By Udeme Akpan
When the on-going fuel scarcity started towards the end of 2017, many people and organisations did not expect it to last for some reasons. First, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, expressed its determination to tackle it.
Second, other institutions, especially Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, also swung into action to enforce compliance, targeted at eliminating all illegal practices, including hoarding and diversion of fuel to unauthorised destinations.
Unfortunately, the scarcity has not been completely tackled in all parts of Nigeria, thus calling for increased commitment of many stakeholders in public and private sectors on the nation’s economy.
But the future seems bright as the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, and Delta State have designed a modular refinery.
In an interview with Vanguard, Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Akii Ibhadode, said: “We have already designed a modular refinery. We are ready to partner with the government and others to ensure that this refinery is properly fabricated and constructed in many parts of the nation. We are desirous to be challenged by government in this sector through proper encouragement and funding to provide solutions.
‘’It will go a long way to ensuring that commercial petroleum products are refined to meet domestic demand and export to other nations.”
In another interview, Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Godswill Ofualagba, stated that: ‘’FUPRE has so far succeeded in the following research products: Pneumatic (air powered) electric power generator, multi-channel smart energy meter, bio-gas plant for power generation and bio ethanol plant, using palm wine.
‘’We have converted waste motor oil to diesel-like fuel, crude oil absorbent for oil spillage cleaning and software game. There have also been the design and fabrication of crude oil distillation unit to process 100 litres per hour of crude; design and production of a prototype energy efficient vehicle/go-cart for national and international competition and design and construction of a locally fabricated 50KVA fuel-less generator with an initial alternating current start-up, design of ground robotic oil spill surveillance system, researches in solar energy, among others.”
Investigations showed that the university lacks basic facilities, apparently as a result of inadequate funding following the non-implementation of FUPRE Act 2017, which provides for the contributions of institutions such as the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF; Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, and Ministry of Petroleum Resources, which are supposed to contribute two per cent of their budget to the running of the university.
Consequently, the vice chancellor indicated that “this university is lacking in basic infrastructure. It has a master plan but little or nothing has been done concerning the plan. Most of the structures you see here are temporary. We need money for laboratories, teaching aids that are relevant to the petroleum industry. We need equipment that can give a real life experience to the students as can be found in the oil field so that they can easily adapt when they are absorbed into the companies.
“We don’t have an access gate; we have to go through a village to get here. We need a proper gate that will announce the presence of the university. Many people don’t even know where the university is. The hostel facility can only accommodate about 30 per cent of the student population. Even the VC does not have an office. Where l am now is a temporary office.
‘’Our equipment cost a lot of money. The oil companies have not been patronising us as expected. But this is because we have not been properly funded with the necessary facilities. If they knew that we have the facilities that can solve some of their problems, they will definitely find us. However, they have a part to play and they must be part of our success story.”
Registrar of the institution, Mr. Ejikeme Ichendu, who categorised the varsity’s problems into non-human and human stated: “On the non-human factor, there was a day the administrative block was blown off by rainstorm and our offices became swimming pools of sort.
“On the human factor, it seems government established this university and thereafter went to sleep. You can’t deliver a baby and will not nurture it to expected growth. The more we hope that things will improve, the more things get worse. But we hope things will truly improve with the signing of the act, which gave responsibility to some agencies of government in the oil and gas industry.’’
FUPRE was established to offer important programmes, including Chemical Engineering, Electrical/Electronic Engineering, Marine Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry.
Others are Geology, Geophysics, Environmental and Toxicology, Mathematics, Computer Science and Physics. In addition, it runs oil and gas related professional programmes which are Centre for Maritime and Offshore Studies (in association with industry) and Centre for Safety Education (in association with Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria).
Dean of College of Science, Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh, said: “Here, we have been managing with the little we have but we are never comfortable with this deficit. That is why we are calling on government to come to our aid so that we can deliver on our mandate.
‘’It is waste of money sending oil and gas workers and students abroad for training when we can mount the equipment here because we have the manpower to handle the trainings.”
Dean of College of Technology, Prof. Chiedu Uwabor stated: “I started my career from the University of Benin, Edo State. In all, the things we have in our laboratories are still less compared to some other schools, if not the creativity of the staff here. Here, we use an open space as automobile workshop. We don’t have welding, wood and carpentry, machine workshops.
“The worst hit are Petroleum, Marine and Chemical Departments. Sadly, Petroleum which is the name of the University is struggling to survive. The department is under-staffed. The school cannot attract lecturers to the department because of low incentive compared to the industry and there are no facilities to work with. Because we are lacking in those areas, necessity has become the mother of inventions for us.’’
The Ovie of Uvwie kingdom, His Royal Majesty, Dr. Emmanuel E. Sideso, who remains grateful to the Federal Government for establishing the university, stated: ‘’For the school to become one of the best, the government needs to really fund it. If we invest a lot of time and money into this university and education generally, it will solve many problems, including security challenges.”