From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Vice-chancellor, University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), Prof. Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah, has put the institution in the lead in the areas of research and innovation. He claimed this informed the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) to recognize the university as Centre of Excellence in Governance and Leadership.
He said UNIABUJA “takes research and innovation seriously, hence the recent establishment of Centre for Undergraduate Research to encourage undergraduates to engage in research. We are conscious of our position as the number one public university in Abuja.
“By destiny and position, we need to be at the forefront of research and development in this country. We have to provide world class education and welfare for our students, ensuring that we give them the best.
“I always say that, if our President who is in Abuja here is number one citizen, then we have to be the number one public university. There is no doubt about that; but this responsibility cannot be achieved by merely mouthing it. That is why we working to change the narrative in this university.”
He admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) brought lot of challenges and disruption in academic activities in the university system. However, the crises, he said, greatly tasked universities to be innovative and adapt to the new system: “Part of the lessons learnt from the outbreak of the virus was the need to be more proactive and more responsive at all times.
“We had to quickly mobilize our in-house skills and expertise and develop virtual classroom system through which several courses including engineering, business related courses etc, have been taught mainly by our adjunct lecturers (since our lecturers are on strike).
“As I speak, no fewer than 5,000 students are taking courses through this virtual system. Now, we are developing a policy in which every academic staff must take at least one course, virtually.”
Development amid crises
Na’Allah said despite the prolonged industrial action by ASUU, the university continued to function rendering necessary services to clients: “Our staff are still active, writing scholarly works, researching, collecting grants and winning awards. Within this year, this university received enormous national and international grants. Some of these grants through our academic staff run into millions of dollars.
“Moreover, we have been lucky to have support from TETFund, which gave us a grant of N5 billion. Part of it went into infrastructure, and more will go into changing the face of our university. We will soon start the construction of new Senate Building, International Conference Centre, and fencing to forestall reckless encroachment on our campus.”
He confessed the institution’s image has been affected by reports that students who graduated several years ago were unable to collect their certificates due to delays and hiccups in the production of certificates:
“Let me say that those years are gone. I am happy to say that we have cleared the backlog of uncollected certificates. We have finished producing, signing about 14,307 certificates for different programmes, degrees, diplomas, etc., from 1994 to 2019.
“So, if you have not collected your certificate, please, come to the university, you will find it ready for collection. There are perhaps only a couple left for us to complete and we are almost through with them.”
Centre for excellence
“Very recently, this university was chosen as Centre for Excellence in Governance and Leadership by TETFund. The fund gave us N1billion to develop the centre. By this, it means UNIABUJA now has one of the most important responsibilities in this country as Centre of Excellence.
“We consider this award as very apt, because there is a big problem of leadership in our nation. We shall mobilize the entire nation for responsive and quality leadership in all facets of life, political, science and medicine, culture, technology, etc. We are going to introduce different kinds of programmes that ensure that this country has the best leaders at all levels.”
Prof. Na’Allah expressed his belief in motivation of staff and giving them what they earned or what is due for them. This means promotion once due process has been followed in screening them, and they are due for such promotion.
“Over 160 staff of the university from various cadres have been recently promoted. Fifty-five of them are non-teaching staff, including three deputy registrars, two deputy bursars, two principal medical officers, three principal chief technologies and one deputy director.
“For the academic staff, some were promoted to the rank of professor, associate professor, senior lecturers and many from the bottom to the top. However, I would like to say that to whom much is given, much is expected, and so we are making sure that our staff are also made to give their best to the system. This is the era of accountability where everybody has to do what they are employed to do and very well too.”
New faculties, programmes
“We are setting up new faculties including Faculty of Communications and Pharmacy that will work very closely with our medical sciences. We want the medical, pharmaceutical sciences and health sciences to work together.
“Then we will have faculty of Environmental Science, where we have programmes such as architecture, survey, regional planning etc. Some of these faculties will start small, but will continue to expand.
“We are also looking at starting a programme in tourism and hospitality because we know that this new department of tourism hospitality will respond to the need of this country.
“Let me add that we are also starting agricultural engineering. Almost every aspect of our national lives depends on agriculture. Health care depends on agriculture not only because you have to eat to be strong but even the pharmaceutical industry need agriculture because some of the things that they need to make medicine come through agriculture.
“Our goal, therefore, is to create a kind of revolution in agriculture. The new Department of AgricultureEngineering is to work with industries to bring about a technological and mechanical revolution in agriculture. We also have the UNIABUJA Business School that is ready to create an impact in our nation.
“The business school is designed to train our students to a world class level. We are beginning to explore with the Ministry of Aviation in the development of aerospace and aeronautical engineering. This is the best university to offer aerospace engineering. You know why? The airport is right there in front of us and then we have enough land to do whatever we want to do. So, just be on a look out for the next one or two years by the Grace of God, aerospace, aeronautical and astronomical engineering would be here on campus. But the railway engineering is already here and we expect necessary approvals to take off.”
“Let the world know that this university has all its programmes accredited by NUC. If there is any programme that we really have issue with, it is Computer Science, and we are sure that we will resolve this very soon because we are working on that.
“We are investing and moving forward with energy. Whatever we are doing, we want the best so that in the foreseeable future this university will be something we, as a nation, will all be proud of.
“This university has had its own challenges. But today we are trying to change the narrative, and build a university that is of world class standard, and can stand the test of time.”