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Rekindling hope for our varsities (2)

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THE  immediate past Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Professor Mahmood Yakubu whose lecture was titled, “Efficient Project Management in Nigerian Universities”, noted that funding of universities was a serious business, warning that projects can fully be valuable and beneficial to the nation when they are well conceptualized, cost-effective and usable after their completion.

“Legal Matters in University Management”, was the title of the lecture delivered by Professor Ehi Oshio of the NUC where it was reiterated that the power and responsibility of the governing council in terms of governance under the enabling laws were so enormous and broad for efficient service delivery.

On university funding, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Professor Olufemi Bamiro, identified the three main problems of universities as cost, access and quality.

He disclosed that in compounding the funding problems, the Federal Government applied the “envelope” system of fund allocation. In other words, the allocation had nothing to do with the actual budgets of the institutions, which led the institutions into the bad practice of not bothering to engage in proper budgeting as it used to be the case.

The don noted that attracting and managing financial resources was crucial to building a world-class university unlike the present arrangement whereby the funding scheme of the public universities relied heavily on government funding. This, he noted, is highly unsustainable.

The situation calls for the involvement of all the key stakeholders in cost-sharing and the need for institutions to put in place, a computer-based enterprise resource planning model for optimal management of resource inflow and outflow, he added.

The Director-General, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, Dr. Umar Bindir, spoke on “Research and Innovation in Nigerian Universities”. According to him, the nation had not been able to make the desired impact technologically, due to a number of reasons that bordered on lack of political will and non-appreciation of local entrepreneurs with creative minds.

In “Facilitating the Implementation of the Intellectual Property Policy in Universities”, an expert in intellectual property, Okon Essien, an engineer, called on chief executives to be champions by being academic experts and entrepreneurs that must recruit highly qualified and committed researchers or upgrade the skills of existing university researchers into entrepreneurship.

The Vice-Chancellor of the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, Professor Boniface Egboka highlighted the genesis and the relevance of public-private partnership in our institutions.  Citing examples, he called for an improved legal framework created for the practice of PPP in university governance for Nigerian universities in a paper he presented on “Public-Private –Partnership in University Governance”.

The imperative of virile university labour relations took the centre-stage as the duo of Professors Dafe Otobo of the University of Lagos and Festus Iyayi (represented) disclosed that having a rancour-free institution was possible provided the enabling environment is established for the promotion of mutual respect, sincerity, openness and honesty.

The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Mathew Hassan Kukah’s paper was titled, “The Chaplaincy and University Administration”.

The cleric called for religious harmony on campus, abrogation of unwarranted conferment of honorary degrees on unmerited people, non-inclusion of women as Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities, which he termed as a “national embarrassment”.

Lastly, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin and Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, made a presentation on “University Academic Culture and Tradition”, where he called on Nigerian universities to become signatories to the Magna Charta Universitatums.

Other participants made case for improved power supply on campus, staff/student welfare, uninterrupted academic calendar, ensuring that research activities are geared towards federal goals and objectives, channelling of huge funds into research, bridging of the existing gap between universities, government and the society.

At the end of the retreat, which was attended by over 500 participants drawn from over 60 universities (Federal, state and private), far-reaching commitments were agreed upon in a communiqué.

It is hoped that the retreat will rekindle hope in our ivory towers as observed by the Education Minister on the “imperative to reposition Nigerian Universities to meet the goals and aspirations behind their existence”. This is truly our hope.

Mr.  ADEWALE KUPOLUYI wrote from the Federal Varsity of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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