After a turbulent year of staff and student unrests, the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) and its Africa Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment (CEADESE) are now back on track and determined to make up for lost time, says the Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Ololade Enikuomehin.
Professor Enikuomehin gave the assurance when he received the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed, in his office, recently. The visit was in continuation of Professor Rasheed’s tour of all 10 Africa Centres of Excellence (ACEs) in the country. The Acting Vice Chancellor acknowledged the Executive Secretary’s role in restoring peace to the University saying, “this time last year, it was impossible to sit down in FUNAAB to do anything. Let me seize this opportunity to formally thank you for the constructive, positive and helpful role you played in getting the University back on track.”
Professor Rasheed said it was very sad and traumatic to see FUNAAB go through the crisis that threatened its existence, when conspiracy theorists took over. “Thank God that the University is back. Hope is rekindled and restored, thanks to the experienced and matured Pro Chancellor, who gave stability at the highest level”, he said.
The Executive Secretary had a word of advice for the University: “Problems do not disappear suddenly. You have to wage peace as you wage war and work hard at it. It is a big loss to Nigeria if this University is not allowed to attain its full potentials.” NUC, he said, would continue to support the University, even as he called on all to support the in-coming Vice Chancellor and continue to say the truth.
On CEADESE, Prof Rasheed discussed the observations made by previous Supervision teams, urging the Centre to ensure that research and publications are focused on the theme of the Project and that the communication gaps between the Faculty and students are closed.
In his team were the NUC Director of Corporate Communications, Ibrahim Usman Yakasai; ACE National Project Coordinator, Dr. Joshua Atah and Communications Officer, Mrs. Adebukola Olatunji.
The Centre Leader, Professor Okanlawon Onagbesan had, earlier expressed regret at the red tapism, bureaucracy and wide gap between CEADESE, and the University, which had taken their toll on the smooth running of the Centre.
In a related development, the students had also, earlier expressed concern over the unavailability of research facilities such as Green House and Biotechnological Laboratory, as well as the late release of funds and poor advocacy for the Centre.
This was the feedback from the interaction with them by a team from the World Bank, Association of African Universities (AAU) and the National Universities Commission (NUC) during its two-day supervision mission to the Centre, to among other things, gain first-hand information on the progress recorded by CEADESE in meeting the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the ACE project since the last supervision mission.
The students however commended the dedication of the lecturers, particularly the quality attention that they get from them as well as exposure to international internship placements and conferences.
The WB/AAU/NUC team comprised Professor Jonathan Mba (AAU); Professor Raphael Wahome (Agriculture expert); Dr. Carl Larsen (Agriculture expert); Professor Abubakar Dominic Akpa (agriculture expert); Mrs. Adebukola Olatunji (NUC); and Mr. Peter Tobrise (NUC).
Welcoming the team members, the acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Enikuomehin assured them of the university’s resolve to support the Centre, irrespective of the delays experienced in the past and also ensure prompt delivery of results.
Professor Onagbesan highlighted some of the achievements of the Centre to include the enrolment of regional students; establishing collaborations with partners and the constant interactions with other agriculture ACEs in Nigerian and in the region. He also put on record the prompt attention given the Centre and its activities by the Acting Vice Chancellor
The Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Officer, Professor Olukayode Akinyemi in his report, informed the delegation that 105 students had benefited from students’ internship since the inception of the ACE Project in 2015, with 42 internship locations spread across Nigeria and four other African countries.
More than 200 publications and articles have been published in world renowned journals, while there have been increased partnership locally, regionally and internationally.
Akinyemi added that 12 masters student had defended their projects, while 11 Masters and one PhD students were about to defend their projects and theses respectively. He stated that 71 staff benefited from capacity enhancement programme and more than 47 million naira had been generated externally.
Both the Executive Secretary and World Bank visits featured tours of the Centre’s facilities and an interaction with some of its national and regional students, to gain some insight into the impact of the ACE Project on their programmes, as well as challenges encountered.
Responding to the students’ comments, Professor Jonathan Mba of AAU informed them that some of the issues they raised would eventually be resolved and encouraged them to take advantage of the benefits of the ACE project and focus on making breakthroughs in their respective areas of specialisations.
The delegation commended the CEADESE team, saying that the
Centre has made remarkable progress since the last supervision mission and was gradually, yet steadily surmounting its challenges.
The team, however, expressed concern over the slow pace of the construction of a Green House and the Biotechnology Laboratory, considering that the Project had just about two years left. It, therefore, stressed the need for the Centre to speed up its activities.
Subject-matter Experts, Dr. Carl Larsen, right, with Prof. Raphael Wahome, interacting with students of CEADESE