By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
Some interesting revelations on how the University of Benin was administered under the Vice Chancellorship of Prof. Emmanuel Nwanze have emerged from the report of the visitation panel to the institution that was recently submitted to the Federal Ministry of Education.
The report, which carries out a critical assessment of the universityâ€™s activities between 2004 and 2009, appreciates the fact that the institutionâ€™s management displayed good managerial ability in spite of the odds stacked on its way, noting that there was evidence of observance of due process in the award of contracts above N10 million.
The findings on the application of funds say: â€œThe university handled minor works and small renovation projects with contract sums of less than N10 million very efficiently. The project managers were also able to perform creditably when dealing with medium-size project valued up to N50 million,â€ linking the identified abandoned projects in the university to the loss of capital funds of over N500 million which it suffered in 2007 and 2008 as a result of lack of executive capacity and governmentâ€™s policy of mopping-up of funds.
It is noted by the panel that the Federal Governmentâ€™s policy of mopping up of un-utilised capital funds virtually killed four projects that had already commenced. Some of these projects, it says, had contract periods of more than two years, yet government came up with a policy that required institutions to spend the whole budget on the project within four to six months if one considers the time the National Assembly passed appropriations.
Exonerating the university management of culpability as regards the abandoned projects that dot the campus, the report says financial administration of higher education institutions, especially capital budget implementation, cannot be fashioned after general governmentâ€™s expenditure models because of some institutional idiosyncrasies, stressing that the hand-to-mouth system with its resultant mopping up operation is inimical to academic activities and orderly execution of capital development in the university.
The report further notes that the visitation panel was not confronted with cases of contractorsâ€™ incompetence or wilful abandonment of projects in the university, explaining that most of the cases of abandoned projects or inability to complete contracts could be traced to clientâ€™s inability to fulfil his financial obligation. Most of the projects inspected by panel, it says, seem to be well executed, pointing to evidence of good choice of contractors as swell as a diligent project management team.
Worthy of mentioning is the panelâ€™s finding of generally peaceful atmosphere in the university, revealing that Prof. Nwanze succeeded in keeping a cordial relationship with the Studentsâ€™ Union, a development which enabled the university and its Vice Chancellor to win several awards sand accolades at a time when insecurity and lack of peace reigned supreme in many of the nationâ€™s institutions of higher learning.
Although the panel received many memoranda bothering on allegation of marginalisation and discrimination by the university management against the Binis, it dismissed this allegation for want of evidence, saying in spite of this the staff showed restrain which ensured that normal university activities continued uninterrupted.
It was under this ambience of peaceful co-existence even in the face of disagreements that led to the growth of the universityâ€™s academic activities within the period under review.
The report says: â€œThe university experienced significant growth and development in its academic programmes. It produced thousands of students. It had relatively good NUC accreditation results; while its professional accreditation (MDCN, PCN, ICAN, COREN and Council of Legal Education) was fair.
Shedding more light on the cordial relationship between the university and the NUC, the report explains that the institution places emphasis on quality assurance as it complied largely with guidelines on setting up of new programmes; submitted its programmes already due or mature for accreditation to the accreditation process and availed the commission the services of Professors of the University for NUC accreditation visits.
The University of Benin under Prof. Nwanze, says the report, also took part in all NURESDEFs; informed the NUC of some f its external linkages and took advantage of the National Digital Library
It added that the university management adopted due process by making transparent declaration of the following in its USARM report every year: accreditation status of undergraduate academic programmes; academic staff recruitment and promotion; staff development efforts; budget performance; capital projects, rehabilitation of academic and allied facilities; library development and computerization of university operations.
Others include acquisition of teaching and research equipment utilisation of research grants, level of internally generated revenue, the use of special grants, linkages with other institutions and community service.
The visitation panel, which had Prof. Peter Okebukola as its chairman, also assessed the quality of leadership of Prof. Nwanze, commending him for his passion for taking the university to higher levelÂ as exemplified by some international academic achievements it recorded.
Similar commendations by staff and students of the university are also noted in the report, although some of them score him low for allegedly being intolerant of dissenting views. Aside from this, the former Vice Chancellor is generally seen as quite effective in the discharge of his responsibilities, fair to all without discrimination or tribal sentiments, an honest and God-fearing leader, quite democratic in the handling of senate proceedings and a man who worked hard to ensure smooth academic sessions.
In fact, some staff of the university say that the immediate past Vice Chancellor incurred the wrath of some staff who were strident in criticising him because he moved courageously against institutionalized evil on campus, reiterating that he clearly demonstrated that friendship, no matter how close, should not override due process and discipline.
On the conduct of the universityâ€™s Bursary and Internal Audit department under the leadership of Nwanze, the panel observes that the laid down procedure in respect of purchase order and invoice of goods were duly followed.
Mention is also made in the report of the university management staff welfare packages, saying when members of staff disengaged from the services of the university, they are duly paid their entitlements, with pensioners having cause on several occasion to thank the management. The universityâ€™s students welfare programmes are also expressly commended, especially the work-study scheme and the resolve to mean students away from cultism, bringing the incidence of cultism to its barest minimum.