Students and authorities of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU) in Abia State have kicked against the delisting of some courses offered in the institution by the federal government.
The students who staged peaceful protests against the action last week have declared their resolve to continue with their demonstration this week to register their grievances over the delisting of seven programmes in the College of Management Sciences (COLMAS) by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
The students demanded the immediate reversal of the policy alleging that similar programmes are still being run by similar universities in the country.
They expressed their fears that the future of the students offering the delisted courses was being exposed to danger.
The affected programmes are Accountancy, Banking and Finance, Economics, Entrepreneurial Studies, Business Administration, Industrial Relations and Personnel Management.
While Accountancy, Banking and Finance and Marketing are retained as options in Agric-Business, others were delisted from JAMB website.
During last week’s protest, the students had carried placards with inscriptions such as ‘Management programmes in MOUAU have been in existence since 2003; Restore our programmes in JAMB brochure’, ‘Please secure our future in the labour market’, ’We don’t want to study Management as option in Agriculture’ and ‘Please, Dean, don’t allow this, our future is at stake’.
When The AUTHORITY contacted JAMB on the issue, the Director of Information, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, said that it was a directive from the Federal Ministry of Education that specialised universities should focus on their main mandate, hence, the affected programmes of Michael Okpara University, being a University of Agriculture, were not listed in the brochure.
Benjamin said: “But I don’t think there is a need to protest about that because students in the affected programmes will still graduate from them. It only means that the school will no longer admit new students into the affected programme.”
While addressing the Dean of COLMAS and other management staff of the College on behalf of the students, the President of the Association of Management Science Students, Mr. Udochukwu Uzoma, said that the action of JAMB had destabilised the students.
He appealed to the Dean to intervene and have the delisted programmes restored as the fate of students in the affected courses hang in the balance.
In his response, the Dean, Professor John Ihendinihu, commended the students for their peaceful disposition and told them that the management was making spirited efforts to have the delisted courses restored.
He expressed hope that JAMB which had restored similar programmes delisted in sister universities - Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, would not treat MOUAU differently.
Later at a press conference, Ihendinihu urged the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to rescind the directive for the three specialised Universities of Agriculture in Nigeria to shut down all non-agriculture programmes.
He described the policy as retrogressive, injurious and a contradiction to the Act establishing the universities which gave them the tripodal mandate of teaching, research and extension in agricultural and related/allied disciplines.
The Dean recalled that most Universities of Agriculture in other parts of the world offer programmes outside their core mandate, wondering why Nigeria will prefer to live in the past.
Ihendinihu, a Professor of Accounting argued that the delisted courses were critical to the success of Nigeria’s quest to approach agriculture as business.
According to him, COLMAS has a total of 10, 931 students comprising 6,735 regular and 4,196 in non- regular programmes and a staff population of 172. The total student population of MOUAU is less than 30,000.
Ihendinihu expressed concern over the implication of both the directive of the Ministry of Agriculture, and the action of JAMB, saying they have further diminished the chances of Abia candidates seeking university education.
This, he said, was more worrisome considering the fact that Abia has only one federal university, a specialised one for that matter with limited programmes, unlike other states which have at least two.
He also alleged the marginalisation of the South East geopolitical zone in the distribution of the 92 federal tertiary institutions in the country as the zone only got 13 against 20 in the North West, 17 in South West, and 15 in North Central.
“Of the 13 federal tertiary institutions in South East, only three are conventional universities and they are in Anambra, Enugu and Ebonyi while Imo and Abia States only have specialised universities”, he said.
Some non-agricultural programmes such as Mass Communications, Philosophy, Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies have been shut down in MOUAU.