Professor Luke Okechukwu Anike is a Professor of Geology, an accomplished researcher and administrator. He is the Vice Chancellor, Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT). He recently spoke with Sam Loco Smith on the university’s road map towards attaining global visibility, its rating as the number one state university, IGR and others.
ESUT is rated as the number one state university in the country and number 17 in the country in the recent webo-metric survey rating of universities. How do you feel about this?
Well, we are happy as a university for such rating. It is good to stay at the top. What we are trying to do is to maintain the feat for such recognition.
In view of the above, what is your roadmap towards ensuring that the momentum is sustained?
From the onset, I have promised that our university will take bold steps to ensure global visibility and excellent academic rating.
We have also tried to build best practices and skills so that students will be strengthened and be more confident to carry out whatever functions assigned to them. We have tried to build linkages and connections with institutions around the world and we will continue to build such linkages.
This morning, I will be signing an MOU with Anglo Ruskin University,United Kingdom for staff and students exchange programmes and for collaboration and research which is one of our principal actions. In addition to collaboration and linkages with other varsities and agencies and as a way of enriching and enlarging its coast in terms of academic content capacity building and internalization, the university has successfully signed MoU with a number of foreign collaborators in areas of staff and student exchange, curriculum development and other areas of mutual benefit. Some of these institutions include Dolphin University Ireland, which was attracted by our dear Governor, Right Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi when he visited UK and University of Wolverhampton, England. We believe that any university that focuses on this will be able to meet its goals and aspirations. Our emphasis is research, teaching and community services.
In your convocation address, you listed some challenges, what steps are being taken to find solutions to them?
As a university, we cannot say we have everything we need to achieve our goals, especially with regards to funds and materials. For instance, laboratory materials and other important features and structures that the university requires. However, in terms of funding, it is pertinent to mention that the government of Enugu State has shown deep interest in allowing the university to function by providing subventions regularly.
So, we get regular subventions from government and we are very happy with our governor who believes in education and achieving excellence and he has maintained that by showing great interest and releasing funds to us as at when due.
We are also grateful to the 17 local governments in the state under the umbrella of ALGON who regularly send subventions to the university though, like Oliver Twist, we will want some more to carry out other activities. We’ve now devised means of reaching out to our alumni and well-meaning individuals including philanthropists in Nigeria and elsewhere.
We also seek funds from international organizations like UNESCO. We submit proposals and sometimes we are lucky and get approvals. All these are sources of our funds.
As I mentioned particularly, one of our recent doctoral degree awardees, Prince Arthur Eze has voluntarily decided to invest the sum of N100 million annually for five years with an additional N50 million for illumination of the university. I think this is necessary to motivate other philanthropists and well-meaning persons to invest in education because the gains of such investments to the community and the nation are unquantifiable. Such funds will allow universities like ours to obtain some features and materials that are necessary for our smooth running. We still need to continue to work at this pace or increase the pace in order to achieve the goals for which the university was set up and set the pace for the development of our university.
I should also state at this point that the TETfund has assisted greatly in providing infrastructure within the university. In fact, some of the structures built by TETfund include lecture halls, laboratories and auditoriums. We are very grateful to TETfund and the Federal Ministry of Education through the NEEDS assessment implementation committee. We are also grateful to the Central Bank of Nigeria for providing us a central laboratory that is currently under construction.
We’re also obliged to the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) which has provided an ICT laboratory for the university.
We are also grateful to Innoson Group for providing us a General Studies complex. We can name other donors. Arthur Eze has also donated books to strengthen our library. We see these moves to support education as very essential and positive to the Nigerian university system.
We are also grateful to our Chancellor, Wakilin Adamawa who has also mobilized his friends in support of ESUT projects. It is important to note that we are on the permanent site of the university which requires development. We are one of the universities that have moved to their permanent sites in recent time and we are working hard to ensure that all our activities are concentrated within the permanent site of the university in order to maximize the use of the facilities. We look forward to other persons and corporate organizations, especially in the areas of housing so that we can accommodate our staff within the campus to boost mentoring and enhance their effectiveness and increase all campus activities that are required to enhance the development of students and staff.
What is your take on the university system and Nigeria’s socio-economic development?
The relationship is very close and important to ensure that there is a seamless relationship in this regard. The essence of the university is to proffer solutions to societal problems. That is why the cardinal objective of the university is community service. When problems arise, universities take them up as challenges and look at all the options using knowledge and skills to find solutions. So you cannot separate the university system from the society. They must work together. So, we want the government to challenge the universities by giving them more tasks specifically towards finding solutions to particular problems in the country both socially and economically. With the right funding and motivation, we will be able to provide sustainable solutions to some contemporary problems in the country.
What is your take on universities picking cut off marks
I believe it’s important that there is a statutory cut off mark so that every university will be operating at the same level. If you begin to establish different standards, then there will be a problem of acceptability and universities will begin to discriminate against students.
Considering the prevailing economic recession in the country, what are your plans for IGR to keep the institution afloat?
IGR is always there even though universities are not commercial ventures; they need to earn some money from their activities in order to support themselves. Even Federal universities charge fees.
The recession has had a very critical impact on universities because they are expensive to run and in a cash-strapped economy, it becomes more difficult to be able to get the proper and quality materials we require to carry out the critical functions needed to maintain standards. That is why I said that government should challenge the universities more by asking them to carry out specific tasks geared towards solving particular problems.
What is the relationship between management and the staff like?
The university management cherishes its lecturers and other staff. They’re very critical. We relate cordially with the unions and other interested members of the university. When you tell them the truth, everybody becomes aware of the situation on ground in the university. There is nothing to hide. We maintain seamless information flow between management and staff and we meet regularly.
How have you been able to handle the issue of regular payment of their salaries?
We believe that the worker should get what is due to him or her. As a result, we don’t toy with their emoluments. When we pay them, we can then ask them to do their work. If you do not pay them, you do not expect them to do their work. We make every legitimate effort to ensure that staff salaries are paid. As long as we have the resources to do that, we pay them and ensure that the staff re-dedicate themselves each month in carrying out their functions.
What steps have been taken to find solutions to challenges facing the University?
We reach out to individuals and corporate organizations and convince them to help us. In terms of electricity, Arthur Eze committed N50 million for that for instance.
What is your roadmap towards positioning ESUT to be what you want it to be?
We want ESUT to be globally competitive. We want ESUT to be a students’ delight . In that respect, we are ready and committed to hire the best staff and leadership for timely intervention in any crisis and disseminate information that will be valuable for staff and students and then organize them. We emphasise on research because we believe ESUT was established to provide research. We should be able to satiate this mandate through collaboration and linkages to solve contemporary problems.
The university has a congenial relationship with its immediate community. If any problem arises, we meet their leadership and explain to them. As a university, we cannot throw our borders open. We need to know who is in and out of the university to enhance our security. We will be interested and happy if anybody helps us to put a fence around the university so that the intrusion of any questionable persons around the university should not be a source of strife between the university and the community. The university is not fenced and we do have erosion encroachment around the university.
In the next four years, how do you want to see ESUT?
I would like to see an improved ESUT and a large number of our staff and students quartered within the university so that 24 hours everyday, we will have communal activities within the university. I want to see ESUT to be a full community of its own. A large proportion of our staff live off campus now.
Who is Prof. Anike?
I am myself. I believe in my ability and that there is God. I believe that we need to work with people and give them tasks as leaders. We need to commend them when they get good results. We need to chastise them when they have not done well but to encourage them. I believe in free flow of action so that at the end, you see the results you expect and use the results to move ahead.