As UI becomes private energy producer

TWO exciting historical milestones occurred recently at the nation’s premier university, the University of Ibadan (UI), which deserve and require the attention of all stakeholders in higher education in this county and beyond so as to support the momentum of development.

Firstly, UI, which is prestigiously regarded as the first and the best university in Nigeria, as well as the flagship of post-graduate studies in the country, was ranked as the 600th best university in the world by a global higher education ranking organisation called The Times Higher Education (THE). Given the fact that UI is the first and only Nigerian university in the first 1,000 best universities globally, the good news is not only cheerily received, but heartily propitious.

The ranking organisation had considered the institution’s level of teaching, research, citation of scholarly publications, industry income and international outlook, among other parameters.

This 2016/2017 Times Higher Education ranking has finally put to rest the erroneous notion in certain quarters that “no Nigerian university is good enough to be among the best 1,000 universities in the world.”  Ibadan has finally broken the jinx. UI has breasted the tape by joining the elite club of global players in tertiary education. The first and the best university in the most populous black nation in the world is clearly cresting the storm, having been producing world-class graduates who are making waves all over  the world in the last 65 years. UI will be 68 years old this November. Indeed, this latest global recognition calls for celebration, for it takes standard to stand out.

It is indisputable that UI, which parades the highest number of professors in this country, has all it takes to be among the best 100 universities in the world, but for some national albatrosses, including poor infrastructures, and what some people call “Nigerian factors.” However, with continuos self-reinvention, hard work, dedication and the desire not only to remain a ‘local champion,’ but a global player with application of best practices, there will be light at the end of the tunnel.

However, still gloating over this positive rating, I think the current Vice Chancellor, Professor Abel Idowu Olayinka deserves commendation for dexteriously consolidating on the achievements  of his predecessors. Being a scientific scholar with a solid background in Geology, Professor Olayinka has cleverly deployed resources towards information and communication technologies, thus, favourably  projecting UI for global glare. This is certainly one of his major achievements so far. He must, therefore, maintain it.

The second interesting historical milepost unfolding in the university is as trailblazing as it is revolutionary — UI is becoming the first university to pioneer private electricity production in Nigeria. The university recently performed the ground-breaking ceremony, which attracted dignitaries from far and near, preparatory to the generation of electricity in the 10 megawatts solar plant. In other words, UI can now be classified as an Independent Power Producer, (IPP) thereby, singularly generating 50-60 percent of her daily demand of electricity power requirement when the project becomes fully functional. Hopefully, according to the Chairman,  UI Power Improvement  Programme,  Prof. Adeboye Olatunbosun, the project will become operational before the end of this year.

This plant, when completed, has numerous and multiplier effect of electricity availability, not only for UI, but also for neighouring communities, and Ibadan as a whole. It will be business outfit for UI, as it will be selling electricity to the Ibadan Electricity Board, while the cost of running generators will reduce. The project will enrich the quality of research, development and capacity-building programmes in renewable energy and energy efficiency. More importantly, students’ unrest over power outage and unavailability will be a thing of the past, thereby bringing about peace on campus.

But before UI begins to reap the juicy fruits of this plant, there is still some distance to the destination. Prof. Olatunbosun explained that though the Germany-supported project “promises bounteous dividends, UI still has to obtain a license from the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) as a private power producer. Besides, the Federal Goverment still needs to make money available for the final stage of the solar plant.”

However, with the recent launching of the Energising Education Programme Initiative (EEPI) of the Federal Goverment, which is a collaborative effort of the Education and Power, Works and Housing ministries to ensure self- sufficiency in power supply to all 40 Federal universities in the county, it is almost certain that this UI pioneering effort will succeed.

Electricity is a vital component in the production of world-class graduates. Indeed, without  electric power, teaching, learning and research will simply amount to a charade, resulting in the output of poor-quality certificate holders.

In view of the prospects of this project, and its anticipated succour, intending beneficiaries must be grateful to the German government for the support it is providing. The original idea of this 10 MW solar plant was conceived at an interactive session between the immediate UI past VC, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, who is now the Minister of Health,  and the then German Ambassador to Nigeria, Frau Janetzke Dorothy Wenzel.

Prof. Adewole, in his characteristic candour, had told the former ambassador that electricity was a major problem confronting the university. The then VC consequently solicited the technical support of the German government.

Close to three years, negotiations involving UI, Federal Goverment of Nigeria and the German goverment were sustained before eventually culminating into the recent take off of the project. Prof. Adewole  deserves credit for his superlative human relations skills  with which he was able to convince the former German Ambassador, while seven “gbosas”  should be accorded Prof. Olayinka for sustaining the dream.

  • Saanu, who is of the Directorate of Public Communication, University of Ibadan, sent in this article via [email protected]