March 4, 2021

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Zana Akpagu; This VC is 60 times Better

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The election and subsequent announcement of Professor Zana Akpagu as the 10th Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar was greeted with excitement by all and sundry especially alumni of the university. This excitement was predicated on the popularity of his candidacy and the fact that he was the first alumnus of Unical to rise to the position of Vice-Chancellor of the institution since its inception in 1975. Riding on the crest of this enthusiastic support and goodwill, Prof. Akpagu, hit the ground running from the very first day of his assumption of office. For him, the occasion was both an opportunity and a challenge. It was an opportunity because he had, in course of his career here, envisioned a Unical where excellence and passion would be the driving forces in all its affairs. Besides, he felt challenged as the first alumnus Vice-Chancellor to leave an enduring legacy that would, at the end of his tenure, stand Unical out as one of the five top universities in Nigeria and the best ten in Africa.  Although Prof. Zana Akpagu was under no illusion that the task at hand was a walk in the park, he appeared to have been adequately prepared for it judging from the master plan he had already developed.

In his first meeting with the current Governing Council of the University, Professor Akpagu presented his master plan which clearly indicated his passion and relentless drive to turn the fortunes of the university around in five years. He said on that occasion that his vision is “to work in partnership with Council to provide purposeful and pragmatic leadership that will catapult UNICAL into a 1st rate world class Institution”. In addition, he also disclosed that his mission will be “to transform UNICAL into an ICT-based Institution that is responsive to the needs of the 21st century Nigeria, with students that are skilled and creative entrepreneurs in an expanding economy like Nigeria”.

In an attempt to broaden the comprehension of his vision/mission, Prof Zana Akpagu went on to list specific things that he intended to accomplish in the course of his stay in office as follows:

Consolidation on the gains of the previous administration

  • Growing UNICAL into a high-end Knowledge generation, dissemination and distribution pool that will produce personnel that will add value and excellence to society.
  • Positioning of UNICAL as a foremost provider of International Standard Knowledge and Skills
  • Improvement of the University’s output in Teaching, Research and Community Service by infusing in students and staff a new enthusiasm and zeal towards academic excellence
  • Offering a manner of leadership that will lift UNICAL to a premier place of relevance by shoring up the image and relevance, academic visibility and web presence.
  • Pursue relentlessly Institutional effectiveness and operate a performance based University Management and governance system
  • Sustain excellence in teaching, learning and research by providing access to University’s programmes using technology-driven pedagogical techniques with relevant curriculum content or quality control.
  • Wage a committed battle against mediocrity, moral degradation, unethical practices, indiscipline and violations of rules and procedures
  • Production of educated graduates imbued with the spirit of enterprise, innovation and social service among many others

After presenting this attractive, juicy and hopeful document, the Vice Chancellor went on to deploy strategies that will make his dream come true. The first step was, of course, to assemble a crack team of dynamic, resourceful and passionate men and women that would drive the process of change as encapsulated in the master plan. Three years down the road, more than 95% of programmes and projects contained in the master plan have either been completed or have reached advanced stages of completion.

Academic Excellence

The drive of any purposeful administration in an academic setting is to excel academically as well as maintain a sound academic culture. As a first step, this administration has worked hard to ensure strict adherence to academic calendar, lecture schedules and reopening dates. Exams are held on schedule and results published promptly. This is a boost in an era of incessant strikes and demonstrations across several Institutions of higher learning.

Secondly, the administration created a Quality Assurance/ Control Unit and domiciled it under the Directorate of Research and Quality Assurance. The Unit has full inspectorate powers to ensure compliance with NUC benchmark minimum academic standards, encourage performance efficiency of lecturers and ensure general discipline among staff.  The Directorate has already swung into action by introducing a feed-back mechanism which requires students to rate their lecturers. This design is not intended to witch-hunt but to enable lecturers improve on their work ethics and teaching techniques. The Directorate has proceeded to introduce the use of world-wide parameters of best practices to carry out inter-departmental and faculty ranking. Quality assurance Ambassadors have also been appointed for faculties and departments to ensure compliance to global best practices by all staff involved in the teaching, learning, examination and evaluation process. It is believed that this laudable effort will ultimately assist the ranking and status of the institution.

Concerned by the low visibility of academic staff of the University and the lacklustre ranking status of the university among the comity of universities in Nigeria, Prof. Zana Akpagu, created a Senate Ranking and Visibility Committee to shore up the university’s ranking and visibility of its academic staff. The Committee has since its creation, organized sensitization workshops for in the faculties with a view to galvanizing the academic faculty to participate in the programme designed by the Committee to migrate staff from the analogue to the digital environment. So far, a lot has been achieved with almost 65% of academic and senior admin staff migrating successfully to the digital environment. Furthermore, the Committee has begun the process of enlightening academic faculty on the need for them to identify impact-factor journals in their specific areas of specialization to enable them to publish their journal articles there for optimum visibility.

Thirdly, strides made in the area of curricular expansion and establishment of new faculties, departments and courses can never go unnoticed. Within three years of coming into office, the Vice-Chancellor has created four additional faculties and several new departments and academic programmes. The new faculties are Dentistry, engineering and Technology, Pharmacy and Environmental Science. The new departments created are Fine and Applied Arts, Music, Mass Communication and Digital Media, Physiotherapy, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Architecture, Estate Management, Surveying, Criminology and Anti-corruption Studies. Carnival Studies has been introduced as a course in the department of Theatre, Film and Carnival Studies. The knowledge and experience that this course will impart to its learners will over time raise the Carnival Calabar to an unimaginable and enviable height.

The idea of a” Centre for Korean Studies “is in the process of being actualised. A memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has already been signed. This will cover areas of arts, culture and language studies. It will also involve exchange and training of lecturers and other sundry funding by the Korean government. The Centre is domiciled in the Professor Bassey Andah Institute for African and Asian Studies.  Furthermore, there is also a strong drive towards the commencement of Online Distance Learning Programme by this administration. A committee has been set up to work out modalities to drive the initiative. The committee has already started experimenting with some of the disciplines in the Social Sciences.

On linkages and Collaborations, the Prof Zana Akpagu led administration took a giant step by joining the U6 Consortium. The Consortium which was inaugurated in 2012 consist of six African universities. They include the University of Gambia, University of Science and Technology, Kenya, University of Eldoret Kenya, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, SA, University of Ilorin and Kwara University Malete. The Universities within the U6 Consortium accepted the University of Calabar into its fold to collaborate on joint activities such as facilitation and continuation of joint research, curriculum development, Collaborative seminars, workshops, Conferences as well as academic exchanges to further expose academic staff and students. During the period under review, the University also signed memoranda of understanding with three American universities namely, Bowling Green State University, Ohio, California State University, Bakersfield and the University of California, Los Angeles.

There has also been an increase in the tempo of academic activities in the institution during the period. Several lectures and conferences were held in this great citadel of learning. The faculty of Arts and Faculty of Social Sciences led the way by organising their faculty conferences. The college of Medical Sciences, arguably the busiest academic domain, had their fair share of both College and Faculty Lecture Series. The Faculty of Education, Faculty of Oceanography, IPPA, Institute of Education, Institute of Oceanography and Bassey Andah Institute for Asian and African Studies were also kept busy within the period with either organising a conference, workshop, colloquium or seminar. The Inaugural Lectures Series was sustained alongside the College of Medical Science Induction ceremonies for Doctors, Nurses and Radiographers.

One of the cheering news within this period was the elevation of the University to a Centre of Excellence (COE), Human Resources for Health Management Training. The Coordinator of the Centre is one of our amiable and resourceful academic, Professor Anthonia Andindu. It is worthy of note that of the eight Nigerian Universities designated as National Collaborating Centres for Education and Training in Health Planning and Management, the department of Public Health in UNICAL is the first to be elevated to a centre of Excellence. The Centre has been formally launched and commissioned for use. It is the first in Nigeria and the West African Sub region.

The culture of innovation is receiving serious attention under the administration of Prof. Zana Akpagu with the formation of an Innovators’ Club. This move is designed to stir creativity among staff and students in their various disciplines. Indeed, before the end of 2018, three staff of the institution were granted patent rights in their areas of research and invention.

All of these activities have culminated in the university achieving full accreditation for 95% of its programmes, a feat that has not been  recorded in the last three or more decades of its existence. In addition, University of Calabar topped one hundred other public and private universities in Nigeria, in a review of instruments for accreditation of programmes recently organized by the National Universities Commission, NUC. In addition, University of Calabar is currently ranked among the first 10 Nigerian universities in SCOPUS Research Publications (2008-2017).

ICT Development

The Prof. James Epoke administration will be remembered for establishing the ICT Directorate. However, the Zana Akpagu-led administration is bent on taking the ICT operations to the next level. The administration has upgraded the technologies and also increased web presence and visibility. The services of a network provider, JOPPATECH Solutions Ltd has been contracted to upgrade internet Access to a minimum of 300megabytes against the 200 that was previously contemplated. Over 90% of the work has been completed. What is left is the acquisition of the bandwidth and activation of the network. The completion of this phase will eliminate the problems of Internet access in the institution. It is hoped that in the early part of next year, this challenge aided by insufficient funds will be addressed.  In spite of this challenge, intensive training of students and staff on ICT is being carried out. The Directorate of Research & Quality Assurance and the Board of Media and Community Relations are currently working very hard to update university records in the website. Recently the Directorate of Research held an Open Access Week. The event was part of a global effort to encourage wider visibility of research work by students and staff. What the University intends to achieve is to open her storehouse of research works to the public which can be achieved through the internet. The ICT Unit recently concluded Training of 500 Students in collaboration with Microsoft/Mozilla under the auspices of all Nigerian United Nations Students and Youth Association (ANUNSA). It also approved a weekly training programme at the rate of 50 staff per week.

A brand new website has been developed and deployed by the ICT Directorate while work on building/upgrading of a database for repository Staff and Students records is ongoing.

The UniCal Front Office

One of the innovations of the Prof. Zana Akpagu-led administration was the creation of the UniCal Front Office, a one-stop clearing house for communication between the University and its significant publics. The office was created by the Board of Media and Community Relations in response to the hitherto utter lack of a means by which the public can relate directly with the institution. Prior to the setting up of this office all communication between the University and members of the public was routed either through the Vice-Chancellor or through the Registrar and given the busy schedules of these officers, it was practically impossible for there to be any meaningful feedback system. In fact, many alumni of the University lost job and admission opportunities just because they could not have their certificates verified within the timelines given by their would-be employers and institutions. All manner of inquiries about admission requirements, courses offered by the University and request for transcript usually met a virtual brick wall.

However, today, all of these cases are being handled on a daily basis by staff of the UniCal Front Office who have been so dedicated that they even take calls on their private lines outside official hours just to overcome the pressure. Indeed, there has been an avalanche of encomiums being poured on the Vice-Chancellor by callers who insist that it is only University of Calabar’s phone lines that work out of all the universities they have dealt with in Nigeria, including first generation universities. And in a dramatic reversal of circumstances, our alumni all over the world now have the process of their certificate verification and transcript application accelerated and concluded in the nick of time to prevent a situation where they used to lose appointments and admissions in the past. Statistics show that the office handles well over thirty (30) calls per day while, so far, more than 1000 cases have been successfully treated since inception of the office in 2017.

Students’ Welfare

Prof Zana Akpagu’s administration is one that is student oriented. The Vice Chancellor has repeatedly stated in every forum of the institution that his first, second and third priority is student. When this administration came on board, the state of our students’ hostels was appalling and pitiable. As an alumnus who lived in the hostel and could discern the difference between its current state and the past, Prof Akpagu was in a hurry to make things happen. Under the first three months, the current Vice Chancellor quickly moved to fumigate all the hostels and its environs, carried out landscaping around the hostels, tiled the bathrooms, re-piped some hostels, purchased and distributed cleaning materials, evacuated the sewage and desilting of soakaway and septic tanks. In addition, he ensured the delivery of 3,000 mattresses and 8 spring bunk bed to hostels and just last year commissioned a laundry bay to alleviate laundry challenges in the hostels. Through the office of the Dean of Student Affairs and the Board of Media and Community Relations, this administration is always in contact with the student leadership, working together to foster better understanding.

The network of roads leading into and out the famous Malabo Republic have been asphalted by the administration to enhance smooth vehicular movement in and out of the hostel complex.  Approval has also been given by the Vice-Chancellor for the release of funds to upgrade facilities at the Malabo Radio Station.

Sports

Though this administration is yet to organise any major sporting activity, efforts are being coordinated to ensure that existing facilities are standardized and upgraded. VAST, a company that specialises in building/providing sports facilities in Universities has presented a proposal to build 8-lane Tartan tracks at the Abraham Ordia Stadium. Management of the Institution has already entered into agreement with VAST to transform this initiative into reality. At the moment, work is going on at the lawn Tennis Court. The Court has been expanded from one to two with seating galleries. Work on the court has reached advanced stage. When these projects are concluded, UNICAL will undoubtedly become a host of major competitions across the country and the level of sporting involvement in athletics and lawn tennis will grow. Other achievements in the area of sports includes:

i). Flagging off of a keep-fit exercise programme for staff

ii). Introduction of the Vice-chancellor Football Club Competition

iii). Winning of Runners-up position at the maiden edition of Higher Institutions Football League (HIFL) Competition

iv). Attraction of external donations from the national Lottery Commission

v). revival of the Malabo World Cup (MAWOC)

vi). Excellent performance of UniCal in Debating Championships and establishment of the Nigerian Universities Debate Council Headquarters here.

Physical Facilities/Infrastructural Development:

The current administration like others in the past is determined and poised to improve the infrastructural landscape of the institution. At the moment, several constructions, rehabilitations and supplies are ongoing. The projects are mostly NEEDS ASSESMENT driven. The list includes the following:

  • Construction of 500-Seat twin lecture pavilion near faculty of Law Complex
  • Construction of 500-Seat Lecture Pavilion
  • Construction of Laboratory, Resource Room and Library for  Faculty of Dentistry
  • Construction of Department of Physics Workshop
  • Construction of Hatchery for Institute of Oceanography
  • Construction of Dance Studio for the Department of Theatre Arts
  • Construction of 120-Room Hostel Block for medical & Dentistry Students
  • Construction of 120-Room Hostel Block for Female Students
  • Construction of 120-Room Hostel Block for Male Students
  • Construction of an academic building opposite faculty of Management Sciences
  • Construction of academic building, incorporating science laboratory for the faculty of Education
  • Construction of Faculty office for the Faculty of Education
  • Construction of packaged water treatment plant and connection to the central water supply system
  • Construction of elevated water tank at the staff village
  • Construction of 2 lawn Tennis Courts with Seating Galleries
  • Construction of Classroom and offices for the Institute of Education
  • Construction of Offices and Classrooms for the Faculty of Science
  • Rehabilitation of Plumbing and Electrical Systems in both Female and Male Hostels (Halls 4,8, and 9)
  • Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Pavilions 1 and 11 (Phases 1&11)
  • Rehabilitation of Faculty of Social Science Lecture block
  • Rehabilitation of work-tops in some Laboratories in the College of Medical Sciences, Faculties of Science and Agriculture
  • Rehabilitations of Pavilions I,D,E,F and Atiku Abubakar Lecture Theatre
  • Supply of 2000 lecture Theatre Seats with Swivel Writing Pads
  • Supply of Library Books to Faculties
  • Supply of Computers and Peripherals to Faculties
  • Central Gas Supply to the Faculty of Science
  • Supply of Teaching and Research Equipment to Faculties
  • Supply of 500-8 Spring Double Bunk Beds with 3000-8 Spring Mattresses
  • Rehabilitation/reconstruction of the abandoned Students’ Cafeteria and allocation of same to the Departments of Mass Communication and Digital Media, Music and Fine and Applied Arts.
  • Asphalting of access road leading in and out of Malabo Republic.
  • Construction of an access road linking Malabo Republic with the ring road
  • Construction of Dental Laboratory and provision of world class equipment including Phantom Heads.
  • Conversion of the Institute of Education Building to Faculty of Law E-Library and equipping same with work stations.
  • Work has begun on the Ultra-modern Medical Centre

Work is progressing steadily on all on-going projects. When these projects are fully completed, the University will not be the same. There will be massive transformation.

Ethical Warfare

Mediocrity, moral degradation, indiscipline, violation of rules and procedures and unethical practices are obvious deviant practices that the Prof Zana Akpagu administration is committed to waging an endless and relentless war against. As a first step in this direction, a successful Personnel Audit was conducted in response to suspicious happenings in the system. The event which was anchored by the Audit Unit of the Institution has now resulted in the following:

  • Elimination of ghost workers from the University Payroll
  • Discovery and stoppage of emoluments of Staff who received salaries from two employments
  • Production of up-to-date staff list which has enabled Management to regain control of its nominal roll.
  • Prompt prepayment audit and delivery of Capital Project Verification report
  • Audit of Students’ fee account of the University which has not been done for a long time now.

Secondly, another domain where the warfare against unethical practices has been fought is in the examinations conduct zone. Through the report of the Senate Examination Misconduct Committee, various examinations offences were reported and also punished during this period.  Punishments meted out ranged from suspension to expulsion. This zero tolerance stance of management towards academic dishonesty and all manner of fraud has been widely applauded by the University Community.

Sound Alumni Relations

The relationship between this administration and the UNICAL Alumni body has been very cordial, harmonious, peaceful interactive. The relationship has undoubtedly been robust.  At the 29th Convocation but the first in the life span of this administration, the Alumni executive participated fully in the event and even decorated the awardees with a muffler. As a mark of solidarity, the Alumni body paid separate visits to their own now holding key positions in the country. The first visit was to the Governor of Abia State, His Excellency, Dr Victor Okezie Ikpeazu and the other was to Senator John Owan Enoh representing the central Senatorial District in the Senate. These visits were meant to solidify the relationship between the Institution and the alumni. Through the office of the Alumni Relations Officer, the UNICAL Alumni Association in conjunction with Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN) is contemplating a Medical Outreach to the University Community. For the association, it is one way of giving back to their alma mater. It will be recalled that the College of Medical Sciences received books worth over 3000 US Dollars from one of its alumnus, Dr Uche Obisike, a US based Physician. More of this will be coming in the years to come.

In order to give a boost to activities of the Alumni, the Vice-Chancellor elevated the Alumni Relations Office to a Directorate and appointed a seasoned administrator and consultant…… Prof. Emmanuel Ekanem as Director of Alumni Affairs. The immediate impact of this policy change was the successful organization of elections which saw Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, a renowned scholar and two-time vice-Chancellor, emerge as the National President of the University of Calabar Alumni Association.

Improved Security on Campus

Security of human lives and properties is one of the cardinal aims of this administration. The Vice Chancellor is conscious of this huge responsibility hence his prompt response to security concerns. Ever since the unfortunate kidnap scare which involved the families of top administrative officers, Associate Professors and Professors, adequate security measures have been put in place to checkmate further incursion. The measures already adopted include the following:

  • Erection of a Police Station at the area of the quarters where the kidnap took place
  • Erection of security post at the Esuk Atu end of the beach
  • Ejection of Squatters and demolition of squatter camps by the beach
  • Erection of solar light poles along the vulnerable axis of staff quarters
  • 24-hour patrol and surveillance of the quarters and the institution by the University Security staff and external security agencies.
  • Clearing of thick bushes and farms around the quarters.
  • Approval to build a naval post and Jetty along the bank of the Great Qua River to block the escape route of kidnappers and armed bandits.
  • Erection of security posts at new Faculties and Departments
  • Provision of necessary security equipment such as machetes, torch lights, rain coats, new sets of uniforms, three (3) serviceable patrol vehicles mounted with relevant gadgets and accessories
  • Regular promotion of staff that fall due and promotion of staff who exhibit extraordinary gallantry in the execution of their duties.

These modest efforts have helped to create an atmosphere of peace, security and tranquillity on the campus. Incidents of kidnapping and armed robbery have disappeared completely while cult groups have been decimated.

Relationship with Host Communities

When Prof Zana Akpagu mounted the saddle as Vice Chancellor, a huge area of neglect that needed attention in his judgment is the relationship between the Institution and its Host Communities. Prof Zana had pledged to increase the tempo of engagement with the Host Communities. This consideration prompted him to set up two committees. The first is the University Land Assets Committee while the other is the Board of Media and Community Relations. The former’s task is to identify, ascertain, document and evaluate all landed assets and properties of the University. While the latter has been saddled with the responsibility among others of ensuring that the relationship with the host communities improves. Already, discussions are ongoing with one of our Host Communities over a few contentious issues. It is believed that soon the burning issues will be addressed and impediments to a sound relationship removed. This administration has so far met most needs of the host communities in the area of admissions and employment. This robust and lively relationship with host communities moved the Qua Nation to confer the title of Ntufam on Prof. Zana Akpagu in appreciation.

Illegal intrusion into and encroachment on University land which was fast becoming a menace has been checked. For the first time the University of Calabar administration has been courageous enough to erect a massive block wall to fend off the intruders.

Campus Beautification

Improving the aesthetics of the institution’s landscape is a major pursuit of the Prof Zana Akpagu led administration.   Passion for branding began in earnest with a Vice Chancellor who wanted to see a distinctive environment. He was and is still concerned with the facial outlook or façade of the institution. Hence serious work began at the premises of the University. The landscaping exercise has added value to the aesthetics of the environment. That is a plus to an administration that wants to see beauty in everything.  Meanwhile, all critical buildings in the institution have been painted with the peculiar colour of Cream and Red oxide. These significant colours have continued to attract the fancy of those visiting the institution as well as staff and students of the great citadel of learning. By the use of the selected colours, the Prof Zana Akpagu-led administration is reminding all that Unical still remains one of the choicest universities in the country. With the ongoing programme of planting flowers and ornamental trees, the academic landscape can never remain the same. A refreshingly green learning environment is in the making. Nature is already forming a pleasant and idyllic relationship with the academic environment in the institution.

What has also aided the beautification effort of this administration is the deliberate instilling of order. Steps taken to achieve this include clearing of petty traders from academic zones, continuous demarcation and enforcement of parking spaces across faculties, regulation of mobile businesses and vending activities on campus, stoppage of illegal business operators on campus and the enforcement of a regulated, coordinated and orderly transport system in both operations and service payment.

The most commendable action of this administration which was applauded by the University Community in its drive towards order was the demolition of ramshackle rented shops that were illegally erected close to the former office of the Dean of Faculty of Science by one of the unions on campus. These shops which were sandwiched between lecture theatres and classrooms apart from constituting noise pollution and smearing the academic ambience had in the past contributed to accreditation failure of vital programmes.

Funding

Funding holds the key in the administration of any organization. Institutions of Higher learning are not left out. When the funds are not available or grossly inadequate, the best of dreams and programmes will be left in the doldrums or simply put, it will not be realised. The things that this administration intends to achieve are enormous. Without sufficient funds, it will not be possible. The Prof Zana Akpagu led administration in the face of dwindling resources has proceeded to first establish an IGR Enhancement Committee. This Committee which has a former Executive Chairman, of CRS Internal Revenue, Dr Peter Oti as alternate Chairman is expected to properly manage and control all revenue generating units to ensure efficiency in revenue and collection.

Another fund raising initiative is the development of New Palm Plantation on Undeveloped University Land.  The faculty of Agriculture has already submitted proposals for the establishment of a 10ha oil palm plantation of high yielding Malaysian species. This is another measure designed to improve IGR. Closely related to this initiative is the design of the faculty of Agriculture through the office of the Dean to rehabilitate and set up the abandoned palm oil mill to utilize fruits from the existing but abandoned plantation. This again when realise will slightly raise the funds profile of the institution.

The idea of a UNICAL Commercial/Demonstration Farm is also receiving attention.  The new Farm Manager of the institution has proposed to begin a farm model after the type currently run by Songhai farms with promise of gradual expansion as the project thrives. Projects of this magnitude will be a big boost in the fight to increase the internally generated revenue profile of the institution.

The establishment of Friends of Malabo/Alumni Trust Fund is another initiative aimed at raising funds towards the development of the institution. A current account has been opened with Zenith bank PLC to this effect. The account has been placed on the website. In addition, a special platform is to be established in the Alumni Relations Office where contributions would be paid to assist in developing UNICAL especially in the establishment of Engineering Faculty.  All alumnus of the institution at home and abroad are expected to key into this laudable project which will help UNICAL move forward.

The   Management of the institution recently set up a directorate known as UNICAL Commercial Ventures. The establishment of this directorate emanate from the passionate desire of the Zana Akpagu led administration to establish a Bakery, Mega Filing Station, building of commercial hostels and Bookshop geared towards creation of wealth for the institution. The UNICAL Commercial Ventures will be better positioned to harness all the efforts intensified in this direction and become a parent agency for the smooth running of these different firms to be set up.

Unical Table Water has been reinvigorated with the acquisition of a Sanitizing Machine and Bottle Blower as well as ensuring that all the equipment for producing water have been serviced, recharged and in some cases changed. Furthermore, a Director, Rev. Fr. Julius Ada, has been appointed to oversee the affairs of Unical Table Water.

Under the watch of the 10th Vice-Chancellor, the Entrepreneurial Development Centre, EDC, has recorded some ground-breaking achievements such as:

  • Stimulation of entrepreneurship consciousness among students in the University of Calabar in practical skills to manage Small and Medium Scale Enterprises.
  • Enriching and nurturing of undergraduate and practitioners with the knowledge of wealth creation using global best entrepreneurial practices.
  • Redirection of youths’ orientation towards creativity and innovation.
  • The Entrepreneurial Training Centre is today, one of the best in structure, equipment and capacity nationwide.
  • Training and retraining of venture operators for effective and efficient service delivery.
  • Introduction of the following skills acquisition ventures: Baking, Barbing, Computer Repairs, Cosmetology, Driving, Fashion and Design, Aquaculture, Food and Nutrition, Paint Production and Painting, Satellite Dish Installations, Food wear production, Video Coverage, Photography, Masonry, Welding and Fabrication.
  • All skill acquisitions available at the Centre are research-oriented in adherence to global best practices.

The UniCal Printing Press has been rebranded, re-equipped and placed under a dynamic management team that has introduced innovations which have repositioned it for better service delivery. One of the critical steps taken by the new management is the certification of the Printing Press as a Publishing house by the Nigerian Publishers’ Association. Also, a flagship product of the Publishing House, UniCal Paper, has been rolled out to cater to the needs for quality printing paper by the University community.

Challenges

Funding Gaps

Right from its inception in December 2015, the most daunting challenge this administration has had to grapple with is the crippling funding shortfalls or gaps, especially in the area of overheads and capital budget. Although this has, no doubt, been a recurring problem facing all government establishments, the situation was exacerbated by the introduction of the Treasury Single Account TSA, Policy of the Federal Government. The immediate result of this policy is the inability of universities as federal institutions to retain within their coffers any meaningful revenue generated such as school charges, etc, as all revenues are to be paid into the Treasury Single Account of the federal government. This policy has immensely hampered the implementation of some signature projects of the administration such as the Ultra-Modern Medical Centre, the definitive Senate Building among others.

Inadequate Electric Power Supply

Another major challenge facing the current administration is inadequate electric power supply. In spite of the millions spent monthly on electricity bills, management has continued to run its diesel generators on a daily basis in a bid to provide constant light on campus. While management spends more than N500m every year on provision of power and only a paltry N50m is released to the University to cover that sub head. Fortunately, the administration has embarked on the establishment of a 10-Megawwatt Solar Energy plant by leveraging on the Nigerian/German Energy Programme. It is hoped that when this plant becomes operational, the problem of inadequate electric power supply will be solved once and for all.

Lack of Stable Internet Access

The provision of stable Internet access for the entire campus is one intractable problem that has defied virtually all solutions. To date, more than N200m has been spent on acquisition and installation of Internet facilities on campus, yet it has not been possible to achieve full coverage of the University. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, recently installed internet facilities in the University geared towards providing stable internet access for the community.

Digitization

The lack of internet access has frustrated the desire of this administration to digitize its operations. One of the visions of the administration of Prof. Zana Akpagu was to convert all documents from the current analogue to digital format by creating a local area network where the database of the University will be domiciled. In addition, he had planned to introduce digital classrooms in all the lecture halls as a means of migrating the University to the digital age. Unfortunately, without stable Internet access, it has, so far, proved to be an impossible task.

Infrastructure Deficit

Although the administration of the current Vice-Chancellor has made enormous progress in developing infrastructure as evidenced by the various projects embarked upon since he came into office, there is still a lot to be done to bridge the infrastructure gap. The areas most affected are hostel accommodation, staff quarters, lecture halls/classrooms and office accommodation for both academic and non-teaching staff. In fact, most departments are still sharing accommodation while some faculties are yet to have their definitive buildings.

Fraud in the System

The hydra-headed problem of fraud which has defied attempts to rein it in by previous administrations, bared its fangs during the period under review. All sorts of fraudulent activities have been perpetrated by both academic and admin staff, with utter impunity. Some of these are issuance of fake certificates, admission and employment racketeering, sorting and outright change of scores by dubious students and staff. To tackle these infractions, administration has introduced several measures such as strengthening of exam administration committee, establishment of Quality Assurance Directorate/appointment of Quality Assurance Ambassadors, inauguration of the Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit and regular prosecution of staff found culpable. Other measures included:

  • Elimination of ghost workers from the University Payroll
  • Discovery and stoppage of emoluments of Staff who received salaries from two employments
  • Production of up-to-date staff list which has enabled Management to regain control of its nominal roll.
  • Prompt prepayment audit and delivery of Capital Project Verification report
  • Audit of Students’ fee account of the University which has not been done for a long time now.

Prospects

In spite of the gloomy picture painted above, there is definitely a silver lining in the horizon. The administration is doing everything within available resources to address the infrastructure deficit. Several hostels, lecture halls, faculty buildings and other buildings to cater for staff office accommodation are being constructed. Some of them, like the Faculty of Education admin block, classrooms and office accommodation for professors, Faculty of Arts Complex Annex that houses the departments of Fine and Applied Arts, Mass Communication and Digital Media and Music, Graduate School hostel, among others, have already been commissioned and occupied. All these are being facilitated by intervention from Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFUND, Presidential Needs Assessment programme and internally generated revenue.

With the installation of internet facilities donated by Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, the issues surrounding stable internet access and digitization of documents of the University will, hopefully, be taken care of in the not too distant future.

The steps administration has, so far, taken to combat fraud in the system are beginning to yield results. A number of staff have been found culpable by the Staff Disciplinary Committee and have been recommended for dismissal. In June, 2019, the Directorates of Research/Quality Assurance and Teaching and Learning Excellence organized a one-day workshop on combating fraud in the University for Deans, Directors, Heads of Departments, Heads of Units, Senior Admin staff and professors. It is expected that the knowledge gained from this and other programmes that will be mounted in future will help in reining in the hydra-headed monsters of financial, administrative and academic frauds in the system.

Cult groups on campus are being decimated while cases of armed robbery and kidnapping have, by and large, been eliminated. Strenuous efforts are being made to ensure that the peace and tranquillity that has permeated all nooks and crannies of the University campus will be sustained and built upon.

Conclusion

Although three years is a short period to assess an administration that is expected to last for five years, the Prof Akpagu-led team has been able to deliver in most critical areas as evidenced in this piece. This calls for commendation, encouragement and support that will enable the team do more in the years to come.  It is on this note that we close this piece with the words of Albert Einstein who said “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we had when we created them.“ As a community of sound, resourceful and intellectual people, we should welcome the quality of leadership that this administration has introduced and appreciate the unique dimension adopted towards making things better.

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