Foremost traditional ruler in Nigeria, Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, has unveiled an education Trust Fund tagged the “Ooni of Ife Tertiary Tuition Fund”, aimed at paying the tuition fees of five million students across Nigerian universities.
While unveiling the project at his Ile Oodua Palace, Ile-Ife, the monarch cited the current economic malaise as the motivation behind the gesture which is intended to assist students to return to school.
He expressed displeasure over the poor conditions of some of the students in tertiary institutions.
The Yoruba king said that an average of N50,000 in tuition fees is targeted for about five million students for a period of four years.
He explained that the tuition for the five million students would gulp N500 billion yearly.
The Ooni, who noted that youth empowerment has been his focus, warned that Nigeria is ‘sitting on the keg of gunpowder’ if urgent steps are not taken to address students’ problems.
‘I am putting together an education trust fund to support what the government is doing,’ he said.
‘We are not all safe. We have to cut our social activities and focus more on youth empowerment. It is better to stay and fix this country than to be running out of the country.
‘We are sitting on a keg of gunpowder if we do not look at how best to assist our youths. I have said it before and I will keep saying it. We all had a feel of their anger during the #EndSARS protests. We must begin to engage them productively,’ he added.
‘The COVID-19 [pandemic] has made many youths and their parents to be jobless, while the current recession in the country’s economy is another blow which has made the youths to be the most vulnerable group in Nigeria.
‘We have between seven to ten million of them in federal tertiary institutions and they need to pay close to N500 billion in tuition fees in January 2021. But how would this demand be met when the bulk of the parents of these students are petty traders, peasant farmers and other average Nigerian parents who might not be able to get the needed fees to return to school. That is the reason behind the project.
‘Earlier, I had personally assisted many in paying tuition fees, vocational training and other empowerment initiatives, but I have come up with this to bring more beneficiaries on board,’ the Ooni explained.
On how funds will be generated for the project, the spiritual head of the Yoruba people worldwide indicated that individuals and organisations home and abroad would be contacted for donations to ensure the success of the project.
‘I am appealing to all our people to let us come together and achieve this for our youths. I am promising that everything will be counted for to the last kobo, while details of beneficiaries would be verifiable for accountability,’ he noted.
Speaking on the prolonged Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, the Ooni assured that it would soon be called off and should be for the best of Nigerians.
He added that Nigerian traditional rulers are fully aware of the ongoing talks between ASUU and the Federal Government to end the industrial action.
‘You will recall that we traditional rulers from across the 36 states of the country recently held a meeting in Abuja on the state of the nation, the communique of which I submitted to President Buhari in my capacity as the Co-chairman of the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria, on behalf of others.
‘It is a part of it and I wish to assure that the Federal Government and ASUU are almost done resolving the grey areas,’ the monarch said.