© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
INVESTIGATION: Only 8 per cent of Nigeria’s ‘top universities’ respond to e-mail enquiries
THE vast majority of Nigeria’s top universities either do not have official electronic mailing addresses or do not actively use them in responding to enquiries and requests, The ICIR has discovered.
A report published in May by The ICIR already established that the e-mailing culture among federal universities in the country is still very poor as only 13 out of 15 schools to whom enquiries were sent eventually responded.
Expanding the scope of the study, The ICIR again mailed an enquiry to universities on Tuesday, October 9 ― this time to 38 federal, 36 state and 43 private universities reported in 2017 to be among Nigeria’s best. Asides the total of 114 institutions on this list, close also to what may be obtained from the latest Webometric Ranking, the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), and Nigerian Law School were also included as part of the recipients.
Essentially the enquiry, presented to be from a doctoral candidate to aid ongoing research, requested for the current population of the schools, with a breakdown according to the number of students and staff strength. “If possible, I wish to also find out if the institution is residential and the percentage of students who benefit from available infrastructure for accommodation,” the e-mail added.
This enquiry was sent to a total of 186 e-mail addresses belonging to 117 institutions; and a week later, on October 16, a reminder was sent to the addresses.
Only 10 responded, acknowledged mail
Out of the over one hundred universities to which the enquiry was sent to , responses came from only ten (10) ― that is 8.5 percent.
The universities that were among the first set to respond include Redeemer’s University, Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Baze University, University of Ilorin, American University of Nigeria, Ekiti State University and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology.
Forty minutes after the e-mail was dispatched, Ipenko Ademola, Redeemer’s University’s Principal Assistant Registrar, sent a response directing the reporter to the school registrar. The latter, in his response, asked for the purpose of the request and a “letter of introduction to the effect” ― though the information asked for ought to be publicly available.
After an hour and half, Kennedy Ebakata, Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, replied to say the enquiry “has been forwarded to the Registrar for appropriate action”. For Baze University, no worded response was received but Oshioreamhe Aghedo, the school’s Dean of Students, was copied by the general contact address.
The following day, October 10, the Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin sent a response, likewise directing the reporter to the registrar or the university website. The registrar, who was part of the original recipients, however had no reply.
Daniel Okereke, the Executive Director of Communications and Publications, American University of Nigeria (AUN), also replied on October 10, giving answers to all enquiries. Total population of students, he wrote, is “slightly above 1,040 (Graduate 156, Undergraduate Above 900)” and for staff, nationals are 1,082 (as at September 2018) while expats are over 80.
He also said, “The institution is residential with about 98% of students on campus.” AUN’s Director of Communications, Innocent Nwobodo, also replied on October 19 to redirect the enquiry to the school’s Office of Institutional Research & Effectiveness, which he said had been copied and was equipped to address the questions.
The Examinations and Records Department of Ekiti State University also responded on this day, advising that the mail be directed to the Vice Chancellor. The school’s VC, however, did not respond to a mail sent to him on October 16.
Oddly, in its response on October 11, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) said, to get a response, the reporter “will have to make it formal by writing an official letter of request to registrar through your HOD”.
Following the reminder of October 16, four additional replies were received. One was from another official of AUN, Abba Tahir, Vice President for University Relations, who politely apologised for a belated reply and gave the assurance that his colleague would “package the required information and revert back”.
As promised, on October 19 and 24, his colleague, Amina Yuguda, responded with figures of total student and staff population.
Amos Kolo, Registrar at the Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUTMinna), sent in a response on October 26, with a two-page attachment signed by Jacob Yisa of Exams and Records Unit.
According to the document also dated October 26 and which was printed and scanned to answer the enquiry, the school has an undergraduate population of 19,355, a postgraduate population of 2584, a staff population of 2357, and the hostels accommodate a total of 2712 students.
Ife Oluwole, Deputy Registrar at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, also sent a response on the same day as FUTMinna. Writing on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, Joseph A. Fuwape, Oluwole said: “Kindly find below the information you requested for: student population 2017/2018 academic session: undergraduate- 17,505, postgraduate – 3,937, staff population – 2,461. The university is residential. About 10% of the student population benefit from the available residential bed spaces.”
Finally, on October 29, Bingham University, a private university founded in 2005 by the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), also replied with a detailed breakdown of the current population of academic staff and students. It stated among other things that there are 238 members of academic staff, 2906 undergraduate students and 44 postgraduate students, 98 percent of whom reside on campus. The mail was signed by Nuhu Gado.
Soon after the first e-mail was sent out, an automatic response was received from Benue State University’s server, thanking the reporter for contacting the institution and assuring that the “mail is received with thanks and shall be treated urgently”. No urgent response has, however, been provided three weeks after.
Though not all the replies were helpful, only the aforementioned ten institutions provided responses at all to the enquiry. Out of the ten, four are federal universities, two are state universities, and four are private universities.
In other words, only 10.5 per cent of federal universities, 5.5 per cent of state universities, and 9.3 per cent of private universities responded. No response was received from the other 109 universities that were also e-mailed.
33 addresses ‘not found’
Soon after the enquiry was sent to the 186 addresses extracted from the various school’s official websites, the mail delivery subsystem declared 17.7 percent of the addresses as “not found”.
“The email account that you tried to reach does not exist,” said the automatic reply for 33 addresses, which belonged to 22 universities.
For 13 of these schools, no other addresses were found asides the invalid ones. They include the University of Ibadan ([email protected]), Lagos State University ([email protected]), Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta ([email protected]), Kogi State University ([email protected]), Ebonyi State University ([email protected]), Abia State University ([email protected]), and Imo State University ([email protected]).
Others are Kaduna State University ([email protected]), Madonna University ([email protected], [email protected]), Yobe State University ([email protected]), Well Spring University ([email protected]), Gombe State University ([email protected]), and Plateau State University ([email protected]).
The other nine schools have other addresses on their sites that are valid. They are: University of Ilorin, University of Abuja, Usman Dan Fodio University, Federal University of Technology Akure, University of Agriculture Makurdi, Federal University Lokoja, Baze University, Al-Qalam University and Kebbi State University of Science and Technology.
Five of six addresses belonging to the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, returned mailer daemons and for Usman Dan Fodio University, it is four out of five.
The ICIR also observed during the period of the study that 13 of the universities have no official e-mail addresses on their websites; and out of these, at the time of report, seven had contact forms as an alternative means of communication.
The 13 are: University of Jos, Federal University Dutsin-Ma, Delta State University, Federal University Otuoke, Benson Idahosa University, Lead City University, Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Crawford University, Igbinedion University, Caleb University, Federal University Lafia, Bauchi State University, and Wesley University of Science and Technology.
With countless crucial but broken links, pictures that would not load and a design that is not user-friendly, the website of the Federal University Dutsin-Ma is deficient. The “contact us” page button is one of the numerous site navigations that are not functional.
That of Delta State University, which has no link stated as contact page, is beset with similar problems. It was also observed that Lead City University has as many as 17 telephone numbers stated on its homepage but not one email address.
A look through the website of Joseph Ayo Babalola University revealed that it has neither an official email address nor a contact form. For the Federal University, Lafia, established in 2010, the website did not load when it was checked on October 6. It is, however, now stated to be “under construction by Directorate of Management Information System (MIS)”. Most of the links are still broken, including the student portal, and the contact page has neither phone numbers nor an email address.
Between May and October: Any improvement?
In May, The ICIR conducted a similar but smaller investigation that involved 15 federal universities. The email sent to these universities was titled “Enquiries on Post Graduate Programme and Financial Contribution” and requested for the university’s fee structure as well as unique benefits of enrolling in the post graduate programme.
It also said the writer intended “to give a small donation to the institution to advance its research projects and ICT presence”, and asked for the best means to do this.
Not much has changed, five months after this report. The six universities observed then to have invalid addresses on their websites still do: University of Ilorin, University of Abuja, Usman Dan Fodio University Sokoto, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, University of Ibadan, and Federal University of Technology Akure.
Out of the 15 schools, only Federal University of Technology, Akure, and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, responded in the first study. This figure dropped to one in the second as no response or acknowledgement was received from the University of Nigeria.
Unlike in the first report, however, the official address of the University of Ilorin Vice Chancellor acknowledged The ICIR‘s enquiry and offered guidance on how an answer may be sought.
Comparing South Africa and Nigeria
Compared to Nigerian universities, South African tertiary institutions appear to be doing much better when it comes to response to electronic enquiries. On Monday, November 5, the same enquiry sent to local universities was sent to 25 top South African universities, according to UniRank, a leading international higher education directory.
Out of the 59 addresses curated, three returned mailer-daemons ― this is 5 per cent, compared to Nigeria’s 17.7 per cent. Six of the universities have auto-responders, to assure the sender the message has been received. This is 24 percent, compared to Nigeria’s 0.85 percent.
Also, as many as eleven replies were received in total, representing 20 per cent response rate. The responses came from that five universities: University of Pretoria, University of Witwatersrand, University of Capetown, Stellenbosch University, and Nelson Mandela University.
The ICIR also observed that many of the South African universities have detailed contact pages, containing phone numbers and e-mail addresses of key officials as well as all faculties.
It is noteworthy that this result is in spite of the fact that only four days have passed since the enquiry was sent, while Nigerian universities had over three weeks. Also, unlike in the local experiment, no reminder has been sent to the South African institutions.
Missed grants, admission offers … effects of nonchalance
Oluwaseun David Adepoju, Lead Facilitator at TECHmiT AFRICA, who spoke to The ICIR observed that postgraduate admissions and scholarship grants have been lost due to the lacklustre attitude of universities to electronic mails, and added that there is no excuse for not using the 46-year-old technology.
“From my recent experience with a public university in south west Nigeria, I discovered that the university had all the corporate emails on the university website for the sake of just having them listed,” he recounted.
“I sent mails to three of the addresses on the website and all of them bounced back to me as mailer daemons. This situation is an indication the mails have not been used in a long time. Many university graduates have lost postgraduate admissions abroad because their university in Nigeria could not reply the mail sent from these universities abroad to confirm their documents. What a sad reality.”
He recommended that ICT units of various universities should assign a number of email accounts to each worker in the unit to facilitate responsiveness. “This will add immensely to the image the university has in the international community,” he said.
Other Nigerians have also narrated, in reaction to a report by The ICIR, how the technical shortcoming has affected them ― from someone whose admission into a Norwegian institution was cancelled because University of Ilorin did not attend to a request for certificate confirmation to another whose friend had to buy fuel and data bundle for officials at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, before they could attend to a mail concerning him.
It is however, notably, not only universities which hardly acknowledge and respond to e-mail enquiries. Public institutions in Nigeria are generally observed to be disconnected from the addresses and telephone numbers stated on their official websites. Some, in fact, fail to update their physical addresses months after they have relocated.
A recent report by The ICIR established that 20 out of 24 federal ministries in the country do not respond to enquiries sent to their official addresses. 11 of the 26 email addresses extracted from their websites were found to be invalid. The Ministries of Education, Information and Culture, and Science and Technology, do not have official e-mail addresses on their websites and fail to reply enquiries sent through listed contact forms.
NUC keeps silent
The National Universities Commission (NUC), set up by the federal government to ensure quality higher education, has not responded to The ICIR‘s question on how it plans to make Nigerian universities more ICT-compliant in a digital era.
Ibrahim Yakasai, the commission’s director of press invited our reporter to his office but was not available at the agreed time of visit and for several hours. Calls to his phone have since not been answered and texts sent to him have yet to be replied.