· Takeoff grant of MOUAU missing
CHIDI ASONYE writes on the giant strides recorded by the fifth Vice Chancellor Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, Professor Francis Otunta.
Students seeking admission for the best should not look further as they are assured of the best especially when for close to three decades this federal University has graduated about hundred thousand top flight graduates in all its accredited disciplines as endorsed by the National Universities Commission.
Professor Francis Otunta, a seasoned Mathematician and administrator par excellence vowed on assumption of duty exactly one year ago, to move the institution to higher heights under his reign.
Peace was upmost in his heart when he assumed duties , hence he told staff of the University: “Let me vehemently aver before you all that staff welfare issues would remain fundamental in our symbiotic efforts of nation building and pursuit of attainment of the university goals”.
His words: “Hence, efforts within the purview of our financial capability would be geared towards ensuring a conducive working atmosphere for the staff to enable each to contribute positively towards our efforts to make the university a world class institution”.
Today, one year after, according to our findings, staff appraisal and promotions are transparently and judiciously performed on and as at when due, without personal bias or any form of victimization.
On complaints from Students Union Government (SUG) the VC and management during the university management 84th meeting resolved that a reduction be effected on the amount paid by students per bed space at the NDDC and Jonathan Hostels from sixty to fifty thousand naira per session.
VC approved the appointments of various committees for the progress of the institution which included the Joint Committee on Memorandum of Understanding between the university and the National Root Crops Research Institute; committee on Agripreneurship symposium and related issues; procurement Unit; committee on cases of delayed appraisal and promotions, among others, all aimed at building a strong and reliable institution.
MOUAU signed a MOU with the Federal Polytechnic, Uwana Afikpo in Ebonyi State and while signing the agreement on behalf of the university, Prof. Otunta had noted that the partnership is a familiar one both academically and socially and bound to produce young Nigerians that will move the country forward.
The National Universities Commission accreditation visitation team for twenty one programmes of the university were encouraged to give accurate report as it will help the university improve and make corrections where needed. They did and the 21 programmes scaled through the accreditation process.
He however had expressed dismay that all efforts geared towards retaining some departments failed as the university has been asked to go back to its core mandate which forced the university to redistribute affected students to other departments. The affected departments included Mass Communication, Philosophy as well as Peace and Conflict resolution.
At the 24th Matriculation ceremony of the university which he presided as his first , the VC encouraged new students to be up and doing in their chosen field of study as well as shun all anti – social behaviours, prostitution, examination malpractice among others, but especially immodest dressing which may expose
one to rapists just as he warned that the university has zero tolerance for it in any guise.
According to the VC who had explained that the university has its core mandate in agriculture and agricultural related courses expressed his unwavering vision of making the university an educational institution of choice, nurturing professionals fit for the world of work and also make it a world class university of Agriculture which is responsive to the creative and innovative abilities for the country in food and fibre production.
According to him also, the institution’s management has never lacked the zeal of providing infrastructural facilities and amenities to create conducive environment for both learning and teaching, just as he commended the 5,615 matriculants for scaling through the hurdles of academic competitions in their JAMB.
No doubt, Prof. Otunta is also having his own share of distractions coming from those he would simply describe as trying to destabilize the serenity the institution is currently enjoying for its growth.
Shortly after he assumed office one Chinonso Obasi, parading himself as the NANS president had accused his administration of maladministration, incompetence and gross misconduct even though he washed off his hands from the allegations, insisting that whatever person that advanced the allegation were out of their senses.
Prof. Otunta has insisted that his administration inherited a damaged system which he is trying to remedy disclosing that his job is trying to rebuild the system and therefore has no time to dwell in the past as it will be time consuming even as he had disclosed that the university was not dropping any course as was speculated in certain quarters arguing that no university has the powers to do that, except the NUC.
His words: “My job is trying to rebuild the damaged system I inherited. It will be time consuming to go back to the past. We have set up committees to look into different issues that has caused a set back to the development of the university. My administration is currently trying to right the wrongs that were perpetrated before our arrival here”.
He however assured that he was not going to sack staffs who were illegally employed over the years, insisting that it will amount to wickedness to, “remove food from anyone’s table. Yes, they were illegally employed and promoted but I have taken a stand not to look towards the negative side. I can’t even employ more because the place is already overpopulated.
On the takeoff grant the university is supposed to have received at inception, the VC disclosed that the Ministry of Education and that of Agriculture insisted that the institution should provide evidence to show that it has not received the grant as their record shows it has long been collected.
“What we did was to send emissaries to past Vice Chancellors to tell us the true position on the matter. But as far as I know, there is no record to show the grant has been collected. We need this fund as it will go a long way to assist us in providing most of what we require in this university.