Pleads for more funding
By Kelechukwu Iruoma
MANAGEMENT of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, FUPRe, Effurun, has said that the institution has the potentials to solve Nigeria’s fuel crisis, but lack of funds is destroying the institution’s vision of being one of the best universities in the world.
The institution’s Vice- Chancellor, Professor Akaehomen Ibhadode, who said this when he and his team paid a courtesy visit to Vanguard headquarters in Lagos, however, called on the Federal Government to turn its attention to the institution to help solve the infrastructure and other funding challenges limiting its advancement.
He said: “As a petroleum university, we have a stake in solving this problem (petrol crisis). We have been toying with the idea of mini refineries and you find out that even now, we have shortage of petroleum products. With our little resources, we have been able to come up with designs and at this point, we are looking for partnership and sponsorship from government or the private sector to actualise the designs in physical form.”
He noted that the institution is trying to work with the marginal field operators, but because of financial challenges, the institution has not been able to come up with something workable. “We want to be challenged as a petroleum university to build mini refineries and we are ready for that, and if we are able to create mini refineries, we can replicate it all over the country and beyond, especially in Africa. It will create employment and change the economic face of the country.”
FUPRE, a specialised petroleum university, was established by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007 to train high level manpower for the oil and gas industry, with a take-off grant of N500 million. Since then, no other grant has been given to the institution.
He said other new universities receive N6 billion take-off grant. “Unfortunately, not enough resources are put in place to achieve that mandate. It’s the first petroleum university in Africa and the sixth in the world. We need to draw the attention of the government that set it up as the proprietor and the sector (education), that we are operating in a situation where we can be of value to the industry (petroleum) and also to the nation,” he added.
He said that as giant of Africa and showing by Nigeria’s resources in terms of population and landmass, Nigeria has everything. “These are things that can make us really tick. Attention has to be drawn to the university. We can draw resources from the government that will be able to make us to achieve more. Unfortunately, that has not been so. It is after 10 years of establishing the university that we now have an act which was signed by the National Assembly and signed into law last year by the president.”
“Every university is shouting we do not have money but we want to go beyond that. What we want to establish is that we have potentials that we can deploy to be able to leverage on them and attract more resources. We want to announce to the world that we have done quite a couple of things and as a specialised university, we can commercialise or partner with organisations to be able to bring solution to the oil industry and the allied industries such that we make life better for Nigerians,” said Akaehome.
He said that the institution is looking for partnership and sponsorship from government or the private sector to be able to actualise the design of the refineries in the physical form, including production and drilling platforms.
“FUPRE is a specialized university with some special funding for infrastructural development and research purposes. But unfortunately the implementation of that has not been captured in the 2018 budget. We are trying to see how that can be done. It appears it may be too late but it is for us to create awareness that there is need to invest in this university because by doing that we will be creating greater value for the system, especially in the petroleum sector.
“As a petroleum producing country, it is not out of place to have a specialized university. There is the need for it because it will help to drive the industry for a greater performance and increased local content participation. By the specialize nature, we train our students right from the beginning with some specialist knowledge that will help them to work them into the world of oil prepared. That is the intention and that is what we are driving at,” he said.
He said the institution floated a company that is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, in conjunction with the United Africa Company, UAC. “It is called FUPre energy solutions Limited, where we are providing consultancy and training services to the oil and gas sector. We are driving that very hard. We have this international collaboration-we have foreign students coming for internship to spend about three to four months. When they come, they participate in the research we are doing. They participate in learning.”
“We are doing these things to create value for the system and for the industry in which we are supposed to operate. We are trying to increase the value we want to deliver. We are sending our postgraduate program specially tailored for the oil industry to National Universities Commission, NUC for approval and in that we are hoping that we should be able to attract the students that are being sent abroad by Petroleum Trust Development Fund, PTDF which cost quite a lot of money.”
“We feel that if part of that money-just a little fraction of that money spent by PTDF- is deplored to providing more facilities for us to be able to attract international experts that will save a lot of money for the country. These are the areas we are looking at to increase the local content participation in the industry and to be able to provide products for the petroleum industry for the country. We are not begging. We are challenging the industry, the government and investors to come because we are ready to solve problems and in solving problem, we are going to create wealth and better a lot,” The VC said.
The institution’s registrar, Mr. Ejikeme Ichendu said that the government had a very good vision for setting up that university as a specialized petroleum university in the country, but unfortunately it is one thing to set up a university and it is another thing to ensure that the university is supported to run.
“In our own situation, the government has not done very well at all. It has not done well because we are suffering from serious underfunding. The potentials that I have seen in that university are enough to get that university to the level that it can compete with any university in the world. There is nothing in those universities (foreign) that cannot be replicated here. Those universities were established by their various government and brought to the level they are today by men. The same men are in this country and FUPRE.
He urged the government to turn its attention to the university. According to Ichendu, for 10 years the university was established by the government, it did not have an act establishing it until October last year and it was as a result of fight.
“There are clauses in that bill that if they are implemented will bring a lot of hope and succour to the university. In the bill, there are clauses for the petroleum ministry, PTDF, Nigeria content board to support the university with two percent of their annual budget. We believe that if that is done, we will no longer cry for money. But what it is today is pathetic,” he said.
“I am not being sentimental and I do not owe apologies to anybody for what I want to day- The North East Development Commission bill was signed two weeks after FUPRE bill was signed into law.
“But in 2018 budget, the NEDC bill has 46 billion proposed in the budget whereas FUPRE that was signed before that did not capture in the 2018 budget. Again we have gone to authorities that are supposed to assist in that direction. The response we are getting is that the presidency does not accept supplementary budget that we have to wait until 2019. What a pity for a specialized university that was established to train high level manpower in the oil and gas industry. Till the next five decades, oil and gas will continue to be the driver of our economy and the earlier government paid attention to it, the better for us,” he stated.