Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia has appealed to the federal government to increase its allocation to federal universities of agriculture in the country.
Ikpeazu made the call on Saturday at the eighth convocation and silver jubilee celebration of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), near Umuahia.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari “for refocusing on agriculture as a way of finding ourselves out of the economic duldrome in Nigeria.”
He described the decision to revive the nation’s agricultural sector as lofty but noted that it ought to have come earlier.
He further spoke on the federal government’s directive to critical federal tertiary institutions, including MOUAU, to revert to their core mandate.
“As Abia citizens, our desire would have been for this university to continue to train our children in different areas of academics, irrespective of their inclinations."
“This is because we do not have any other federal institution that can fill the gap except this great institution,” the governor said.
He further said that the global challenges of survival faced by graduates of such institutions would require the dynamics of training in all fields of human endeavor in a comprehensive curriculum, to enable them to perform better.
He said that Nigeria should emulate other world-renowned universities, established for specific disciplines but also taught courses that were ancillary to their core mandate and helped to produce all-around graduates.
According to him, “You cannot be a proper graduate if you do not know a bit of everything.”
Okezie commended federal government’s “extra attention to agriculture.”
He, however, said that the efforts would amount to lip service if they were not marched with proper funding of the universities of agriculture.
He expressed the hope that agriculture would be made a serious business, capable of producing millionaires, to be able to attract Nigerian youths.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, restated Federal Government’s commitment to transform agriculture and make it the mainstay of the nation’s economy.
Ogbe, represented by the Abia Director in the ministry, Mr. Eziri Ebere, said that the present administration had introduced a number of programmes to resuscitate agriculture.
Some of them, he said, included the creation of 10,000 jobs in the agricultural sector for youths in each state of the federation and Anchor Borrower for rice production.
Also, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Francis Otunta, listed some achievements as the accreditation of 20 out of the 21 programmes in 2016, plus eight out of nine additional programmes in May/June.
Otunta also spoke on developmental projects in the university, saying that the institution received over N2.1 billion, representing 40 percent of the 2013/2014 NEEDS Assessment Fund, to resume work on abandoned projects.
He said that his administration revived 25 uncompleted projects out of the 45 under the fund.
He said that over N684 million was utilized to pay an old debt to 31 contractors, to enable them to return to the site.
“Work is now in progress on some projects, while some are still suffering a setback due to an upward variance in costs resulting from the fall in the value of the naira,” he said.
On Tertiary Education Trust Fund for the university, Otunta said that three of the six projects for the 2012/2013 fund was completed but only four out of the 20 for the 2013/2014 intervention had so far been completed.
He regretted that projects, which were hitherto funded with internally generated revenue, had suffered a setback due to “too many irregularities”.
Otunta further said that the university could not pay full salaries to its workers since the past one year due to the drastic decline in the Federal Government’s subsection.
“The university receives subvention of N325 million instead of the much-needed N451 million"
“For this reason, therefore, it has been impossible to meet our commitment to paying full salaries."
4,958 students graduated, including 98 First Class, 1,437 Second Class Upper, 2,111 Second Class Lower as well as 1,276 Third Class and 36 Pass.
The highpoint of the ceremony was the conferment of a posthumous honorary Doctor of Science on the late Premier of the defunct Eastern Nigeria, Dr. Michael Okpara, and honorary Doctor of Science on the former President of Ohaneze, Prof. Joe Irukwu.
The ceremony, which was scheduled to start by midday, started at about 1.45 pm, due to the monthly sanitation in the state.