The University of Calabar last weekend rolled out the drums to mark its 31st convocation during which 11,807 graduands were awarded various degrees and Diploma certificates. Honorary doctorate degrees were awarded to three distinguished Nigerians, one of them post humously.
Visitor to the University, President Muhammadu Buhari who was represented by Joel Ojo on the convocation day, Saturday 12 May, said the wealth of this nation was in the hands of the youths who were willing to go into businesses, explore opportunities and go into enterprises that are noble and viable.
The president said “there is enduring need to produce manpower that will drive our national development, manpower that is not only employable but that is globally competitive. We are glad to know that your university has introduced viable programmes that will meet the needs of our society. It is apparent that the means of funding the universities and other sectors of the economy is a major challenge of government. There is, therefore, there is need for universities to explore avenues to improve their internally generated revenue. Furthermore, management of universities must be prudent and transparent in their dealings.
“Their commitment and perseverance over the years brought about the pleasant result which we celebrate today. I appreciate the distinguished honorees for their huge contributions to the development of our society. I congratulate the honorees for duly earning the honour being bestowed on them at this ceremony.”
In her speech at the event, Senator Nkechi Nwaogu, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of the university, congratulated the honorary doctorate degree awardees and acknowledged their individual and collective contributions to the political and economic development of the nation.
According to her, “in spite of my very short time in my position as the pro-chancellor, I have found in the University of Calabar heart-warming prospects of an institution that is desirous to lead in the fulfilment of the social expectations of our universities. I acknowledge and commend the Vice Chancellor for his seasoned administrative capacity. This is made manifest in his discernible strategic and innovative leadership which have earned the University of Calabar remarkable recognition and visibility, locally and internationally.”
She promised to provide innovative leadership from the platform of council, work closely with academic and non-academic staff and students of the university to drive the vision and programmes designed for the development of the institution of higher learning.
In his welcome address, Akpagu announced that 42 graduands bagged first class degree, while 1,940 bagged Second Class (Upper Division). He also said 4,860 graduated with Second Class (Lower Division) and a total of 1005 graduated with Third Class, while 110 had Pass degree.
Prof Akpagu further broke down the number of graduands as follows: 1,624 were awarded diplomas by the university's institutes, while 2,226 obtained post graduate degrees such as PhD (282), Masters (1,480), and PDG 464.
He said 37 projects were ongoing and reeled out some of the completed projects that were commissioned as part of the convocation activities. These include the parking lot named after Hogan Bassey and the Faculty of Engineering and Technology Lecture Theatre facilitated by Senator Godswill Akpbio and Sir (Dr) Daniel Chukwudozie of Dozie Oil & Gas as well as the Faculty of Law e-Librarry.
He thanked Chief Daniel Chukwudozie for donating N35 million for the roofing of the Engineering block which the philanthropist named after his mother, Lady Hannah Dozie Faculty of Engineering Complex.
The vice chancellor called on well-meaning Nigerians to emulate Akpabio who is an alumnus of the institution, Chief Chukwudozie, Ndoma-Egba, and others who have contributed greatly to the development of the university.
Akpabio, former Akwa Ibom state governor, was commended for donating the seed money for the Lecture Theatre, while Senator Ndoma-Egba as Senate leader sponsored and attracted Law Faculty, named after him, to the university as his constituency project. It encompasses female hostel for law students.
The university has been weighed down by huge energy bills. Akpagu revealed that while the budgetary provision for energy per year was N46m, the institution spent approximately N600m yearly on electricity alone. Consequently it is establishing a 10 KVA solar power plant.
“In the area of research and development, we are collaborating with the Cross River State Pharmaceutical Company, CALAPHARM, to set up a project for the cultivation of Artemisia Annua, a plant used for the development of malaria drugs. We are also working towards the establishment of Institute of Security and Anti-Terrorism Studies to be domiciled in the Department of Political Science,” he added.
According to him, the University of Calabar is among the three universities in Nigeria that belong to the U6 Consortium and has strong influence in the organization whose membership cuts across notable universities in Africa.
He said “our desire is to a build a world class university,” and the aim ultimately is to elevate its ranking to the first 1000 in the world and 20 in Africa.
Under Akpagu's watch , the university in conjunction with ICPC, have introduced courses on anti-corruption into the General Studies curriculum and made them compulsory for all students. It is the first of its kind in Nigeria and Africa.
The university has equally established an Innovators' and Entrepreneurs' Club “to encourage and enthrone the start-up culture of innovativeness as the way forward for Nigeria's development.”
As part of its recent achievements, students of the ivory tower outclassed their peers at the recently concluded 5th All-Nigeria Universities Debating Championship hosted by the University of Port Harcourt. The University of Calabar clinched the first and second positions and overall best and second best speakers at the event.
The vice chancellor also mentioned the award of scholarships to 47 of the students by the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria, which was presented to the students by the Ambassador, Dr. Zhou Pingjian, the accreditation of 22 of its courses, 17 of them fully accredited, the beautification of the institution among other achievements.
He, however, lamented that financial constraints arising from the demands of running a 21st Century University were hampering its efforts to achieve more, and called on well-meaning individuals, corporate partners, the Federal Government and alumni to come to the aid of the institution to build an ultra-modern Medical Centre, Faculty of Pharmacy Building and equip studios of the Department of Mass Communication and Digital Media, among other projects.
During the convocation, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, chairman of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was conferred with Honorary Doctorate Degree of Laws as well as the Emir of Borgu, Alhaji Muhammad Sani Haliru Dantoro, Kitoro IV, who bagged Honorary Doctorate Degree in Business Administration.
A post humous honorary doctorate degree in Business Administration was conferred on the late Chief Michael Archibong for donating a building to the institution which is being used as hostel for medical students.
Responding on behalf of the awardees, Senator Ndoma-Egba called for adequate funding of education so that scholars could be well trained to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.
He promised that all NDDC projects in the university would be completed.
Ndoma-Egba lamented that funding constraints had hindered education in Nigeria, stating that many public universities were in various stages of decay on account of poor funding. He observed that funding of universities had consistently fallen short of the 26 per cent of the total national budget recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO.
He regretted that between 2003 and 2014, education funding had fluctuated between 8.2 per cent and10 per cent, a situation he described as dissatisfactory. He said that as we move into the future, education must be visionary and innovative. “We must not just fund education. It must be funded adequately as it remains the bedrock of our future,” he declared.
He noted that between 1980 and 2017, the number of recognised universities in the country grew from 16 to 152, adding that “for the first part of the growth, higher education capacity building was primarily in the public sector, driven by federal and state governments. By late 1990s, the Federal Government had liberalised and encouraged the setting up of private universities. This resulted in a dramatic growth in the number of private universities.”
“As at 2017, private universities constituted about 45 per cent of all Nigerian universities, growing from three in 1999 to 68 in 2007. About two-thirds of these private universities were affiliated to religious organisations.”
The NDDC chairman assured the authorities of UNICAL that the three beneficiaries of the honorary doctorate degrees would continue to contribute to the growth and development of the university to ensure that it was able to prepare its students for the future.
He also pledged to step up his sponsorship of the faculty of law building in the university, declaring: “It will be completed, furnished and provided with a state-of-the-art E-library.