Academic Publishing Centre - Moving against foreign textbooks in Nigerian Universities
ABDULSALAM Mahmud, FASLN
Wednesday, 5 May 2021
Among the state-of-the-art facilities already provided inside the gigantic edifice are cutting-edge machines and equipment, for all kinds of academic and textbooks’ production. The imposing building, which will eventually function as a university printing press, also has a marketing and editing sections, aside other departments and staff offices.
Known as Academic Publishing Centre (APC), it was built last year by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) for the Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUTMinna), in Niger State, North Central Nigeria. The APC was established to address the dearth of indigenously-authored and locally-produced tertiary level textbooks, together with other related academic publications in Nigeria’s tertiary education institutions.
Aside the Publishing Centre in FUTMinna, six other public universities across Nigeria’s six geo-political zone and Abuja, the nation’s capital, each has an APC built on its campus.
The universities include Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH), in Adamawa State, North East; Usmanu Dan-fodio University, Sokoto (UDUS) in Sokoto State, North West; University of Lagos (UNILAG), in Lagos State, South West; Nnamdi Azikiwe University, in Anambra State, South East; the University of Calabar (UNICAL), in Cross River State, South-South; and the University of Abuja (UNIAbuja), in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); alongside FUTMinna.
TETFund is an intervention agency set up to provide supplementary support to all level of public tertiary institutions with the main objective of using funding alongside project management for the rehabilitation, restoration and consolidation of tertiary education in Nigeria. The intervention agency said 5 billion was expended in setting up the seven APCs.
Although there are printing presses in some Nigerian universities, the TETFund intervention is directed towards developing the capacity for publishing through the APCs. Checks by African Science Literacy Network (ASLN) revealed that University publishing houses in Nigeria were designed on the model of the Cambridge and Oxford University Press to undertake scholarly, research-based publishing and they excelled in this.
According to the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Prof. Suleiman Elias Bogoro, the scarcity of tertiary level texts in Nigeria has reached a crisis proportion as evident not only in the quality of books available, but also in the quantity of books produced locally.
His words: “Overtime, publication of indigenous academic texts are done outside the shore of Nigeria. Hence, we have our books being published in U.K., India, U.S.A, etc. with the attendant consequences of the pressure in the demand for foreign currency. It is equally worrisome that the quality of most academic publications in our country lives much to be desired.
“It is therefore expected that nurturing the culture of quality authorship and the production of indigenous books will not only ensure the availability of relevant books in the diverse subject areas that take cognizance of our local environment and sensitivities, it will also safeguard our national pride and reduce the demand on foreign exchange.”
Tackling the crisis headlong, he said, necessitated the conception of the establishment of the Publishing Centres in April, 2012.
“Given the limitation of resources needed to transform existing university publishing houses and management, the Fund’s intervention is targeted at creating the capacity for academic publishing through the establishment of the APCs with the state of the art facilities in tertiary institutions located across the six geo-political zones in the country, with the hope that it will enhance the production of quality books, journals, monographs and other specialized reading materials, as well as facilitate e-publishing of books and journals,” Prof. Bogoro added.
On his part, Prof. Ogugua Charles Aworh, Chairman, TETFund Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for the APCs, said given the seriousness of the paucity of reading and learning materials in Nigeria’s higher educational institutions, the TETFund intervention is designed as a package of unique, targeted actions, activities and events that will restore research and academic publishing within the higher education sector.
Charles Aworh, a Professor of Food Technology at the premier University of Ibadan, Oyo State, in South Western Nigeria, it is expected that nurturing the culture of authorship and the production of indigenous books in Nigeria will safeguard national pride, as well as ensure the availability of relevant books that grow out of the local environment and reflect familiar realities and experiences.
He said: “It is one way of motivating students to read and to foster sustainability in book development. While it is true that foreign books are helpful, the development of an indigenous book industry is needed to provide opportunities for the nation’s writers, thinkers and artists.” As a restorative measure, Prof. Aworh, explained that the intervention of the APCs entails creating capacity for the production of quality academic manuscripts/papers into books and journals.
Prof. Ngozi Nnam
‘Nigerian academics must rise to the occasion’
The immediate-past President, Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS), Prof. Mosto Onuoha, who described the academic publishing centre as a ‘marvelous initiative’, tasked Nigerian lecturers to rise to the occasion, and utilize the opportunities that the centres will offer.
Onouha, a Professor of Petroleum Geology, said TETFund desires quality works by Nigerian writers and researchers, hence it provided the opportunity via the APCs.
“Publishing oversea is costly. I have a colleague who published a textbook abroad, and had to sell it for N6,000 in the country, which many of his students could not afford to buy. So, the APCs will publish books for our scholars locally, and by so doing, make it affordable for the target audience,” he explained.
‘APC will give UNIAbuja more visibility’
Prior to TETFund”s intervention, Dr. Abubakar Umar Kari, Dean, Students Affairs at UNIAbuja, said the outputs of many prolific Nigerian scholars and researchers hardly get noticed due to over-reliance on foreign textbooks.“Considering the fact that few people have the wherewithal to publish their books and papers even locally, the idea of having APCs in our universities is laudable. They will assist our higher institutions tremendously.
“Again, every university wants to be visible, and getting the needed visibility is tied to the ability of Nigerian scholars to be known, and their research outputs been cited all over the world. So, where they cannot be found as a result of the inability to publish, it affects our university system, aside the fact that the influx of foreign books will be uncontrollable.”
Kari, an Associate Professor of Political Sociology, expressed a firm belief that the publishing centre will give more visibility to UNIAbuja, while also making its researchers and academics to compete for their materials to be published for free.
He said: “The rating of our school will improve greatly with this centre. Already, our researchers are enthusiastic about having the APC in the university. And so far, they have responded massively to the call for them to submit abstracts and summaries of their unpublished manuscripts.”
Why I haven’t published my book--don
As for Prof. Anna Muhammad Malgwi, a Fellow of the Entomological Society of Nigeria (ESN), she is supposed to have authored an academic textbook in her area of specialization. But she is yet to do so, as a result of financial challenges. She said she only prepares lecture notes for her students.
According to the Professor of Agricultural Entomology, not only outside the shores of the country, publishing relevant textbooks locally is equally expensive.
Malgwi is hoping that the TETFund-sponsored publishing centre at Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH), in Yola, where she teaches, will publish her lecture notes both in hard copies and electronically, while also marketing them for her.
“Over here, staff and students rely on both foreign and local academic materials, stocked in libraries, for their study and research,” she added.
'Foreign books difficult for Nigerian students'
There is a level average students in Nigerian universities read and understand foreign textbooks, says Prof. Kpotun Baba. According to Baba, a researcher at the School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology (SAAT) in FUTMinna, most of the illustrations in foreign books lack relevance to local communities in Nigeria.
He said: “So, if books that we use are not locally-authored, then the applicability of the knowledge gained to address local problems will be constrained. So, the issue is not that of dearth of knowledge on the part of our researchers and academics, but how to publish their manuscripts.”
He noted that if managed properly, the publishing centre in FUTMinna will help advertise, promote and ensure locally-published textbooks are sold, hence generating income for authors. “Someone like me who have a manuscript of an unpublished book stand to benefit when the APC becomes operational,” Prof. Baba stated.
While describing the APC built at the university’s permanent campus, in Gidan Kwano, as an architectural masterpiece, he advised TETFund not to leave it open for only interested persons to respond to calls for books and articles' submission by the centre.
He said: “TETFund should commission renowned professors in Nigerian higher institutions to write on key, but neglected scientific issues and other vital areas of socio-economic development.”
Queuing to publish in a varsity press
Dr. Hajara Usman Sanda is an Associate Professor of Mass Communication at the Bayero University, Kano (BUK), North Western Nigeria. She has since written the manuscripts for her two unpublished textbooks. But aside the fact that she paid a huge sum, BUK’s university press is still yet to publish them, months after she submitted the manuscripts.
“When I visited the school printing press to submit my manuscripts, I learnt there were many others awaiting publication, long before mine arrived. So, they collected mine and placed them on queue. I can’t say when they will be published, finally,” Dr. Sanda said.
‘We can’t reply on local books alone’
It was the first time Prof. Ngozi Nnam was hearing about the APCs, and it was from this reporter. But she disagreed with the claim that other good publishing centres do not exist in the country.
She said: “We have good printing presses across the country. But because they charge a lot for their service, many researchers, academics and authors patronize mushroom publishing centres, and what they get thereafter are low-quality materials. The fact is anything good incurs money.”
According to Nnam, who is Professor of Community and Public Health Nutrition, there is no hard and fast rule compelling universities in Nigeria to rely only on books written or published in the country.
Hear her: “If you diversify, you will get better information. If you get your information from books published locally, you will be abreast on what is happening in Nigeria, but one should not limit him or herself to only the Nigerian context. Look beyond Nigeria, across Africa and the world. This will make one have a global presentation of what he or she is researching on.”