Infrastructure deficit in Nigeria which runs into trillions of naira cuts across every sector of the nation’s economy and at sectorial or institutional levels, efforts are made to contain the challenge it poses to growth and development.
In the education sector, the challenge of infrastructure is phenomenal such that when stakeholders gather to discuss the falling standard of education, especially at the tertiary level, dearth of infrastructure to enable effective teaching and learning takes centre stage.
In most Nigerian universities, except perhaps the new generation and privately owned ones, infrastructure decay is fast assuming the status of a first level course in environmental and health sciences studies. All of these are of grave concern.
It is against this backdrop that the authorities of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) in Borno State embarked on what has been termed “infrastructure revolution” aimed at enhancing teaching and learning in the university.
A joint decision by the university management led by Mala Mohammed Daura, the Vice Chancellor, and the governing council led by Wale Babalakin, the Pro-Chancellor, to invest over N3 billion in infrastructure development has yielded 11 projects with state-of-the-art facilities within a space of four years.
“When we came in, we saw an institution that the founders had great vision/dream and we decided to log into the dream and do better than what we met. We have succeeded beyond our expectation. I saw in the course of the commissioning the projects what could be achieved when council members are determined to do something”, Babalakin said when commissioning the 11 projects recently.
Babalakin, the chairman of Bi-Courtney Investment Limited, assumed the Pro-Chancellorship and chairmanship of the governing council of the University of Maiduguri in February 2009 for a four-year tenure.
Within the four years, the university has witnessed a major turn-around in almost every facet of its development, especially in infrastructure development, which explains the commencement and completion of 11 gigantic projects within this period.
The commissioned projects included a massive classroom block with offices for lecturers in the Department of Fine Arts constructed at the cost of N80.4 million. He also commissioned a classroom block for the Faculty of Pharmacy built at the cost of N305 million. The project comprises six laboratories, six offices, a conference room and a library and it is the only School of pharmacy in the whole North.
Other projects commissioned include a Twin Tower Lecture Theatre comprising two utility rooms, two lecture rooms and others. It is an Education Trust Fund (ETF) Special Intervention Programme (SIP) project that seats about 500 students; a 1,000 capacity auditorium built at the cost of N166.1 million comprising male and female change rooms, offices and toilets, and a Faculty of Education complex which cost N284 million to build.
The council chairman also commissioned a radio house; two classroom blocks at the University Teaching Hospital; dualised and resurfaced university entrance road; a solar-lighting power and a 33KVA transformer dedicated to the university.
“These projects were done at a very great cost and through very frugal expenditure. They were done through self-denial of luxury by the council members and through deep thinking”, the Pro-Chancellor remarked at the commissioning.
The pro-chancellor’s assertion simply lends credence to people’s understanding of his personality and character, especially within the university community, as a selfless and determined achiever.
Generally regarded as an emerging pillar of education in the country, Babalakin who is also the chairman of Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities has successfully revolutionised the roles of Pro-Chancellors in the university system by his exceptional contributions to development of University of Maiduguri.
From its erstwhile general perception as a purely political appointment aimed to massage the ego of, or reward prominent citizens, who have supported the government, he has redefined a Pro-Chancellor as someone with vision and genuinely committed to the development of education.
“We are a very ambitious people. With what was available to us, we have surpassed all expectations. I expect the regulatory authorities to come and see what we have achieved with what was available to us; I want to assure you that if we had more money, we would have achieved more. We thank those who gave us the little that we had the federal government, the university management and others”, he told journalists in the course of the projects commissioning.
Daura, the Vice Chancellor, described Babalakin as “a game changer” in the annals of the university, saying, “I am happy that all these are happening within my tenure as VC”.
He continued: “I am honoured witnessing the commissioning of these projects. Four years ago, all these projects were on the drawing board. I attribute this to the co-operation and support of my governing council.
“Everybody will enjoy it because virtually all the faculties in the university have been touched. All these are for the benefit of both the staff and students of the university. Because of these projects with their state-of-the-art facilities, the university can now compare with any other in the world”.
According to him, the lecturers too should be happy that they now have offices and are now working in conducive classrooms with modern facilities, pointing out that “gone are the days when you go to the classrooms and see broken cheers. We are now using hitech facilities in the classrooms. Our e-library has 150 computers and an e-conference room which is working well; this is a technological advancement that has reached this university”.
Realising that it is not enough to have “convenient classrooms without convenient accommodation or place of rest” for the students, Duara revealed that plans were underway to address students’ accommodation problem in the university.
According to him, the governing council has already given approval for the rehabilitation of the students’ hostels, adding that there is no hostel in the university that has not been rehabilitated, particularly their conveniences.
“What we are currently doing is pursuing new hostel blocks for the students. We have contacted some state governments and private individuals to come and build hostels under the build, operate and transfer (BOT) arrangement and we are getting positive responses”, he said.
He disclosed that some organisations have shown interest in providing hostel facilities, adding that Kano State government has shown interest in constructing hostel accommodation for students of the state origin.
In the education sector just like in other sectors, funding is a big issue and in UNIMAID, it is more than critical. According to the Pro-Chancellor, “in this university, we don’t have money but we have not reigned ourselves to fate; we have to look for ways of generating money internally”.
In its quest for internally generated revenue, the university embarked on the development of a 66-bed hotel and conference centre in Abuja which sits on a piece of land that was given to the university in 1978, about 35 years ago. This hotel was commissioned last Thursday by the Pro-Chancellor.
Article written by Chuka Uroko of Business Day