A bill seeking a perpetual end to the dichotomy between the university degrees of Bachelor’s of Arts/Science, BA/BSc and the Higher National Diplomas, HNDs awarded by polytechnics have been passed into law in the House of Representatives. Titled “A Bill for an Act to Abolish and Prohibit Dichotomy and Discrimination between First Degree and Higher National Diploma in the Same Profession/Field for the Purpose of Employment; and for Related Matters”, the bill was read for the third time which was the final stage of the law-making process at Tuesday plenary The next stage would be concurrence with the Senate before it will be transmitted to the Presidency for the presidential assent. The bill stipulates some punitive measures against any form of discrimination against holders of HND. The Implication of the piece of legislation is that the two certificates are now at par with each other. The deputy majority leader, Hon. Peter Akpatason moved for the third reading of the Bill and it was seconded by Rep. Aishatu Dukku. The Bill was later voted on and approved for the third reading. The deputy majority leader, Hon. Peter Akpatason moved for the third reading of the Bill and it was seconded by Rep. Aishatu Dukku. The Bill was later voted on and approved for the third reading. Detailing the equality of Degrees and HNDs, the bill stipulates that “Notwithstanding any provision in any legislation, circular, regulation or policy guideline, First Degree and Higher National Diploma shall be deemed construed and treated as equivalent qualification for the purpose of employment and career progression at workplace in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy. “Any provision in-laws, enactments, instruments, circulars, scheme of service, directives, or policies by whatever name called, which is inconsistent with the provisions of this bill, shall to the extent of the inconsistency be null and void, and of no effect. “Holders of the First Degree and the Higher National Diploma (HND) shall be given equal treatment and opportunity in career placements, career progression, admission to further studies and privileges whatsoever in consideration of status as graduates of Nigeria tertiary institutions of higher learning.” The bill also prohibited discrimination between the Degree and HND. “All forms of discriminations and or dichotomy between First Degree and Higher National Diplomas for the purpose of employment, transfer of service, conversion of cadre, career progression, promotion, and other related issues in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy is hereby abolished. “No person, authority, entity (body or corporate) in whatsoever name call shall discriminate and or undertake any action in any form whatsoever which is misconstrued as and or intended to give any preferential treatment in favour of and/or against holders of the First Degree or the Higher National Diploma. “Any person or entity in the public or private sectors of the Nigerian economy who contravenes the provisions of this bill commits an offence under this bill and shall be liable upon conviction to a term of two years’ imprisonment or a fine of N1,000,000 or both. “Any person or entity in the public or private sectors of the Nigerian economy who design, prescribe and or specify any guidelines, terms or conditions of employment, career progression, and or any other instrument by whatever name called in violation of the provisions of this bill shall be guilty of an offence under this bill and liable upon conviction to a term of 1-year imprisonment or a fine of N500,000 (five hundred thousand naira) or both”, it states. Prescribing appropriate sanctions, the bill states that any person who induces or encourages any other person for the violation of any of the provisions of this bill shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of N500,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both. It further states that where an officer of any entity in the public or private sector fails to comply with the provisions of its provisions, the person shall be guilty of an offence and liable upon conviction to an imprisonment term of six months or a fine of N500,000 or both. “Where in any proceedings against any person for an offence under this bill, it is established that any action constituting an offence under this bill has been committed by an officer, it shall be presumed that the action was done with the motive or intent of committing an offence under this bill as the case may be until the contrary is proved,” it added. In a related development, the House also passed for second reading, a bill seeking the amendment of the National Business and Technical Examinations Board Act. Titled “A Bill for an Act to Amend the National Business and Technical Examinations Board Act, Cap. N12, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Improve the Scope of the Board, to Undertake Contemporary Business and Technical Examinations in Line with the National Policy on Education, Provide the General Purpose of the Results, Certificate and Awards Issued by the Board; and for Related Matters”, the bill is sponsored by Professor Julius Ihonvbere from Edo State. At the plenary, Hon. Julius Ihonvbere moved for the second reading of the Bill and it was seconded by Rep. Aishatu Dukku. Leading the debate on the general principle of the bill, Hon. Ihonvbere stated that the Bill seeks to amend the Act establishing the board to end the rejection of qualified students by employers. He added that the Bill also seeks to ensure the development of technical and vocational education schemes in Nigeria. Contributing to the debate, Hon. Abubakar Yunusa lauded the spirit of the Bill as it seeks to correct the victimization of vocational students. He urged the House to speedily pass the bill to make their certificates duly recognized, adding that it will cease the burden of unemployment, as well as enhance entrepreneurship. Similarly, Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas also hailed the bill, calling for the more national will to apply the skills of technical and vocational training in society. The lawmaker also urged the expedient passage of the Bill to save the future of teeming Nigerian youth. The Bill was eventually voted on, approved for second reading and referred to the House Committee on Basic Education and Services for further legislative action.