By Godfrey Bivbere & Eguono Odjegba
The Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resource, FUPRE, Prof. Akaehomen Akii Ibhadode, in this interview spoke on a number of issues, some of which is the university entrance into ship building, maritime capacity development, consultancy, collaboration with local and international bodies as well as other activities in oil and gas sector.
During your presentation, the slide shows your involvement in shipping management and logistics as part of your program can you give us more insight to this?
Yes, we had a department of Marine Engineering that offers academic degree and also a lot of research and in addition we have the centre for Marine and Offshore service and they are actively involved in the industry differently so it is through this centre we are collaborating with quite a number of companies, shipping companies, shipping countries like Norway, and so on and so forth so we are doing quite a lot in this area. It is a very young centre like about two to three years old and we are making a lot of progress. One of the things I said we are going to do, they are building a boat right now that we hope to launch maybe in the next two months and it is being sponsored by a local company. So you can imagine the centre has done quite a lot in its two years of existence. We are doing quite a lot in terms of training seamen, in terms of the Marine Industry role and the Shipping industry, a lot is being done.
In your presentation, you mentioned the fact that the institute is still building boat, is the project still on?
Yes we are building a passenger boat, it is sponsored by a company in Warri and it will ferry passengers from one point to another within the environment. So we are working on it and we are hoping that in the next two months or so the project will be completed and we are hoping that with that we can build bigger boats.
So when you talk about the challenge of building this boat, did you rely solely on your local competence or you are in partnership with foreign technicians?
Well, no it is local expertise, we have the expertise.
Ok, still talking about the partnership initiative, what is the directional collaboration in your synergy, who are your development partners?
We have quite a number; we have a lot of collaboration both within and outside the country and with universities, with companies in Nigeria and outside Nigeria. So our focus is to be able to be a first port of call for industry problems related to the maritime and Oil and Gas industries. That is our drive, if any organisation has a problem in its operation, they should be able to come to the university and we will be able to offer solution that is our drive.
Sir you are the vice chancellor of the federal university of Petroleum Resources, FUPRE, let us begin from a recent unsavoury situation where some lecturers of your university protested the non inclusion of teaching staffs wage in the national budget, how did that come about, and what is the present condition now, has that issue being resolved?
Thank you very much, that issue has not been resolved, it arouse from the establishment bill that the university was signed into an act and in that act there is a plus there that says that the workers will enjoy the condition of services in the oil industry, it was arising from there that the matter came about, so, the process of implementing that has not being done so I think the workers are waiting for government to implement it that is where it arouse from.
I am aware that they threatened that if the Federal Government did not act during a certain time frame, they would have no choice than to seek legal redress. Is that option still open to them?
Well I really don’t know but l can refer you to the staff union that can give you that information as far as am aware is that that law in the act has not yet been implemented.
FUPRE has been around for quite a while, however sadly people didn’t identify with it as a frontline national institution, what will you say as the vice chancellor of the university, has the impact of the institution, what is the growth targets for the nation because Petroleum Trust Development Fund, PTDF is there, they have their mandate and then we have a university?
Yes. I think the problem with not knowing or being recognised by the public has two angles. People easily identify with PTI which is the Petroleum Training Institute that has been there over 30 years and incidentally both institutions are in the same locality so I think that is the problem and then also as a young university you will need some time to create an image. So I think it has come of age and that is why it is been recognised now.
Can the VC give us a recap of the journey so far since the inception of this university?
Yes, the university started off with two colleges and we started with one college really, a College of Science then few years later maybe three or four years later, the College of Technology became of accredited and they have been awarding first degree and recently, this year we were able to get approval to run our post graduate program so we have over 48 programs of post graduate, masters degree and PHD degree, so the admission is on. And so we have quite a number of centre that are collaborating with the industry, we have a centre for Maritime studies and then we have the centre for Research Innovation, that centre is driving the design and fabrication of the micro refinery which is being sponsored by local company and it is going to cost a lot of millions and we are hoping that by next year the first stage of that project will be out then we also have the Supre Energy Solution Limited in partnership with a limited liability company formed between the university and a company in the United Kingdom, UK to provide training for the Oil industry and also carry out research in the Oil industry so these are some of the things we are doing.
Talking about projects you are already involved in, am forced to say this because of the kind of nation we are in, when that refinery is finally ready do you think the FG will key into it, is the government encouraging in that aspect?
Well you need prove of your ability, if you are going to spend money on a particular thing, you should be sure that the thing will give you the value of the money you are spending so I think that is the approach. By the government also, what we are trying to do is to prove a point that this thing can be done locally and i believe that hen it is proven that we can do it, we will have the support and encouragement.
You have enumerated a whole gamut of the prospect of FUPRE, are there no challenges?
Yes, obviously there are challenges but we tried our best in being able to overcome the challenges. Any society that must grow, the mechanical society must face challenges, and what, makes it to be reckon with is to be able to surmount those challenges.
The challenges of funding, but then as a university we need to put on our thinking cap to see how we can generate funds and that is what we are doing by collaborating, by coming up with new ideas, new products and new services so funding is a fundamental problem which we are overcoming in one way or the other that is the main problem and the normal challenges of running an organisation so, we are up to the task of ensuring that we will overcome these challenges to move ahead.
You are located within a region that is considered nationally as volatile security wise, how secured is your learning environment in terms of your relationship with the community?
Oh, no we have excellent relationship with the community. When people say that the locality or the community is volatile, that simply means we are leaving as a result of maybe there is oil exploration over the years and with all their attendant problems with oil spill and so on and so forth. We have cultivated a harmonious relationship with the community. We try to work with them and they are part of what we are doing and there are some projects we are doing now, these Mililium Development Goals, MDG. These developmental goals where we are partnering with the community on specific projects. We have a particular project being funded by the Engineering Council of the United Kingdom, UK and where we are going to build a boar gas station for convening electricity and the community is going to be part of it, where we are going to supply power to the this community through this products and then we have trains that will organise for the communities so we have had excellent relationship with them because we have factor them into our operations.
How much support and encouragement does FUPRE receive from institutions such as Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, the International Oil Companies and others. Do you receive any support?
Well for now we receive very little support but we are hoping that because of the relationship we are trying to cultivate with these bodies, we are hoping that the role of support will improve, so that is, we are working on it so that we can have a relationship with them and to have normal support, so we are working on it.