Effective Communication among members of an organization, particularly between top management and staff members, plays a pivotal role in fostering mutual understanding, trust, and cooperation that would bring about maximum productivity and realization of the organisational goals and objectives. There is no gainsaying that constant engagement with relevant stakeholders within an organisation creates a healthy working environment devoid of friction, rancor, misgivings, and misrepresentation of facts. It promotes, transparency, accountability, mutual relationship, respect, and motivation while providing a veritable platform for aggrieved parties to air their views, resolve internal conflicts, and chart a new course of moving the organization in the path of peace, growth, and sustainable development.
In institutions of higher learning, the importance of regular communication and interface between management and members of the university communities can not be over-emphasized. It is against this background and knowing the implication of neglecting this critical aspect in university administration that the Management of Federal University Lokoja (FUL), under the pragmatic leadership of the Vice-Chancellor (VC), Professor Olayemi Akinwumi, earnestly looks up to such occasion to connect with members of the Institution despite the busy schedules, daunting challenges, and arduous responsibilities of keeping the University running amidst very limited resources.
Such opportunity availed itself again on Monday, the 18th of December 2023 as the Vice-Chancellor and his management team organized a stakeholders meeting with the Congregation to interface with members and provide an all-round overview of the current situation of the nearly thirteen-year-old University, sharing both the remarkable progress the administration has made in the last few months and some unfortunate occurrences that demanded their collective attention. It was also a forum for him to present his scorecards to esteemed members of the University Community to either receive commendation or condemnation; a pat on the back for a job well done or a backlash. But for the visionary and ever-performing VC, he was greeted with the former as it would soon be deduced by the readers themselves at the end of this exclusive report.
The Congregation is a general assembly of all graduate staff members of the University, both academic and non-teaching, where the Vice-Chancellor serves as the Chairman, and the Registrar its Secretary. The statutory body has the general function of serving as a forum for discussing any university problems or issues, and has direct access to make recommendations to the Council and Senate - the two bodies on which it is represented.
In his opening speech during the important meeting which was attended by all the Principal Officers, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Olayemi Akinwumi, started by appreciating members for their unwavering cooperation and support which he said have been pivotal in propelling the University forward. He expressed profound gratitude to the staff for their dedication to his administration’s shared vision of academic excellence and progress, urging members to be open-minded and feel free to discuss anything that concerns them and even critic his administration’s performance where necessary, describing the gathering as a ‘family meeting’.
Reeling off some of the progress the University made particularly since the last Congregation meeting, the erudite historian informed the gathering with utmost delight that FUL made the elite list of the maiden Times Higher Education 2023 Sub-Saharan African Varsities ranking, where the University falls within the 51st - 60th bracket out of the 120 Sub Saharan Universities that were ranked using the criteria of Resources and Finance, Access and Fairness, Teaching Skills, Students Engagement and Africa Impact. He noted that the information made available by Professor Peter Okebukola, Chairman of the Nigerian Universities Ranking Advisory Committee (NURAC) on 26th June, 2023 in Accra, Ghana, indicated that Federal University Lokoja was in the17th position out of the 51 Nigerian Universities ranked and 9th position amongst the Federal Universities. Meanwhile, he also reported that FUL was featured in the 2023 CommonWealth Education Report alongside Covenant University, Ota, and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
“Our staff have continued to exhibit the highest level of academic excellence and distinctions. Several of them have won highly competitive international fellowships and awards. Many of our colleagues have also made outstanding marks in TETFund-sponsored research projects,” he added. The VC, therefore, expressed appreciation to the Senate, Deans, Directors, and all the University Staff for this academic feat and recognition, imploring them not to rest on their oars.
Continuing, he said, “I would like to inform you that our Institute of Education and the Institute for Governance and Development Studies which are handling some special programmes including some elite professional Postgraduate Programmes have continued to carry out their mandates as contained in the approvals given to the University by the National Universities Commission (NUC). In spite of the daunting challenges encountered due to limited resources that have adversely affected the provision of more facilities in the University, the Management of the University remains committed to its resolve to move Federal University Lokoja to a higher level academically and administratively. This is our drive.”
The VC announced that FUL received approval from the NUC, COREN, Nursing Registration Council, and JAMB to admit pioneer students into Engineering and Nursing programmes after Resource Verifications were conducted. This is in addition to the earlier approval granted by the MDCN to admit students into Medicine, informing the gathering that the Medical students were currently in the 200 level and are doing excellently well in the programme. He expressed joy that these professional programmes would impact positively the community and the Nation at large, adding that the successful conversion of the former Federal Medical Centre Lokoja to Federal Teaching Hospital Lokoja (FTHL) was aimed at training the Medical and Nursing Science students at the clinical level, just as Consultants at the Teaching Hospital have been engaged as Lecturers at the Medical College.
Again, Professor Akinwumi thanked the staff for the show of commitment and for the various roles they played that ensured the success of the just concluded 6th and 7th Combined Convocation Ceremony of the University. He briefed the gathering that two (2) of the outstanding students - Zafirah Isa (Chemistry 2020/2021) and Mariam Oyiza Ibrahim (Economics 2021/2022), who emerged as the overall best-graduating students for the two (2) academic sessions, were awarded One Million Naira cash prize each by Hon. James Abiodun Faleke, which he has presented publicly to the awardees.
Speaking further, he said that the University hosted 32 NUC Panels comprising 103 Professors for the re-accreditation and accreditation of forty-three (43) programmes in the Faculties of Arts, Education, Management Science, Science, and Social Sciences between 16th November and 9th December 2023, and expressed hope that the outcome would be positive. The VC also thanked members of Management, particularly the Director of Academic Planning, Professor Hadi Suberu, the University Librarian, Dr. (Mrs) Sara Yani, Deans, and Heads of Departments for the success of the exercise. Distinctly, he recognized some Departments that put up extra efforts in ensuring that their programmes passed the accreditation.
Professor Akinwumi also reported that in his efforts to promote academic excellence through the institutionalization of university traditions and ceremonies, a total of 12 Inaugural Lectures have been organized under his administration within the past three (3) years in office, with eight (8) out of the 12 taking place within the last 15 months. The Inaugural Lectures afforded distinguished academics who have attained the rank of professor the opportunity to present their contributions to knowledge to members of the University Community. He urged those who have not presented to seize the opportunity and prepare for their presentation. In addition, he said that Public Lectures were delivered by highly respected individuals in the society organized to strengthen town and gown relationships, advance the frontiers of knowledge, and render community service which brought the Institution to more global visibility. Other notable events were the hosting of the first international conference on flood which attracted eminent scholars from within and outside Nigeria, and the grand hosting of the Association of Registrars of Nigerian Universities (ARNU), among others.
On the outcome of the Staff Audit initiated by him upon assumption of office, the VC disclosed that the report received the Council’s approval and was delighted to announce that all the recommendations of the Committee have been fully implemented, putting to rest the agitations of members of staff for proper placement in the service and update of staff personnel records. He added that the exercise was one of the steps his administration has taken to ensure that the welfare of staff was continually guaranteed. Similarly, he informed the Congregation that the promotion of eligible staff members was a top priority of the University Management and the Governing Council, noting that the Central Appointments and Promotions Committee had considered the 2022 and 2023 promotion exercises of eligible Academic staff, while the 2022 Promotion Exercise for Non-Teaching and 2023 Junior Non-Teaching have been concluded and awaiting the approval of the Governing Council, except for the 2023 Promotion Exercise for the Senior Non-Teaching Staff that the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), FUL Branch could not respond to on time during the call for submissions of papers.
Speaking on industrial harmony on campus, the Fellow of the Society for Peace Studies and Practice (SPSP) remarked: “The existing religious and industrial harmony on the Campus continues to subsist. I must express gratitude to the Labour Unions for their cooperation with this administration in the course of the session. It must be put on record that in spite of the daunting challenges occasioned by the industrial actions embarked on by the in-house unions, our staff committed themselves towards ensuring a seamless academic session. Let me also announce that the seeming impasse between Management and SSANU has been laid to rest with assured commitment to service delivery and welfare.”
In terms of infrastructural development, the Vice-Chancellor who has been nicknamed by SSANU “Mr. Project,” said: “It is with utmost delight that I report to Congregation the infrastructural development that has taken place on the Felele Campus (Permanent Site) since the relocation of Administrative and academic activities to the campus in September 2021.” Professor Akinwumi stated that despite the funding challenges his administration faced, he went all out to attract funds to carry out meaningful projects and listed not less than 23 physical projects both completed and ongoing. Some of the projects he mentioned included the construction of road networks, Entrepreneurship Centre, 12 blocks of Lecture Halls, Mini-Stadium and Recreational Centre, expansion of the University Health Centre which is now opened to the public for consultation and medical attention, solar-powered electrification of the streets/road networks, construction of 40 blocks of shops on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT), renovation of Faculty of Science Complex, University Library and ICT Centre, and construction of Agricultural Training Centre facilitated by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD).
Other milestones highlighted in his address included the linking of the Permanent Site to the national grid for electricity supply, procurement of a fire service truck, construction of security building, renovation of male and female hostels at the Adankolo Campus for the Medical students; construction of 4-Storey Senate Building, Auditorium (close to Faculty of Arts), Faculty of Engineering Complex, Assembly Hall, FUL Zoo, Parks and Garden, commencement of the process for the construction of perimeter fencing of the University, two (2) 18-Seater Buses donated by Dr. Innocent Ozoemena Ezuma, grant of N250,000,000.00 awarded by ASR Africa/BUA Cement for the construction of a Central Laboratory of which the company has reported to the site to commence work, purchase of 18- seater Innoson Bus, establishment of Federal University Lokoja linkages and outlets at the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, Abuja, FCT College of Education, Zuba, and Auchi Polytechnic, Edo; and the establishment of the Directorate of Distance and E-Learning, and the Institute of Education.
“At the commencement of 2024, God willing, construction work on the proposed Faculty of Law, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Digital Library would commence. It is our desire to aggressively drive infrastructural development in the University using all legitimate avenues at the Federal level and through good-spirited individuals and organizations. We are also committed to expanding worship centres through contacts and linkages with God-fearing individuals who are endowed with God’s benevolence. The two Christian worship centres at the Felele Campus are developing steadily, while the Muslim worship centre (Masjid), which was wholly donated by Hajia Memuna Abdullahi, an indigene of Kano State, in memory of her late husband, Squadron leader Abdullahi Habib has been completed and ready to be handed over and commissioned soon by His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III."
Speaking on internal revenue drive, the VC confirmed that the FUL Felele Consult Ltd, which his administration established on assumption of office, has been in the driving seat of the University's effort on revenue generation. He noted that the Consult managed by the Directorate of Consultancy Services and Ventures has been assisting the University to meet up with some of its urgent needs that are not catered for by government subventions, assuring that his administration would continue to work assiduously to ensure that the Consult does not renege in its drive.
The VC announced the recent appointments of some hard-working staff members to various responsibilities outside the University - Alhaji Haruna Mariga (Director Internal Audit) as the Executive Secretary, Jigawa State Emergency Management Agency; Mrs. Florence Gbodi Alabi (Deputy Bursar) as the Bursar, Kogi State University, Kabba; Mbashir Lanre (Principal Librarian and Coordinator of Library and Information Science) as the University Librarian, Kogi State University, Kabba; and Professor Olarewaju Ifetimehin (Sabbatical Lecturer in the Department of Geography) as the Director of Academic Planning also at the Kogi State University, Kabba; wishing them successful tenures.
Admonishing members of staff on the importance of unity and synergy, he said: “I would like to express my gratitude for your continuous support and commitment to our University. Together, we have achieved significant milestones, but challenges persist. With unity and resilience, we shall overcome them and emerge stronger. Let us stand together in solidarity, supporting one another as we navigate the path ahead. I am confident that, with your dedication, our University will continue to thrive, fulfilling its mission of excellence in education and research.”
The Vice-Chancellor, however, frowned at some staff of the University who are in the habit of de-marketing the values and philosophy of the Institution. He condemned in strong terms attitudes such as poor conduct and processing of examinations, lateness to work, insubordination, indiscipline, abuse of office and corrupt practices, vandalization and theft of University property, and other acts of misconduct, appealing to staff to desist from such vices and cultivate the habit of diligence and accountability in the discharge of their duties urging them to remain worthy ambassadors of the University. Professor Akinwumi sympathized with colleagues and families of deceased staff, and members of staff who lost their beloved ones during the year under review and offered a minute’s silence for their peaceful repose.
During the meeting which lasted several hours, the Vice-Chancellor requested the Provosts, Deans, and some Directors to give updates on some of their modest achievements and ongoing efforts in their various spheres of influence. Similarly, the Bursar, Mr. John Sule Shilo, made some positive remarks and gave heartwarming news that the University was able to secure about a 300% increase in its budgetary allocation for the year 2024, assuring that the administration’s lamentations about the lack of adequate funds to meet its numerous needs would reduce drastically next year. He joined the VC to commend the Directorate of Consultancy Services and Ventures headed by Professor David Irefin for its efforts in boosting the internal revenue generation which has assisted the University in no small measure in meeting up with some of its pressing demands.
Reacting to the cheering report of the Provost, College of Postgraduate Studies, Professor Gbenga Ibileye who reported that the College had presented the University’s First PhD student from the Department of Physics for external defense, the Vice-Chancellor immediately directed that the student’s portrait be hung at a designated section of the Senate Building (when completed) for historical purpose, thanking members of the Faculty of Science and Physics Department for living up to expectation.
Several members of the Congregation who made their various contributions at the meeting lauded the giant strides of the Vice-Chancellor and his management team for their unwavering commitment, innovativeness, and selfless efforts aimed at bringing development to the University. It is worthy of note that the forum created a friendly environment for staff members to discuss with their management issues bordering on their welfare and how best to advance one of Nigeria’s leading citadels of learning - the Federal University Lokoja - to a higher level. See more pictures here
Compiled by Chris Yahaya - [email protected]