CONVOCATION ADDRESS FOR THE 3RD AND 4TH COMBINED CONVOCATION CEREMONY OF FEDERAL UNIVERSITY LOKOJA DELIVERED BY THE PRO-CHANCELLOR AND CHAIRMAN OF COUNCIL, EMERITUS PROFESSOR NIMI DIMKPA BRIGGS
Last year, 2018, on account of circumstances that were beyond the control of the University authorities, it became necessary to postpone the 3rd Convocation Ceremony of this University at very short notice, when all necessary arrangements had been concluded for the event. Today therefore marks a happy day as we embark on a day of an expanded harvest for the University – our combined third and fourth Convocation in which the University will award degrees and diplomas to its deserving students who have not only passed prescribed examinations but have also met the stringent conditions set by the Senate of the University in character and learning for the award of such credentials. It is also a day in which, we as a University, take stock of our achievements and challenges in the past two years and define our course of action for the next. It is therefore with a sense of tremendous joy that I, on behalf of the Council of the University, welcome all who are here to share the pleasure of the day with us.
First, I welcome the Visitor to the University, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. I express my gratitude to him not only for the care and understanding he has always extended to this Institution but also for the approval he gave for his representation at this important event by a very high-ranking official of the Federal Government. Council wishes to assure our Visitor that we have him in our prayers and we wish him well.
Next, I will like to welcome the Executive Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency Yahaya Bello and members of his entourage. Your Excellency, we congratulate you on your recent victory at the polls where you were given the mandate to run the affairs of the State for another four years. We appreciate you and your government for the protection and conducive atmosphere your State has given to our University to carry out its dedicated functions. May all remain well with you and the State.
Then of course our Chancellor, HRH Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammadu Abali Ibn Muhammadu Idriss, CON, the Emir of Fika, Chairman of the Yobe Council of Chiefs and Traditional Rulers and the titular head of the University. We are glad that you are here, our dear Chancellor, and that you have personally executed your constitutional role of convening this Convocation.
The last two years have witnessed a strong collaboration between Senate and Council of the University which has resulted in remarkable strides in the furtherance of the course of the Institution. Senate and Congregation elected new persons to represent them in Council. Council welcomed the new members warmly and also took the opportunity to express its gratitude to the former Representatives of those two organs for their contributions to the deliberations of Council. Senate and Council had a closer look at the unfortunate incidence of examination malpractice in the Department of Economics which precluded the University from graduating any student from that Department in 2017 and took further actions that better served the course of probity and accountability. Furthermore, the University obtained full accreditation from the National Universities Commission (NUC) for its various academic programmes and established new ones in accordance with its Academic Brief. Additionally, work at the postgraduate level is now firmly established as the University has commenced programmes leading to Postgraduate Diploma courses, Master’s and Doctorate degrees in the Faculties of Science and Arts. And in order to improve the quality of students coming into some of the undergraduate programmes and also enhance access of persons from our local communities here in Kogi State to Degree Programmes in the University, a Pre-Degree Remedial Programme in Science has been established at the Permanent Site of the University at Felele.
In the area of infrastructure, the University was able to complete work on two lecture theatres - A and B, two departmental office buildings, some laboratories and class rooms as well as a multipurpose hall, using funds from the Tertiary Education Tax Fund (TETFund). Work has also been completed on a block for laboratory and classrooms, departmental offices and a multipurpose complex. Furthermore, the University has replaced the old and delapidated Health Centre with a newly constructed and more befitting one.
Despite these modest achievements, I regret to announce that the University still has serious issues to contend with, mostly, in its efforts to put the Permanent Site into proper use. The land is vast and without a perimeter fence, security will remain a problem. There are no municipal services of power supply, water and sanitation. Although with assistance by Hon. Alh. Lawal Shiru, the Sole Administrator of Lokoja Local Government, the University was able to open up some road networks and cleared some of the bush around the core areas, the three structures that had been constructed at the Permanent Site since 2015 have remained inaccessible and unused. Understandably they are fast dilapidating.
Council wishes to put the Permanent Site at Felele into appropriate use to enable the University to expand its academic programmes and to better fulfill its remit. Furthermore, such an expansion will improve access to students which is one cardinal reason for which the Federal University Lokoja was established. But Council lacks the financial resources to bring this about. May I therefore take this opportunity to request the Federal Government to act on the Professor Olufemi Bamiro’s Committee report – a Committee which the Federal Government set up in 2017 to look into the peculiar problems of the 12 new universities that it established around 2015. I also call on all those who, in good faith, had made pledges to assist the University in one form or the other to redeem their pledges and I invite well-meaning Nigerians to come to the help of this great Institution with tremendous promise.
Let me now turn my attention to the graduands for whom today is very special. As you receive your degrees after several years of toil and sweat, I, on behalf of Council, join other sections of the University to extend very hearty congratulations to you. As you leave us, you will realise that a university atmosphere is different from that of the outside world which you would soon encounter. But we are of the view that the well-structured programmes of this University which are designed to prepare you for industry, self-reliance and motivation, will see you through the vicissitudes of life as they are outside the confines of a university campus. You must remember that you bear the torch of the University and so you must strive to make the Institution proud in all aspects of your daily living. Join the Alumni Association and contribute your own quota to the continued existence of the University by being worthy Alumni and Alumnae who are prepared to assist the University in its efforts to be counted among the best. This charge and compliments of mine to the graduands also extend to their parents and guardians who have seen them through these difficult years. Their joy today is also yours because you played major roles in bringing it about.
Before I take my seat, let me announce that this will be the last Convocation Ceremony in which Members of the Second Governing Council of this University will participate, as our four year tenure will expire in February 2020. Members therefore collectively thank the Federal Government of Nigeria, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, who is also the Visitor to the University, for the chance to serve and wish the Institution well. For me, the opportunity of leading the Council of the Federal University Lokoja for well over three years now has been a wonderful and most instructive experience for which I am in strong debt of Mr. President and the Government which he leads. I also thank the Chancellor of the University, HRH Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammadu Ibn Abali Muhammadu Idriss, CON, not just for his sterling leadership, visible closeness and enduring interest in the affairs of the University but also for the fatherly and personal relationship that he has developed with me and members of my family. Chancellor Sir, it is my expectation that this relationship will abide far in excess of our four years’ experience. I thank my colleagues in Council for their patriotism to the course of our great country and for the acute sense of responsibility they constantly exhibited in the various Committees of Council, at the floor of Council and in their overall interactions with the University. You all and I have established personal friendships which I treasure immensely and promise to keep for many long years to come. My gratitude also goes to the Management of the University led by our strong, never failing, indefatigable Vice-Chancellor, Professor Angela Freeman Miri, a lady of grit, tenacity and abundant energy for steering the course in running the affairs of the University despite daunting challenges. Vice-Chancellor, I wish you well today and even beyond. As for the larger University of Lokoja family, its staff and students as well as the other numerous stake holders, no expression of gratitude from me can sufficiently depict my level of profound appreciation to you all for allowing me to operate in my capacity here for these years. And as I have often stated, few there are with better prospects of forming a world-class university than the Federal University Lokoja. With the confluence of two big rivers that define the topography of Nigeria, the burden of history of the story of Nigeria’s evolution and amalgamation on the city of Lokoja, the large number of mineral deposits, as well as giant industrial complexes around the city, all climaxing in a unique scenic beauty, FUL is strategically set to develop into a forward-looking University with global reputation where cosmopolitan scholars will make knowledge exploitation their abiding preoccupation. But to harness this bright and promising future, there is a need for all of us to rise above some actions of ours that cause discomfort, deter progress and mar opportunities. Rather, we should commit to those high ideals and values that promote order, scholarship and inclusiveness which form the basis for the foundation of respect, character and acceptability that a modern university like FUL requires.
God bless the Federal University Lokoja
God bless Kogi State of Nigeria
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Pro-chancellor and Chairman of Council.
14 December 2019.