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Interview on the Courageous Leadership and Triumph of Professor Angela Freeman Miri, Vice-Chancellor, FUL


An excerpt from the Interview with Professor Angela Freeman Miri in October, 2019 (before the 3rd & 4th Combined Convocation Ceremony)


The Federal University Lokoja (FUL) was among the twelve universities established by the Federal Government in Nigeria between 2010 and 2011. The aim was not only to accelerate equitable access to higher education in Nigeria, but also to build institutions that can support Nigeria’s drive for rapid development through the availability of quality man power and a knowledge base to drive competitiveness.

On February 25, 2016 to be precise, a new leadership of the University under Professor Angela Freeman Miri was inaugurated as Vice-Chancellor.  Her priorities include ensuring that the Institution develops a reputation of upholding high standards and ethics in academic and administrative affairs. This entails ensuring quality outcome and the transformation of the University into a world-class institution. With the full backing of the Governing Council and the Nigerian Government, she is keen in taking actions to reposition the Institution for the 21st Century and beyond. The young and dynamic Institution has great potentials to be a reputable University with high standards and ethics in Academic and Administrative affairs with enviable position worldwide.

May we know who is Professor Angela Freeman Miri?

Professor Angela Freeman Miri is the Vice-Chancellor, Federal University Lokoja. I was born on 22nd of August, 1959 in Qua’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State. I attended Saint Patrick’s Catholic Primary School and passed out in 1973. I proceeded to Government Girls Secondary School, Shendam for my secondary education and graduated in 1977.

After this, I went for my higher certificate 'A’ level in the School of Preliminary Studies Keffi, now Nasarawa State University and graduated in 1979. I then proceeded to the University of Maiduguri where I read B.A English, graduated with second class upper division in 1982. I served the compulsory one year NYSC in Kano, Kano State between 1982 and 1983.

I returned to Plateau State where I was employed as an Information Officer with the Plateau State Government in the Ministry of Information and Social Development where I caught my teeth as a Journalist.

Having also acquired the linguistic skills of English expression, I was found useful in the Ministry where we were always writing speeches for the Commissioners in the State. We also did protocol work and so on. I had the privilege of being a member of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ.

As a matter of fact, I did not find fulfillment as an Information Officer with the Plateau State Ministry of Information because I had the desire to develop myself and I felt I had acquired much more than to sit in the office to scrutinize files, press cuttings or write speeches. I felt that was not enough and I went back to the University and registered for my Masters Degree and within that period I got married to my husband, Doctor Freeman Miri, a Medical Doctor. I continued with my Masters programme on part-time basis and when I was through, I went on maternity leave after my course work. While on maternity leave, I continued with the research work and within that period, I was employed as Graduate Assistant in the University of Jos. I then wrote to notify the Ministry that I was leaving and proceeded to the University of Jos where I took up the appointment as Graduate Assistant in the Department of English.

As a young academician at that time, I was challenged to work hard because I was the only female from my State and the only female in the Department apart from one Indian lady who later became my Supervisor and friend, Prof. Kanchawa Ugbabe who was employed before I arrived the scene. I was given so much responsibilities and I took up the challenge because I knew that if I did not apply myself to hard work, I was not going to make any headway in the academics. I got to understand that in academics, you have to promote yourself by dint of hard work and by the grace of God.

I finished my Masters Degree programme in 1987 and I did convocation in 1988 and was upgraded as Assistant Lecturer. All these happened under one Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ochepa Onazi, a detribalized Nigerian and perfect gentleman from Benue State, Nigeria. I registered for my Ph.D and continued until I earned it in 1997, thus making me a Senior Academic. I took my responsibilities seriously.

As a matter of fact, I grew in the University System (in University of Jos) through the ranks, from Graduate Assistant and fulfilling the requirements of all the ranks, then Assistant Lecturer to Lecturer 2, Lecturer I, then Associate Professor or Reader to become Professor in 2007. I never got any of these on the platter of gold. I worked hard for them.

I also served on several committees in the University, both standing and ad-hoc committees. The Standing Committees of Council, Senate, Member of the Admissions Committee, Member of the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee of Council and Senate. I was a hall warden, Head of my Department of English on two occasions. I was Head of Department when the then Governor of Plateau State, Jonah David Jang appointed me Commissioner for Health in 2007 and was later appointed Commissioner for Education. I served out my tenure successfully.

After this, I was appointed as Chairman of the Governing Council of Plateau State Polytechnic, Barkin Ladi. I served successfully and returned to the University of Jos and served as member to so many sub-committees. I had worked as member of Budget Committee and also as member of the Presidential Task Team on Education, under the then Honourable Minister, Professor Ruqayatu Ahmed Rufai. I was also appointed as a member of the Committee on Staff Audit of the Plateau State SUBEB where I served in three Local Government Areas of the State, namely: Mikang, Pankshin and Bassa Local Government Areas respectively.

I was appointed Chairlady of Harvest Thanksgiving in my village when my late brother called to inform me that I had been appointed Vice-Chancellor and I was surprised. I came straight to Jos. I didn’t know how it came about.

How has your experience been in the last three years as Vice-Chancellor of Federal University Lokoja?

As I said, I was appointed through Divine Providence. I never lobbied for it. God has placed me where I am. I assumed duty as Vice-Chancellor on 25th February, 2016.

As the Vice-Chancellor of this young and dynamic University, I was not under any illusion that I was going to find the responsibility easy. First, on assumption, I sat down to look at different set-up, went on inspection tour of the Permanent Site and visited traditional rulers in the State except the Chief of Bassa-Nge to whom I had sent a delegation. I then took reports from all the Deans and Heads of Departments and studied the set-up. The first thing I did was to come up with a written vision for the University’s development and presented it to the 2nd Governing Council which was well received and the Chairman of the Council attested that the University had gotten the right person in place.

I want to talk about few challenges. First, when I came, I discovered there was no budget. The former Vice-Chancellor could not go to the National Assembly to defend the budget except one item which is a Drama Village and the allocated fund was N53,000,000 but only N26, 000,000 was released. So there was no capital budget in place but we had personnel cost but the personnel cost had a problem because the University was experiencing salary shortfall.

I took certain decisions against granting of salary advance because you cannot continue to give salary advance to staff when we are experiencing salary shortfall.

We had problems with overhead because it was not coming regularly and is nothing to write home about. At some point, I had to use my personal funds to power the generators because if there is no light, we would run into problems with the students and even the staff.

There were lots of staff indiscipline. It was like some staff were not conversant with the University set-up. Having risen through the ranks to become a Professor in the system and having grown in it, I knew what we had in Jos before coming here. I had little difficulty in making staff to conform to the standard and regulations of the University.

By and large, when I realized these and some of the challenges, I focused my mind on the vision and how we will achieve this vision and chart the way forward for the University.

I began to organize what we call strategic meeting with illustrious sons and daughters of Kogi State. This was a way of exploring Public Private Partnership, PPP, to enhance the development of the University. In the meeting, prominent personalities including Policy Makers, Academics, Politicians serving and past, Traditional Rulers, were in attendance.

They keyed into in the vision of the University and they were all happy and expressed their readiness to support me but their assistance have been a trickle!

I was also saddled with the responsibility of making sure that we held the Maiden Convocation because since the inception of the University, there has not been Convocation. The vision I had was that we will establish a Post Graduate School and the condition for establishing Post Graduate School is the graduation of your products. The National Universities Commission, NUC, will grant approval only if you have graduated your products that will fit into the programme and then getting others from outside. We graduated the first set of students.

How did we do it since from the inception of the University the Chancellor that was appointed had not been installed? Nobody ever visited him according to him. I now had to lead a delegation of the Management to Fika, the Chancellor is the Emir of Fika, Alhaji Muhammadu Abali Ibn Muhammadu Idris in Yobe state. I solicited his support and informed him of our intention to hold the Maiden Convocation because he had to be installed first before the students would be graduated since he is the one to confer the Degrees on them.

The Chancellor expressed happiness for the visit and promised to come for the installation and gave us the date for the Convocation. The Convocation took place on October 22nd, 2016. This was the first challenge we tackled and the Maiden Convocation is now history.

We organized endowment fund of N5,000,000,000 alongside the Convocation, few people made pledges, few redeemed their pledges but those with heavy pledges did not redeem theirs up till now.

We are confident that now we have graduated the first set of students. We make sure that we don’t have backlog of convocations, so we have been graduating our students. Unfortunately last year, we could not hold the Convocation due to ASUU strike. The University will now combine the third and fourth Convocation on December 14, 2019.

What are your major achievements so far since you became the Vice-Chancellor?

Part of the achievements is the conduct of the Maiden Convocation which was very successful, Strategic Meeting with Illustrious Sons and Daughters of Kogi State is considered as another achievement, full accreditation status for all the programmes in the Faculty of Science which hitherto had partial/interim accreditation, staff verification and proper placement. I discovered that staff were employed but not properly placed. I set-up a committee headed by the University Librarian that made far reaching recommendations and the Governing Council approved its implementation.

We also established the School of Post Graduate Studies beginning with the Post Graduate Diploma and had been given the go ahead to commence the Masters and Ph.D programmes in all the existing programmes in the University. We will also be conducting some of these in the new programmes. The new programmes have to be strengthened first before we start Ph.D programme in addition to the twenty nine programmes that we have commenced and preparing assiduously for Resource Verification by the NUC so that the programmes can take-off.

I met two faculties; Faculty of Science and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on the ground. We have splitted the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Now we have the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Social Sciences. Additional ones are the Faculty of Education and Faculty of Management Sciences.

A part from these achievements, there are perceptible ones that we can see which have to do with physical structures. On 12th of June, 2016 this building almost collapsed on me. A thunder storm blew off the roof and everywhere was flooded. The Governing Council was on the ground for me and the Planning Department took the estimate of how much it would cost to repair the damage. We processed it and the Governing Council saw the need to award the contract immediately and the structure was renovated.

We were able to access the TETFund 2014 intervention.  We found out that the University had not accessed up to 2014, we swung into action and accessed it for the construction of block of laboratories, departmental office block, and multipurpose centre. And now I have sought TETFund final approval for the payment of the contractors and the structures have been handed over to us. Now, the Faculty of Science is now comfortable.

Expansion of the University Health Centre, it existed as a very small centre with three beds. The expansion is to accommodate the University Community and neighbouring community as well as Adankolo and we now have a 20-bed hospital.

We have a delivery suite, a theatre, a pharmacy, wards for males and females, digital lab and consulting rooms. The facility was commissioned on 26th September, 2019. The University had approached TETFund to help in equipping the Health Centre.

Funding is a major challenge for Universities and any other government establishment, what are you doing to improve the Internally Generated Revenue to ensure that some of these projects come to fruition?

The need to improve the University’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is very important and cannot be overemphasized.  We ran into a problem when I found one project called the NEED ASSESSMENT PROJECT, since the first tranche sent during the tenure of the previous Vice-Chancellor, the project had been abandoned. If we had IGR, perhaps we could have augmented, but there is none and we ran with cup in hand to the Ministry and finally the second tranche was released to the University and eventually we completed the NEED ASSESSMENT structure ready for occupation.

I then realized that the University needed some funds to intervene in areas where we seem to be helpless since the Federal Government cannot do everything.

In my vision I have identified so many things we needed to do to augment the IGR of the University.  As a matter of fact, I identified bakery, block industry, establishment of a consultancy where we would be able to generate funds either through bottled water or things like that that are found in other universities. But because of lack of funds, the University was not able to really start a factory or whatever.

We realized that we needed to generate funds to establish these industries and we began the Remedial Science Programme. This programme has a two-prong advantages; one it will afford the children of the State the opportunity to remedy their deficiencies in their science subjects. Two, the fundamental advantage is the generation of internally generated revenue because it is not free. A token is charged to add to the IGR of the University and we have made the Bursary to account for every kobo that comes in. Recently, the Coordinator of the Remedial Science Programme sent in the details of how much was generated and out of the funds, we paid lecturers engaged in the Remedial Programme.

The greatest soul of the University’s IGR is the establishment of the School of Post Graduate Studies. The students have to pay first of all for the purchase of forms, then school fees. Through this, we were able to generate some funds to sustain the programme. We also charge a token when students collect academic gowns to augment the IGR of the University.

We equally planned to set up a structure on the University’s land opposite the University gate but it is suffering encroachment. If we put up a structure there, it will also bring in revenue for the School if rented out.

We need a broader concept of what will bring much revenue than these little ones like the establishment of a University Consultancy. I have approached the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, to register the Consultancy for us to either look in the way of providing a micro finance scheme or the establishment of bottled water factory and block industry.

We further presented a memo to the Governing Council in respect to how we can utilize the large expanse of land at the Permanent Site by planting economic trees and going into agriculture and so on and so forth in order to bring in additional revenue.

For you to live in peace with the host community, you need to do one or two things for you to gain their confidence. What are those corporate social responsibilities you are able to do?

As I mentioned earlier, when I first came, I discovered that the University is situated on people’s land and is a domain that is ruled by a traditional ruler.  My first point of call was to pay a visit to the Maigari of Lokoja in his palace. He received us very well and sees me as a daughter and we have related very well.

Secondly, we had lots of interactions with the traditional rulers of the immediate host community of Adankolo. The leaders have paid several visits to me and have put up requests for employment and admission of their people by the University. I gave them my assurance but for admission, if they are not qualified there was nothing I could do because we have standards and being monitored by a regulatory body, JAMB. For employment, I will consider when we are employing junior staff. When the time comes to outsource unskilled labourers, we will engage them.

In terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), I have not lost sense of that. We will engage the community whenever the opportunity avails itself. We also make sure that the Expanded Health Centre put in place by the University be opened to not only the University Community but also the host community.

The Department of Geology has been collaborating with the Kogi State Government with regards to mineral exploration and I am happy about the collaboration.

I have also proposed to establish the Department of Hospitality Management under the Faculty of Management so that we can explore the rich tourism potentials of the State.

Finally, the Department of Biological Sciences is also piloting a project called Birds Atlas Group”. They are engaged in the study of the natural endowment of the State by studying the behavior of different types of birds.

We have also been collaborating with the Kogi State Government as a Management. Whenever the expertise of the University is needed by the State Government, we do not hesitate to avail them such expertise. For example, during elections, some of our staff serve as Returning Officers in different wards of the State.

I believe the University is leaving up to expectation in its corporate social responsibility and we will do more.

Most of these projects you have mentioned are all meant to better the welfare of students and lecturers. Having done this, how will you describe the relationship between the Management, Staff and Students?

Just as I said earlier, we have problem with indiscipline. Some of the staff, not all, do not respect the hierarchy. They run into trouble when they do things that are not in consonance with the University laws. For example, some staff took the University to Court without exhausting the internal mechanism of dispute resolution in the University and that led them into trouble. When the judgment was delivered in favour of the University we had to invoke the disciplinary action on them by suspending them. The University has not witnessed anybody taking it to court except by the two officers.

Some engaged in immoral behaviours, sexual harassment and as a mother, I will not tolerate that and will descend heavily on such culprits to serve as deterrent against future occurrences. We have two persons involved; one is currently on suspension and we have approached the Governing Council that law must take its course. The Management is magnanimous in most instances because it is not everything you will react to. As a leader you have to tolerate certain things for peaceful co-existence.

For students, I must say in 2016, they were almost misguided but thanks be to God we have understood their needs. Once the social facilities are functioning, then you will have no problems with the students. The generators must be running, their hostels and classrooms must be clean. Once their demands are met, you do not have any problem with the students.

We also have a pro-active Dean of Students Affairs, Dr Joseph Abel who is doing very well and relating to them as a father and identifies with them and anytime they want to see me I am available. It is interesting to note that when I clocked sixty years, they made a big cake for me through their Student Union and we celebrated with them here in my office. This is to show the cordial relationships that exist between us. I told them that we are their de facto parents, if they have any problem they should feel free to let us know. So they have a lot of respect for us.

You will agree with me that training and retraining of staff in an institution like this is very key for research and so on. What training programmes do you have for lecturers in this Institution?

In the University environment, if you do not train and retrain, the staff will not be able to sharpen their skills in their faculties and so staff development is part of the mandate of the University administration.

Fortunately for us, TETFund has always come to our rescue. Without TETFund, we have always said there will be no Tertiary Education in Nigeria because they have always taken the lead. As I speak with you, I have just received a list that was approved by the TETFund for various levels of training.

TETFund has put in place interventions for staff training and development and are training young academics to acquire higher degrees. Recently, we engaged our First Class Graduates as Graduate Assistants, they will assist in tutorials. The University will train them to acquire Masters and Ph.D Degrees. With the facility in TETFund, we will send them overseas for training as well. When approved, we in turn process to TETFund for their fees or sponsorships. All the funds come to the University and the University then pays the Training Institutions.

We also have facilities for conferences attendance which I just got recently. Staff that are in the system can always go out to interact at conferences to acquire new ideas, engage in cross fertilization of ideas and come to give back to the University.

Within the University, we do have budgetary provision even though we hardly have much. But when a staff outside the TETFund guidelines intends to go for international conferences, we assist, or when a staff wants to acquire a diploma certificate programme, the University can assist because we do not have much funds in this Budgetary Provision.

TETFund sponsors both local conferences and international conferences. It also sponsors local trainings of our academic staff and foreign trainings. As I speak, so many of our staff have been sent outside the country to acquire either Masters or Ph.D and some of them have since returned. We are benefitting from that because when they come back, they would have acquired more skills and are more productive or better placed to perform better on the job.

In terms of Exchange Programmes and Collaboration with Local and Foreign Institutions, do you have anything like that in place?

I did not lose sight of the fact that Federal University Lokoja will not exist in isolation. I took internal and external collaboration very seriously.

First of all, I was invited to the 150th Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland in U.S.A and I took advantage of that to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the University so as to have an exchange programme between their own staff and ours including the students going there for training. I was made to speak on behalf of Nigeria delegation and that registered very well. Anytime I called their Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Wilson who is referred to as President, he is very excited. By the time we get our students who are interested we will send them there and some of their own that want to come on sabbatical will also be welcomed here.

We have been able to get into partnership with the University of Nottingham in England. We are also in collaboration with the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet). They brought a weather station to the University and they also provided equipment to the Geography Laboratory.

I have been attending Convocations of other Universities and have established good rapport with other Vice-Chancellors which was part of the reason I was elected the Co-Chairman, Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Federal Universities. Also, while in Benin Republic recently for the meeting of the Association of West African Universities (AWAU), I made a presentation about our University. I was made the Chairman of the Communiqué Drafting Committee for the International Conference. Later, I was elected unanimously the Financial Secretary of the International body.

All these I take, as exposing the University to the University world map. If you sit in your closet, the University will never be known. But as it is today, the University is a household name not only in this country but internationally. Anywhere we need to make the University’s presence known, I do not hesitate. Recently, I was invited to the Forum of African Women Vice-Chancellors in Nairobi, Kenya where I also made a presentation about my experiences as an Academic Mentor. I also attended a meeting of the Forum very recently in Cape-Coast, Ghana

That takes us to another interesting area. The saying that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. In terms of recreation, what is it like?

Honestly, I hardly sleep but for my staff; yes I have no specific provision. For me it is work, work, and more work. Since I arrived this scene it was only recently when we appointed a new Registrar, I use to sleep in this office.

When Council is on the ground, I will sit here (in my office) and raise all the memos and when it is 5:30am or 6:00am, I would rush to my house, have my bath and return to the meeting of Council. The new Registrar is a God-sent one and we had studied at different times in the same University, very committed.

For staff and students, we have a sports complex. My vision for the University is that we get a permanent sports complex at the Permanent Site so that it will not just be work, work, people can as well recreate. With a small sports complex at the Take-off Site, we have all kinds of games such as volleyball, football, lawn tennis and basketball.

This is a take-off site. The population is increasing, we need to make provision for expansion and our vision is to get that done at the Permanent Site in Felele. We are trying to see if we can get appropriated funding for it. In the absence of that, we will look in the direction of Public Private Partnership (PPP) so that we have a befitting sports complex for the University.

We also make sure that the students have their sporting activities such as inter-faculty sports, inter-departmental sports. Another activity is “FUL’s Got Talent”. At this recreational function, students display their talents, covering debates, drama, acting while others are good at poetry and it is always a big event for students and the students are happy about that.

Let us go a little bit into the issue of Post Graduate Programmes. Let us have an insight of what have been done. How many courses that are at the Post-Graduate level, The teaching and Students’ Enrolment level in the Post Graduate School?

We always make the public know the enrolment processes and what Senate has approved. Senate has just approved the new enrolment based on what the Dean of the School presented to it. We are going to have roughly about 200 or there about for a start and is quite a large number in the existing programmes. The existing programmes are in the Faculties of Science, Arts and Social Sciences. For the Departments of Political Science and Economics, NUC did not approve the running of Ph.D in Economics and Political Science Programmes. The reason being that the people at the helm of affairs then in those Departments did not seem to have worked hard to earn the confidence of the National Universities Commission (NUC). They treated it with levity and so they shot themselves in the foot. Other Departments that worked hard got approvals. We also have Ph.D and Masters in all the science programmes such as Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science and Statistics. For Arts, we have History and International Studies, English and Literary Studies.