We will continue to focus on critical areas of needs for effective teaching and research – Prof. Kimbir
The Vice Chancellor, Joseph Sarwuam Tarkaa University Makurdi, Richard Kimbir in this interview with BusinessDay Benue Correspondent, BENJAMIN AGESAN at the University campus in the state capital, spoke about his scorecard in the last four years; the challenges the institution has faced in the midst of the pandemic, Covid19, and the long ASUU strike as well as recession, his plans for the future, among other issues. Excerpts:
The Vice Chancellor Sir, may we know some of the successes you have recorded in the last four years
This interview session in the fourth year of my 5-years tenure as Vice Chancellor is unique because it is the penultimate year to me and the first since our cooperate name change (Federal University of Agriculture to Joseph Sarwuam Tarkaa University). The last one year has been very enventful with many value-adding activities that consolidated earlier achievements and also set new records of achievements for the institution. Having gone this far in the office of the Vice Chancellor, I deem it fit, like I have done in previous years, to give an update of how the University has fared under my watch. We definitely will not relent in our efforts to continue to build on the foundation we have laid in the 4 years. Our steady efforts in the last 48 months have produced note-worthy impacts across all sectors of the university and Nigeria. These were: First and foremost, the world Bank Center for innovation in procurement, environment and social standards (CIPESS) awarded by the world Bank to our university, has been inaugurated and academic activities have commenced. The university held a combined convocation in April 2021 which graduated three sets of graduands across all colleges. More new roads have been added to the network of roads steadily rehabilitated while the dualisation of the university main gate to university clinic road is on going. Three new hostels have also been completed to further ease students’ accommodation challenges.
Launching of the first ever Open Education Resources (OCR) platform that lifted the ranking of the university from 47th to the 32rd position among Nigerian Universities by the 2019 ranking and the award of a pretigious and highly contested World Bank funded Center for Innovation in Procurement as well as Environmental and Social Standard and completion of the 3.5mw solar Hybrid power plant, adjudged as the highest singular solar power plant in West Africa sub-region to ensure uninterrupted power supply on campus. These were among the first few projects.
Most importantly, construction and commissioning of the University Liaison Office at Abuja, a dream project since inception of the university in 1988 and completion of biscuit/bread factory at the College of Food Technology and Human Ecology as well as Reticulation of water on the whole campus, a feat just recently attained since inception of the university in 1988 as well as construction and furnishing of agric-business incubation laboratory.
Also, activation of partnership agreement with agro-business companies, mechanised farming and seed multiplication programme to modernise farming practice as well as address the problem of low quality seed amongst small scale and medium holder farmers across the country. Eighty percent (80%) completion of Phase 1 of the University Senate building that has been on the drawing board since 2000 and inventing of a ventilator and authomated hand sanitizer dispenser and disinfecting spraying unit as a part of contribution in the fight against Covid-19.
Moreso, accreditation of programmes: All the University programmes have passed acreditation and new variation of cowpea, FUAMPEA I and FUAMPEA II have been produced by our researchers. As well as construction of a 3-storey office building for the College of Agricultural and Science Education are great milestones.
Nevertheless, expansion in ecademic scope by establishing degree programmes in Biochemistry, Botany, Microbiology and Zoology in the Colleges of Science as well as Mathematics Education and Science Education.
Additionally, the deployment of modern technology in teaching by the aquisition and installation of smart boards and other forms of multimedia aids for teaching and rehabilitation of the university feed Mill at Ankpa Quarters with enhanced capacity utilisation as well as Mini Feed Mill on campus are the last milestones footed by my 48 Months in office.
What can you say may have affected the smooth running of your administration?
While the challenges occassioned by the global Covid-19 epidemic and the prolonged ASUU strike lasted, we continued to make our modest efforts to ensure that we remain afloat until recession that almost brought us on our knees.
More than twelve out of the 48 months of our activities have been held down due to strike actions of industrial unions on campus. The negative impact of man hours lost in the process can only be imagined. Also, the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has had a debilitating impact on our productive capacity in the last 9 months due to the lockdown in all aspects of activities as such, the recession that took a longer period with us almost worsened the misery already brought by Union’s strike on campus and the world pandemic Covid-19.
What specific drawbacks did you experienced?
Despite the progress made by the university in the last four years, efforts at modernisation of infrastructures to backup teaching, research and extension services are still being constrained on several fronts. Apart from inadequate funding which is a major challenge in realising the mission and mandate of the university, strike by industrial unions on campus has been a remarkable challenge as earlier stated.
Another major challenge is the absence of a good access Road to the university mapped out in the original plan of the university. The current entrance to the university is not the main entrance and people use it indiscriminately as a thoroughfare which renders the school vulnerable to insecurity and encroachment. I am appealing to the Federal Government to make this dream a reality in the coming year.
Another worrisome challenge is employment and accommodation of students; the university can not employ needed manpower now due to policy changes and restrictions by government. Staff retire and die every year and there is need to replace them so that work will continue but the university cannot do that as and when necessary now. Up till now, the university can only accommodate only 25 percent of our student population. The public/private partnership (PPP) is desirable and solicited for.
What can you say is the way forward?
The way forward to attain rapid food self-sufficiency and reliance through the generation of modern Agricultural technologies that are highly- yielding and adaptive to specific Agricultural problems and environmental stress shall continue to define the focus of the university. Towards this end, university is committed to developing ultra-modern infrastructures of Agriculture in Nigeria. In this respect, we shall channel our energy to the provision of infrastructures in critical areas of needs for effective teaching, research and extension services.
In chatting the way forward, we shall direct our energy towards the provision of lecture theaters, class rooms laboratories and offices as well as students’ hostel accommodation. Agricultural machines and implements (tractors, planters harvesters, sprayers, irrigation machines, poultry, livestock and fishing facilitaties as well as ultra-modern ICT Centre).
Also, Multi-media service ( smart boards, public address system, CCTV systems, laptops and desktop computers) and perimeter fencing of the university land against encroachment and insecurity as well as the university main entrance road and network of campus roads. Sustained partnership with stakeholders on mechanised farming on campus and Ultra-modern sporting facilities on campus to promote sports among students inclusive.
What do you see as the future of the University within the remaining one year of your tenure as the Vice Chancellor?
I would like to assure you that as I step into the next year of my tenure, I will continue to optimise the human and material resources of the University to deliver on my very best for the institution as earlier stated so that at the end, I will be leaving a university that parades global best practices with the vission of being the University of First Choice in Nigeria and Africa and among the top in the world.
What is your message to the government, principal officers, members of the Senate, staff and students of the University?
I first of all want to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Federal University of Agriculture Makurdi Governing Council, Abba Alkasun and all council members for their support and enthusiasm to see us succeed and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development as well as the Federal Ministry of Education. We owe it a duty to appreciate the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TEFfund), the National Universities Commission (NUC), Benue State Government and other funding Agencies. I wish to thank the governing council, principal officers, members of Senate of the University and all other blocs in the university for their cooperation and support so far and for helping us to drive the mission, vission and mandate of the University.
For the staff and students of our esteemed university, I advise students to shun educational vices such as, examination malpractice, cultism, drug abuse, homosexuallism, alcoholism, among others for any student being caught in any of these will be duly punished. To the staff, I urge them to maintain that spirit of oneness so that the University can be taken to it greater heights.