"I lost two years of my life to a system no one will compensate me for", said 29-year-old Abdulqayyum who is at a crossroad.
He doesn't even know whether to blame himself, his parents or the government.
He wasted a year getting admitted to an illegal university in Nigeria and was there for another year.
Despite efforts at ensuring unfettered access to university education in Nigeria, the challenges posed by illegal universities, also known as "Degree Mills" persist in the country and no one brings the owners to justice.
Sudents and desperate admission seekers are in a quagmire.
Some fake universities still operate in the country, leaving the students with a mental breakdown waiting to happen when they discover their institution is not registered.
Even the prohibition of their operation by the Nigerian government doesn't stop them.
They waste time, money and efforts of innocent Nigerians.
Abdulqayyum is one of the thousands whose time has succumbed to unaccountable waste by getting admitted into one of these schools.
"One Wednesday afternoon, I think it was around 1 pm, I received a text message that I have been offered admission to study Islamic Studies at the institution", he narrated his story.
"I got scared because I have never heard of the institution.
"I told my mum who then asked me to call them and make enquiries."
The school said it was a new university and he had a chance to be one of the early attendees to enjoy the university's state-of-the-art educational facilities.
Abdulqayyum and hundreds of others were told in the second year that the institution a yet to be accredited.
It took Abdulqayyum six months to recover from the shock.
"Honestly, my mind was swapping between thinking about the money spent and time wasted. I fell into depression afterwards."
That is how the unnamed institution (for security reasons) which claimed to be an affiliate campus of Ahmadu Bello University plunged him and many students into depression and everlasting unhappiness.
According to a report by the National Universities Commission (NUC) published in its bulletin dated December 19, 2022, several satellite campuses and study centres still operate illegally in the country.
According to findings by AllNews Nigeria, at least 55 universities operate illegally.
Officially, these institutions have been closed down by Nigerian authorities, but the individuals managing these fake citadels of learning still parade themselves as a righteous higher institution.
Our reporter gathered that the National University of Nigeria, Keffi, Nasarawa State, University of Otukpo, Benue State; Christ Alive Christian Seminary and University, Enugu; Richmond Open University, Arochukwu, Abia State; West Coast University, Umuahia; Saint Clements University; Volta University College, Aba, Abia State; Satellite Campuses of Ambrose Alli University; LIFE Leadership University, Benin City, Edo State are caught up in this web.
Others include Saint Augustine's University of Technology, Jos, Plateau State or any of its other campuses; International University, Missouri, USA Kano and Lagos Study Centres or any of its campuses in Nigeria; Columbus University, UK operating anywhere in Nigeria; Tiu International University, UK running anywhere in Nigeria; Pebbles University, UK operating anywhere in Nigeria; London External Studies UK operating anywhere in Nigeria.
The National University Commission also says that Pilgrims University operating anywhere in Nigeria; Lobi Business School, Makurdi, Benue State or any of its campuses in Nigeria; West African Christian University operating anywhere in Nigeria; Bolta University College Aba located in Nigeria; JBC Seminary Inc. (Wukari Jubilee University) Kaduna Illegal Campus; Westian University, Esie, Kwara State or any of its campuses in Nigeria; St. Andrews University College, Abuja or any of its campuses in Nigeria; EC-Council University, USA, Ikeja Lagos Study Centre; Atlas University, Ikot Udoso Uko, Uyo Akwa Ibom State or any other of its campuses in Nigeria; Concept College/Universities (London) Ilorin or any of its campuses in Nigeria; Halifax Gateway University, Ikeja or any of its campuses in Nigeria; Kingdom of Christ University, Abuja or any of its campuses in Nigeria.
Metro University, Dutse/Bwari, Abuja; Southend University, Ngwuro Egeru (Afam) Ndoki, Rivers State; Olympic University, Nsukka, Enugu State; Federal College of Complementary, Abuja; Temple University, Abuja; Irish University Business School London operating anywhere in Nigeria; National University of Technology, Lafia, Nasarawa State; University of Accountancy and Management Studies, Mowe, Lagos – Ibadan Expressway and its Annex at 41, Ikorodu Road, Lagos; University of Education, Winneba Ghana, operating anywhere in Nigeria; Cape Coast University, Ghana operating anywhere in Nigeria; African University Cooperative Development (AUCD), Cotonou, Benin Republic operating anywhere in Nigeria; Pacific Western University, Denver, Colorado Owerri Study Centre; Evangel University of America and Chudick Management Academic, are also other institutions under NUC's radar.
When the NUC published the list of illegal institutions ten years ago, most of these schools were also listed.
Despite the government curbing these institutions, they continue their illegality.
One of those who have fallen victim to this illegality is Blessing Orhue.
She could not get admission into one of the other 210 public and private universities in Nigeria but was offered to study in one of these fake institutions, which have spread across all parts of the country.
Her uncle's friend told her that the institution she did not want mentioned in this report because of her safety was affiliated with the University of Lagos.
"They said missing this opportunity is like missing the key to paradise", she said amidst sobs.
Abdulwayyum also said when he doubted the veracity of the institution he was unlucky to attend, the supposed educational consultant of the school told him that most of these institutions are jackpots for those who have the information.
"He said everyone wates their times trying to enter established institution in the country, they dont know that there are institutions here affiliated to top draw universities in other African countries and other parts of the world.
"He said everyone is virtually ignorant", he recounted his encounter with the institution's admin officer.
Abdulqayyum and Blessing fell for the emotional blackmail. They felt ignorant and eagerly did all necessities.
They were ready to liberate others to join them on their campuses because it offered a surer and safer way to university education.
"It was a friend who even told me that the school is not original because they never made it look like or told us that we are in an uncertain world."
Blessing said other students were still there schooling in an unauthorised college without prior knowledge.
According to the executive secretary of the NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, anybody who patronises or obtains any certificate from any illegal institution does so at their own risk.
"Certificates obtained from such universities would not be recognised for the purposes of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), employment and further studies."
But his commission is also hindered as it has to work with relevant law enforcement agencies before the evildoers wasting the time of people like Abdulqayyum and Blessing could be brought to face justice.
It does not have the power to prosecute the offenders by itself.
Oftentimes, the operators of illegal institutions have no questions to answer.
A source in the commission who spoke with our reporter today thinks that that is the sole reason illegal universities are flourishing.
'If we had the power to prosecute them, they would have drastically reduced.
"I think there is much on the security operatives' kitty already."
She offered that it would be tough to curb this menace if the evil doers are not brought to justice.
Nigerians are advised to assist in reporting illegal institutions of learning wherever they find them operating.
But Jide Odeyemi worries that despite occasionally publishing names, the institutions found wanting have not been brought to justice.
"Why will they ask us to report when those they caught themselves have not been punished?
"They should deal decisively with the culprits they have identified before they can tell Nigerians to assist them", he said.
The task ahead of the NUC is a rigorous one. Safeguarding the quality of the university system in the country is a task that needs all stakeholders to work around the clock.
At the same time, publishing the names of approved universities on its website is not the only measure to put the illegal institutions out of business.
Sources told our reporter that some institutions must be used as scapegoats before the illegality could be tamed.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, recently said the existence of illegal universities continue to pose a challenge to the attainment of quality education in Nigeria, adding that the government would not rest on its oars in cracking down on illegal universities in the country.
But no one has bothered to care for unsuspecting Nigerians who unknowingly go to the schools when they say that they have sorted their issues with the commission.
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