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Ending the unnecessary B.Sc./HND rivalry


The long-standing contention over disparity in the employment treatment given to holders of university degrees against their counterparts in polytechnics and colleges of technology has inevitably been dragged into the 10th National Assembly...

The long-standing contention over disparity in the employment treatment given to holders of university degrees against their counterparts in polytechnics and colleges of technology has inevitably been dragged into the 10th National Assembly, following failure of the Muhammadu Buhari government to resolve the thorny issue. Basically, it is about real or imagined discriminatory treatment in the two sets of certificates issued to university graduates and Higher National Diploma (HND) polytechnic graduates, particularly in the country’s public sector, a complaint that has again taken the centre stage for the umpteenth time.


Ordinarily, there should have been no place for the complaint of discrimination because holders of university degrees are brought up and trained differently from those of polytechnics with a view to getting both of them to fill different manpower requirements of the country. Ultimately, they are meant to complement each other towards the overall development of the country, inclusive of commerce and industry. Graduates of polytechnics for instance are more practical oriented, while the universities emphasise theories. One can hardly prosper without the other. The personnel of both sectors therefore ought to be encouraged to excel in their various departments; and if they do, they should be adequately rewarded. There is no reason why restrictions of any form should be placed in the career progress of any of them.

The National Assembly (NASS) had, in June 2021, after several attempts, passed a bill to end the disparity. The bill was later transmitted to President Buhari for his assent. The bill, among other things, aimed to resolve the wage disparity and discrimination against HND holders in the public and private sectors. It also seeks to promote Nigeria’s technological advancement by encouraging many qualified candidates to pursue polytechnic and technological studies.

The then Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, said it would serve as motivation to HND holders from polytechnics. One of the sponsors of the bill, Senator Ayo Akinyelure (PDP, Ondo Central), said the discrimination against HND holders is a threat to the nation’s core policy of evolving a technological and scientifically-based society.

But two years after the passage of the bill, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), has renewed the call on the President to assent to it. National President of ASUP, Dr. Anderson Ezeibe had urged former Buhari to sign the bill before leaving office on May 29, 2023. He feared that the entire exercise could otherwise amount to a waste of public resources as the bill may later be discarded unless lawmakers in the 10th National Assembly would consider it for a fresh debate and passage, before handing it to the current President Bola Tinubu.


Like the lawmakers, the ASUP president said the government should sign the bill as a matter of necessity, pointing out that discrimination against HND holders is no longer acceptable. He said: “It is undermining the development of polytechnic education. It is affecting the self-worth and confidence of HND holders and adversely affecting their workplace productivity.”

Certainly workers should not be assessed on the form of their certificates but on the basis of their output. The discriminatory practice has been removed by some agencies of government already, particularly the paramilitary bodies, but it’s still prevalent in the core civil service, and it has stagnated the career growth of HND holders. Nigeria’s Constitution forbids discrimination against persons.

The move to end the dichotomy is not a new development. In 2016, the National Council of Education (NCE) at its 39th meeting in Minna, Niger State resolved that B.Sc. and HND holders should both enter the civil service on Grade Level 08, but federal ministries, departments and agencies have been reluctant to implement the resolution. That changed in July 2017 as the Ministry of Interior abolished the dichotomy in all the paramilitary services.

According to the directive, the Civil Defence, Fire, Immigration and Prisons Board (CDFIPB), under the chairmanship of the former Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau, made it mandatory that all officers with HND should be upgraded to COMPASS 08, which is the salary grade level for holders of degree certificates at entry point.

But there are concerns that the move was not enough to tackle the issue at the core of the disparity. The NCE resolution only addressed the disparity in entry points between HND and Bachelor degree holders but it was silent on the terminal points, where there is also a gap between the two qualifications.


The reality is that HND holders cannot rise beyond Grade Level 14 or 15 without obtaining additional qualifications such as a Masters degree, while a degree holder can rise in the service to Grade Level 17, which is equivalent to the Permanent Secretary cadre.  While efforts to bridge the gap represent a step in the right direction, at least in some quarters, only the bill can address all issues associated with the disparity between the two certificates.

Akinyelure was on point when he said that the discrimination against HND holders threatens to ruin the nation’s core policy thrust of evolving a technological and scientifically based society. He said findings have proved that some polytechnic graduates were, in some cases, better on the field than their university counterparts. “A government employment policy that places degree holders ahead of HND holders without recourse to the skill and ability of the HND holders, thereof, does more harm than good to the nation’s development plans,” he stated. It would appear that some senators differ on how to resolve the impasse, arguing that rather than abolish the dichotomy, efforts should be made to transform all polytechnics into degree-awarding institutions.

However, it needs to be reiterated that the two academic pathways were established with different purposes in mind such that changing them now would amount to massive policy somersault. Emphasis appears to be shifting to salary and remuneration as against the core issue of knowledge and skill acquisition and their impacts on national economic development.

The bill has already scaled the third reading after the lawmakers received and considered the report of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions submitted by Ahmad Kaita, which contained six clauses. It is important that, as Kaita expressed, the bill, when passed and assented to, will give polytechnic graduates confidence and impact the country’s economy, positively. The 10th National Assembly should therefore make haste and present the bill to Tinubu for assent in order to lay this nagging issue to rest.

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