globally, Webometrics, stated that no Nigerian university is in the top 1000 in the world. In fact, the highest ranked Nigerian university, according to the organization, is the University of Ibadan which was ranked 1,258 globally and number 18 on the continent of Africa.

The CBN Centre of Excellence project was conceived as a world class postgraduate school focused on various business and finance disciplines in some of the beneficiary institutions. The facilities and infrastructure at Centre have been designed as state-of-the-art complexes comprising a faculty building and hostel building.

The pilot Phase of the project which started in three premier universities covered the Universities of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, University of Ibadan; Ibadan and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, with six universities to be picked from each of the six geopolitical zones.

In conceiving the project, the aim of the bank was and still is to ensure students at postgraduate levels in Economics, Accounting, Banking and Finance, Business Administration and Statistics study in a serene environment that would stimulate effective learning with a view to building human capacity for the financial services sub-sector.

The Central Bank of Nigeria is pumping in a whopping sum of N63 billion into these Centres of Excellence in nine Federal Government owned universities across the country to enhance post-graduate studies in financial related courses and the Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Scheme (TIES) to train and finance entrepreneurship ideas of Nigerian university graduates.

Inaugurating one of the centres of excellence at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria recently, Emefiele said that the project was part of the apex bank’s intervention in education.

He explained that the centres would be delivered in phases and the first phase, which comprised the University of Nigeria, University of Ibadan and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria have been completed and ready for use by the institutions.

He said that the others, nearly completed, are those in University of Lagos, University of Port Harcourt, University of Jos, Bayero University, Kano and University of Maiduguri. Emefiele stressed that education and health were the bedrock of any nation’s development and there was the need to invest in them.

The centres, with 500-capacity auditorium, ICT facilities and e-Library, are designed to compete with any business school globally. They will also run programmes such as Forensic Accounting, Global Financial Market, Risk and Compliance Management. The CBN is committed to an effective and efficient management of the facilities to forestall decay. Part of this management process will involve the engagement of accounting specialists and practitioners working in central banks across the world with the intention of tapping from their wealth of experiences which will be brought to bear on the centres.

The CBN Centre of Excellence, Ahmadu Bello University, for instance is situated on a 360-seat capacity auditorium, a telepresence room, seven lecture theatres, six lecture rooms with a total seating capacity of 544 and six tutorial rooms with 240-seating capacity. There are also two cafeteria/kitchens with a seating capacity of 96; 32 offices to seat 59 staff, a 68-seating capacity library and a 50-seating capacity ICT Centre.

The facility also has a hostel accommodation comprising 66 single rooms and 33 double rooms that are all fully furnished. The hostel also has a gymnasium, seven common rooms, two meeting rooms, 13 laundry rooms, two communication rooms and two Hall Chairman’s Suites.

The service building houses two 1100KVA generators, two IMVA Transformers, three chillers for air conditioning and two firefighting pumps. External works consist of a gate house, fence, external landscaping, sit-out, water fountain and parking lots.

At the commissioning of the edifice, Emefiele said the bank’s involvement in the funding and infrastructural support in the educational sector was borne out of the conviction that an educated workforce played a critical role in the advancement of the Nigerian economy and the society in general.

In his words, the bank’s analysis of the factors responsible for the growth of successful economies, indicated that investment in education played a prominent role in driving innovation and growth in advanced and emerging economies, while also contributing to significant reductions in inequality. Hence, being a knowledge-driven organisation, the apex bank has to ensure the sustenance of improvements in institutions of higher learning across the country.

According to Mr Emefiele, the Centre of Excellence project was also designed to accommodate the Central Bank of Nigeria Collaborative Postgraduate Programme (CBN-CPP), which he described as a child of necessity in the Bank’s intervention programme in the educational sub-sector. The project was conceived to produce a critical mass of skilled professionals that will be able to apply their knowledge towards supporting growth and continued innovation in our nation’s financial sector and the economy in general. “This was against the recognition that the dearth of skilled manpower constituted a binding constraint towards making Nigeria the number one hub for economic activity in Africa, ” he added.

Emefiele disclosed that CBN, working closely with all the participating universities, is taking steps to ensure that this investment yields considerable benefits. Specifically, he said the curricula for the target disciplines had been reviewed and harmonized across board to ensure students are provided with the optimum level of knowledge relative to their peers in other parts of the globe.

“We believe that the Centres of Excellence will help support the government’s efforts towards reducing the incidence of brain drain, and curtail the huge foreign exchange being spent on school fees for Nigerians studying in other countries,” Emefiele said.

Experts, involved in these projects are optimistic that the universities will take maximum advantage of the world class facilities provided by the Bank to challenge their counterparts in London, New York and Dubai in the provision of training programmes in banking and finance-related disciplines for the global business community.

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