Professor Musbau Adewumi Akanji is the vice chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna. In this interview with ADELOWO OLADIPO, he discusses efforts being made to tackle challenges of power supply, accommodation and water shortage, among other issues. Excerpts.
Students will soon arrive on campus for the new academic year. How do you hope to address the issue of epileptic power supply?
The repairers are there now. They have diagnosed the problems and they have brought some of the parts to me. They have fixed what was wrong, but there is one point whereby they will discharge all the oil, and put another new one back there. They had earlier told me that the oil was not available in the market in Abuja and in Minna, but that they are likely to get it in Kaduna or in Lagos.
Water shortage has also been a big problem on main campus of the university, Gidan Kwanu, Minna. What are you doing about this?
We are benefiting from the Presidential Assessment Fund, and we were allocated N500 million to construct an earth dam. We have done all necessary diligence; the stage we are now is to award the contract. We cannot do anything during the rain season. We hope that this dry season, we will be able to commence work. And because it is above our premier list, contract will be awarded by the ministerial members list. The dam will start in due course.
What are you doing to accommodate the students on campus?
Well, that is a very big problem. We are a population of 16,000 or thereabout. Considering the students’ population, and we have accommodation for only 2,250 students on both campuses at Bosso and Gidan Kwanu, we can simply say that we do not have accommodation. But recently, there is an ongoing construction of a 1000-capacity female students’ hostel on this campus; and it is completely our own under the Presidential Needs Assessment Funds. The federal government has given us the money and work is about 70 per cent completed. Our plan was that it would be ready for occupation at the commencement of this semester, but because of the problem with the foreign exchange, the occupation period will likely to be around the end of this month or early December. (This means) it may not be ready until the commencement of the second semester next year. But we are talking to Shelter Afrique Niger Habitats; they want to provide for us 5,000 bed spaces hostels for male and female postgraduate students. We are one of the five pioneer universalities that were chosen for these projects.
You still have some months to the completion of your second tenure as vice chancellor. What are those things you are still aspiring to achieve before the end of your tenure?
I think it will be premature to say that, because I think one year in the life of a university is large. So, I will be comfortable to answer this question by this time next year. (However), I promised that I would put the university on auto-run; meaning that the university would not depend on an individual. I can comfortably say that we have achieved that because we have a management that is cohesive. I also promised to make the university visible, and we are highly visible now. We are within one to 10 in Nigeria, and within the first 100 out of more than 5000 universities in Africa. We are number 87 in Africa and we are number 9 in Nigeria. I also promised that I would improve inter-personal relationship in this university. We have succeeded largely in doing that because there is no sharp division among the work force.
What are the challenges you have faced in running the university?
Number one challenge is the issue of accommodation. We tried our hands on Build, Occupy and Transfer, but at the verge of success we were disappointed. This is why we went for it under the Federal Government’s Needs Assessment and Shelter Africa, which is an international organisation. We hope by this time next year, we would have overcome some of the challenges in the area of accommodation. Our ambition is to accommodate about 50 per cent of the students’ population or ultimately about 25 per cent. We have a very large bandwidth, but by 4pm when everybody goes home, the internet facility would not be fully utilized because of the large number of students living off the campus. So, the ambition is to have about 50 per cent of the students’ population on campus, so that these facilities could be utilised.
Have you been able to achieve your projected revenue generation as an institution?
It can never be enough because the university is not strictly a revenue-generating agency. We don’t charge fees because government policy will not allow us to charge fees. However, we try to generate what we need. Apart from that, we get support from the Federal Government and inter-governmental agencies such as Tertiary Education Trust fund Education, Petroleum Trust Development Fund (PTDF), Shell, Chevron, among others who are helping us.
In what way is the university going to partner with the Raise Foundation, the pet project of the wife of the Niger State governor, Dr. Amina Abubakar Bello, a Consultant Gynecologist, in the area of cancer awareness?
Her Excellency, Dr Amina Abubakar Bello was here some weeks ago for a public lecture on cancer awareness. We lost some of our staff to cancer recently. We supported her in capacity building. People are now going for screening. The Raise Foundation also organised a Walk for Cancer awareness, and they promised to do screening for men for prostrate cancer in the future. In the area of capacity, we are going to assist them.