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FUTO VC gives one year account in office
From Chidi Nnadi, Enugu
On that Monday morning, the weather was showing signs of the season – a rainy day. But the gloomy weather condition could not deter members of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) from converging on the Hall of Excellence where the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Francis Chukwuemeka Eze was billed to address the 24th General Assembly to mark the one year of his administration.
The hall was filled to the brim with members of the Governing Council, deans, heads of department, other members of staff and the students, who were beaming with smiles.
Indeed, when in June last year, he was elected the seventh substantive vice chancellor, he had a clear vision on how to lead the institution, haven served in the last administration as deputy vice chancellor, administration.
And in the spirit of continuity, he pledged to adopt the mantra of the previous administration, which was ‘the quest for excellence’ with a slight modification, ‘to drive the culture of excellence.’
The celebration had begun on Sunday June 18, with a thanksgiving Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Chaplaincy, where the vice chancellor, members of the FUTO community and well-wishers gathered to give glory to God. On Monday June 19, as he delivered his address, his audience listened with rapt attention, cheering as he marshaled out the numerous achievements recorded in the last one year.
Eze had told his audience that recession or no recession, his administration worked hard to deliver on its mandate.
He told the crowd that he had ensured FUTO members of staff received 100 per cent of their salaries every month unlike most federal institutions that are now paying 70 per cent as a result of shortfall from subvention from the Federal Government.
According to Eze, FUTO was also hit by the shortfall, but they have looked inwards to augment whatever they received.
Also the astute administrator is looking beyond FUTO to see how his institution could contribute to battle recession in the country.
He, therefore, disclosed that they have developed a “definite mission to operate practical and result-oriented programmes and trainings geared towards transforming the nation’s economy from consumer-oriented to production-oriented, with a sound technological base.”
As his audience applauded his modest achievements, Eze announced that FUTO has remained a renowned and enviable brand name, pointing out that the latest Webometric ranking still placed it as one of the 10 best universities in the country, assuring that they would continue to lift the standards higher, as well as ensuring quality teaching, learning and research in the institution.
He also said that in the last one year, the university achieved full accreditation for 11 of its programmes and interim for two others, just as it has begun the Joint University Preliminary Examination Board (JUPEB) programme, a remedial programme jointly organised by over 50 affiliate universities in the country, in the 2016/2017 academic year.
On staff welfare, the VC had ensured that staff promotions were released as at and when due.
“For the period under review, six professors, eight readers, 25 senior lecturers, 27 lecturers I, 20 lecturers II, four senior librarians and two librarian 1, have been promoted. Similarly, 12 senior non-teaching staff were promoted to CONTISS 14 while so many administrative, professional, technical, secretarial, executive and junior staff have been promoted accordingly,” he said.
He noted that the efforts were intended to reward loyalty, hard work, as well as raise staff morale and improve productivity.
“It is expected that staff should reciprocate these kind gestures by maintaining professionalism and commitment to duty,” he said.
The vice chancellor also said that in capacity building and staff development, a number of members of staff have been sponsored to attend conferences, workshops, symposia, as well as pursue further studies to keep abreast with modern trends and development. He disclosed that the Senior Staff Training Committee at its 35th meeting held on October 18, last year approved study fellowships for members of staff with 21 in Ph.D category and 15 in M.Sc level.
In order to make life easier for the members of the university community and raise the security bar, Eze introduced the campus shuttle and commenced the building of a motor-park.
“The menace of commercial motorcycle operators on campus has been an eye-sore in the university coupled with the security challenges posed by their presence. Efforts in the past to restrict their activities have not been successful. I am glad to report that we have successfully stopped commercial motorcycle operation on campus and subsequently introduced a campus shuttle. A new FUTO motor park is being constructed at the entrance of the main gate and we hope to standardize the campus shuttle and make it more efficient.
“Over the years, the challenge of securing the borders of the university has been enormous due to the porous nature of our campus environment with conspicuous illegal routes. However, this administration is poised towards improving the security situation on campus. We have commenced the creation of concrete barricades at various unapproved routes into the university. Gates have been constructed for mounting at exit routes at Eziobodo and Ihiagwa axis to secure our environment and limit movement on campus, while pursuing funding for perimeter fencing of the entire campus.
“We have procured some modern security gadgets for strengthening our security unit to ensure improved security of lives and property. I believe these measures have started yielding positive results with less theft on campus and we hope to further consolidate on these gains,” he said.
He also promised that his administration would continue to ensure a more conducive and comfortable learning environment for the students and their faculties.
“Water supply and improved electricity supply most especially to the hostels would be stepped-up for the comfort of our students. Our laboratories would continue to receive urgent attention as efforts would be geared towards the refurbishment and acquisition of new equipment to enhance teaching and learning. Management has equally adopted an open-door policy that allows constant interaction and dialogue between management and the Students Union Government executives. I recently launched a Twitter handle to have constant interaction with our students and thus guard against misinformation on social media.
“Let me use this medium to appeal to members of staff to desist from extortion of our students. The Friday, February 17, 2017 violent demonstration on campus was partly caused by collection of illegal fees by some staff members. The University Senate has approved fees schedules which departmental boards are expected to adhere strictly and stop the unnecessary extortion.
“The issue of course registration with outrageous amount and selling of textbooks are not allowed in the university and staff that indulge in such acts are admonished to desist from same forthwith. Already, a management committee is considering the alleged cases of extortion and its recommendations would be implemented to the letter,” he said.
Done with the state of the university address, Prof. Eze returned to the conference room with the principal officers where he fielded questions from the journalists.
He explained that his mantra, to drive the culture of excellence was intended to deepen the quest for excellence by ensuring that excellence permeates every facet of the university in the areas of research, quality assurance, conducive environment for teaching and learning, saying that their type of researches must be of relevance to society.
He also said: “ICT is a key area we must improve, we must expand the facilities of ICT because we needed to put up fibre optic cables as opposed to the microwave that we have because without it you cannot carry larger bandwidth” adding that this was in a bid to improve on their e-learning platforms.
Eze insisted that they must also develop agriculture as business, as well as revolutionise their technology base, saying that the machines they have been using over the years needed to be changed to modern ones.
According to him, FUTO has the capacity to go into commercial farming though they are a university of technology.
“So, we have a model of what a commercial farm should be like, because looking at FUTO, this is a university of technology, we can run processing plants, we can run commercial agriculture, we can put a processing plant for cassava. We have Otamiri River, we will do fishery. These are things that will boost our revenue base. In the research we are doing, we want tactical research not theory. If we succeed with the energy thing we are planning then we should be able to use animal waste to run some of these machines.
“So, it has been a wonderful experience this past one year and I must thank God for my principal officers. They are all united in this cause. I want to thank my wife also because she is an agricultural expert. She was a director in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and I said come here and replicate your experience so that we can also have an added result. I have directors and deans, I listen to them, they have bright ideas and we run an open-door policy. They bring ideas, we fine-tune and implement. It has been a wonderful year. I believe we have laid the foundation this first year. I believe that this second year, we shall do more,” he said.