Despite the overwhelming challenges occasioned by the nationwide strike embarked upon by all the University-based unions that crippled academic activities in Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions in the last eight (8) months, the Administration of Professor Olayemi Akinwumi has worked round the clock to ensure that Federal University Lokoja (FUL) makes some remarkable progress within the period of the impasse.
The Vice-Chancellor along with his supportive and committed Management refused to allow the unfortunate circumstance to deter him from pursuing the lofty goals of his Five-Year Vision Plan for the University. Obviously, Professor Akinwumi barely clocked one year in office when he was confronted with the imbroglio between the Federal Government and the Labour Unions, having celebrated his one-year anniversary in February this year with astonishing records of achievements to show within a short period in office to the admiration of everyone.
In his pragmatic approach to realizing the Vision Plan, the VC earlier in January had invited the Provost, Deans, Directors, Heads of Departments/Divisions/Units, Coordinators, and all relevant stakeholders within the University Community individually and as a group to a roundtable in his office to brainstorm and draw up the year 2022 Action Plan, as well as to chart the way forward towards achieving the set-out objectives for the year, but were soon faced with the unavoidable strike actions.
Not minding the initial setback experienced, the University Management under the amiable and visionary leadership of Professor Akinwumi quickly re-strategized and explored other ways of keeping the University afloat amidst the quagmire. Throughout the strike period, the Principal Officers Committee (POC) chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, held its regular weekly meetings to review the situation and discuss ways of moving the University forward by thinking out of the box. No doubt, this holistic approach has not only saved the University from the negative impact of the precarious situation but also helped the Administration to record some significant achievements within the eight months.
At an emergency meeting with the Congregation held recently to interact with members of the University Community following the suspension of the nationwide strike by the University Unions, the Vice-Chancellor reeled out some of the modest progress the University made during the eight-month lock jam. This includes the admission of the first batch of medical students into the MB;BS Programme and allocation of a 32-seater coaster bus to the College of Health Sciences; and establishment of the Federal University Lokoja International College, following the earlier commencement of the University Staff School and approval received from the Kogi State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
Other achievements were the establishment of the University Staff Club; relocation of the Deanery, Faculty of Science and the various Heads of Departments, Directorate of ICT and part of the University Library from the Adankolo Campus to the Permanent Site (Felele Campus); allocation of office to Centre for Atmospheric Research of the National Space Research and Development Agency (CAR-NASRDA) and subsequent allocation of land for the Centre to commence work on its permanent office complex.
In terms of infrastructural development, Professor Akinwumi listed the following achievements within the period under review:
Construction of roads including the second lane from the gate through the Administrative Block to the hostels and a ring road behind the Administrative Block through the Faculty of Science to the University Library and ICT Center; construction of Entrepreneurship Centre with modern workshops which is very key to the achievement of the ‘No-Skill, No-Graduation' policy of the current Administration (75% completion); construction of a block of 12 lecture halls (85% completion); construction of the University mini stadium; and connection of the University to the national grid through step down/extension of 33KVA dedicated high tension line from the Lokoja/Zango power substation that would guarantee 24-hour uninterrupted electricity supply to the Permanent Site, and reduce expenses on purchase of diesel for generators.
Other projects are the constructed and furnished University Clinic and ongoing expansion of the Health Centre for improved healthcare services to the communities; constructed security building with a watch tower; electrification of the Permanent Site with solar-powered lights to light up the Campus at night; construction of 40 blocks of shops (FUL commercial zone) based on Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement; renovation of the Faculty of Science Complex at the Permanent Site; renovation of male and female hostels for medical students at the Adankolo Campus; construction of an access road to the University Farms through the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and commencement of a Demonstration Farm that will facilitate agro-business in the University managed by the Directorate of Consultancy and Ventures and award of the construction of Agricultural Training Center for the University.
Arrangements have also been made for the commencement of FUL Water Factory (under BOT agreement) as soon as the operational license is issued by NAFDAC, construction of the University’s Petrol Station with the land already allocated based on BOT, while FUL Printing Press (also based on BOT) have commenced operation since March 2022; all in a bid to boost the Internally Revenue Generation (IGR) of the University. The VC equally announced that the construction of a four-story Senate building will soon commence at the Permanent Site.
Speaking further, Professor Akinwumi said that there were donations made by some patriotic individuals to the University during the period, including solar-powered tricycles with a charging station; security communication kits to the University Security Taskforce; two units of Public Address System (PAS); two 18-seater buses; while a fire service truck was acquired for the University. Other arrays of projects executed at the Permanent Site include the construction of signage, a water fountain, and the erection of a statue, all in front of the University gatehouse; a comfort garden with a water fountain to serve as a relaxation center for students; mega water project and water reticulation around the hostels.
Similarly, within the period under review, the bill for the establishment of the Federal University Lokoja Teaching Hospital was passed into law by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, following the Public Hearing of the bill at the National Assembly in Abuja, which is now awaiting the President’s assent.
On ICT development, the University deployed a wireless internet cloud at the Adankolo Campus and partnering with a leading U.S-based open online course provider, Coursera Inc., Galaxy Backbone Limited, Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), among other linkages and collaborations with both local and international bodies.
Others were the promotion of Academic and Non-Academic Staff; appointments of the University Chief Security Officer (CSO) and substantive Directors for the University Health Services (UHS) and the Physical Planning and Development Department (PP&DD); as well as the engagement of hunters and forest guards to complement the University security system at both Campuses.
Some other notable appointments that were widely celebrated by the University Community during the period included the historic appointments of Professor Francisca Onaolapo Oladipo (former Director of Quality Assurance and Head of Computer Science Department) as Vice-Chancellor, Thomas Adewumi University (TAU), Oko-Irese, Kwara State; and that of Mr. Usman Abdulkadir as Registrar of the same University. Indeed, this feat was the first of its kind in the history of the eleven-year-old University and it happened under the visionary leadership of Professor Akinwumi through its open-door and all-inclusive style of administration.
During the period also, the University Management received the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN)’s approvals for the commencement of its MB;BS Programme following the Resource Verification Exercise and Advisory Visits of the two supervisory agencies. Similarly, through the Resource Verification exercise conducted within the period, the University secured NUC’s approval for all the programmes in the Faculties of Education and Management, including other programmes - Mass Communication, French, Philosophy, Music, Archaeology, CRS, IRS, Arabic, Biotechnology and Industrial Chemistry; while all the existing programmes in the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences earned full accreditation status after the Re-Accreditation exercise conducted by NUC.
Other milestones recorded were the commencement of programmes under the Institute of Governance and Development Studies which kick-started at the Abuja Center, including some programmes on Legislative Studies run in collaboration with the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), National Assembly, Abuja; while the University also acquired a Radio Broadcasting License for the Department of Mass Communication with efforts ongoing to expand the Department into a full-fledged Faculty.
The Vice-Chancellor was equally elated to announce at the meeting that through his Administration’s untiring efforts and engagement with relevant stakeholders, the federal allocation, which was less than one billion Naira when summed since the inception of the University, has been jacked up to over two billion Naira, noting that the increase would go a long way in bringing more infrastructural development to the Institution. Also, in a bid to fight against corruption in the University, the Administration repositioned its Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU), set up a special committee charged to develop a corruption prevention guide, and unveiled two (2) dedicated lines to members of the University Community and the general public to take advantage of and report any suspected cases.
It is interesting to know also that the University Management signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to secure One Million Naira Home Renovation Loan for interested staff, while twelve students of the University benefited from the Federal Government Scholarship Award worth two hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N250,000.00) per session for three (3) years. Similarly, efforts are in top gear to secure some articulated buses to ease transportation challenges.
Professor Akinwumi stated that his Administration has continued to receive overwhelming support from well-meaning Nigerians whose contributions have greatly impacted the overall development of the Institution. He went all out of his way to solicit and attract support towards bringing accelerated development to FUL. Through his painstaking efforts and collaborations, some of these good-spirited individuals and corporate organisations have pledged to donate funds and assist in building structures for the University, while others, through BOT arrangements, have signed MOU with the University to build hostel accommodations and other critical infrastructure, among other heartwarming achievements within the 8-month nationwide industrial action.
The erudite Professor of history concluded by saying his Administration has achieved about 70 percent of his Five-Year Vision Plan for Federal University Lokoja (in less than two years), assuring that he would not rest on his oars but continue to attract more development towards building a world-class citadel of learning that would be a cynosure of every eye.
The Vice-Chancellor specially thanked all the Principals Officers and his Management Team for their cooperation, commitment, sacrifices, and unflinching support in ensuring that the goals set within the period were achieved and surpassed, describing them as strong pillars and dependable partners who are positive-minded and passionate about the progress of the University. He equally expressed unreserved appreciation and sympathy to all staff of the University for their steadfastness and resilience during the protracted strike.
While calling for the continued support of all members of staff saying his doors were wide open to receive suggestions and contributions from all categories of staff irrespective of their status, the Vice-Chancellor promised to sustain the engagement with the Congregation on regular basis for feedback, adding that a committed workforce devoid of internal rancor was germane to increased productivity and sustainable development.
However, Professor Akinwumi noted with sadness some adverse occurrences that the University witnessed during the last 8 months, including the death of some students, staff, and relatives of staff members, and prayed for the repose of their souls. The meeting allowed staff members to make contributions and ask relevant questions which the Vice-Chancellor took ample time to clarify.
The Congregation is the general assembly of all graduate members of the University staff, both academic and non-academic where the Vice-Chancellor serves as the Chairman, and the Registrar its Secretary. The Congregation has the general function of serving as a forum for discussing any University problems or issues and has direct access to make recommendations to Council and Senate - the two bodies on which it is represented.
See more pictures of the meeting here
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