In 2001, the Global Security and Sustainability Program of the MacArthur Foundation approved multi-year grants of between $2 and $3 million to each of four Nigerian universities: Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria; Bayero University Kano (BUK); the University of Port Harcourt (UPH); and the University of Ibadan (UI). The prima facie grounds for the initiative, in terms of the Program's aims, were compelling: Nigeria is Sub-Saharan Africa's most populous country; efforts to implant democracy will depend on reversing prolonged decline in the quality of government and living standards of ordinary Nigerians; and Nigeria's success in turn will positively contribute to development of the sub-continent. Support for higher education alongside Foundation initiatives supporting human resource development and good governance have been deemed equally important. Revival of a once vibrant academic community will help inform public debate and strengthen political accountability, both essential features of any democratic polity. Restructuring of the economy will depend to a considerable extent on skills and knowledge forthcoming from a renewed higher education system.
This report draws on information obtained from an in-depth "desk top" review of relevant documentation, a field visit undertaken between August 27 and September 20, 2005, and further exchanges, by telephone and email, with various informants.