Agonies of FUPRE, Africa’s 1st petroleum varsity @ 10

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By Emma Amaize,  Regional Editor, South-South

WHEN the Federal Government established the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, FUPRE, Effurun, Delta State, March 14, 2007, the first in Africa and sixth in the world, the inventiveness was to build a specialized university to transform the Niger Delta region through that development and deployment of technology, but ten years after, the institution is tottering and gasping for survival with inadequate funding and infrastructure.

Locale

The university with 3,789 students is endowed with 163.75 hectares (402.98 acres) of land donated by the Ugbomro and Iteregbi communities in Uvwie Local Government Area of Delta State. The acquisition of the land was concluded and gazetted in February 2009.

Currently, the university’s main campus has two academic blocks of offices; health centre; classroom block and lecture theatre 1; five workshops and laboratories for mechanical; electrical/electronic engineering departments; marine engineering, chemical engineering and petroleum engineering; hostel A & B complexes and a college building. There is also a completed TETfund classroom complex recently completed with ongoing hostel projects with the capacity to accommodate 550 students.

Take-off grant

Findings by Saturday Vanguard showed that soon after the appointment of Prof Babatunde Alabi and Dr. Mrs. Linda Owuka as first vice chancellor and first registrar respectively, a take- off grant of N1 billion to be provided by the Education Trust Fund (now Tertiary Education Trust Fund –TETFUND) and the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) at N500 million apiece was proclaimed by the then President.

The current vice chancellor, Professor Akii   Ibhadode, FAS, explained that on assumption of office, he met on ground daunting challenges and outstanding issues awaiting conclusions and resolutions.

Professor Akii Ibhadode

“One of these is the FUPRE take-off grant. The record is that the Federal Government approved a take- off grant of N1 billion to be funded by the Education Trust Fund (ETF), (now TETfund) and the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF). ETF released its first tranche of Seventy five million Naira (N75, 000,000.00) to FUPRE in 2008 and the second-tranche of Two hundred million naira (N200, 000,000.00) in 2009.

“To date, PTDF has not released to FUPRE its own share of the special take off grant of Five hundred million Naira (5000, 000,000.00).

“We appeal and seek assistance for the release of the Five hundred million naira (500,000,000.00) from PTDF, as its release would go a long way to alleviate some of our financial challenges to enable us to deliver on our mandate,” he stated.

No establishment Act

Saturday Vanguard gathered that though the Bill for the establishment of FUPRE was passed since last November by the two chambers of the National Assembly, it is still awaiting the assent of the President. This has actually hindered full-scale operations of the university in terms of industry-stakeholders responsibilities.

Dearth of infrastructure

Besides the academic infrastructure that are insufficient for learning and research, social infrastructure are also non-existent. Staff housing, sports complex, convocation arena, students centre and guests’ house/staff club are some of the facilities needed.

Travesty of specialized status

Though the University was set-up as a specialized one, it has not in true sense witnessed or accorded any out of the ordinary notice,   either by the   Federal Government or International Oil Companies, IOCs, operating in the Niger Delta region where it is situated. The university is still screaming for infrastructure to meet its mandate of being the first in Africa and sixth in the world.

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Also, the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, facilities located in Edjeba and Ogunu, near Warri, vacated in 2013 and listed by SPDC to be transferred and given to FUPRE is yet to be accomplished due to bureaucracies at the NNPC

It is appalling that FUPRE is finding it difficult to attract the caliber of professionals and expertise in the oil and gas sector, as faculties or industry mentors in the realization of the mandate of being a specialized university due to the remuneration in the university system. Though efforts are on, more industry collaboration is required to attract industry mentors and expertise to the various programmes of the university. In fact, funding for the university has been very poor.

Founders’ Day/ convocation

Despite the challenges, the vice chancellor, Professor Ibhadode is very optimistic that things will turn around for the university, which is celebrating its first convocation ceremony on Monday, March 13 and Tuesday, March 14. A total of 795 graduands are being released into the gas and oil sector of the economy.

Among these great minds are four first class in 2011, two first- class in 2012 from the College of Science. In 2014 the College of Technology produced six (6) first class and three (3) and five (5) in 2015 and 2016 respectively. And College of Science produced one (1) and four (4) first class in 2015 and 2016 respectively. This is indeed a mark of greatness and excellence.

The unique first convocation ceremony is actually for six sets of graduates- 2011-2016.

Its honorary awardees are His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, His Royal Majesty, Abe 1 Emmanuel Sideso, OON, JP, Ovie of Uvwie, Sir (Dr.) Daniel Nwannka Chukwudozie, Olorogun Moses Taiga, president general of Urhobo Progress Union, UPU,   and Alh (Dr.) Atiku Abubakar, GCFR, former vice president of Nigeria.

Outstanding accomplishments

Within its short span of existence so far, the institution has scored so many feats. A team of FUPRE Engineering students participated in the Shell ECO Marathon race competition in October 2-4, 2015 with its prototype race car (Delta Cruz 001), held in Johannesburg, South Africa . The team broke the record of being the first and only team in Africa to win the first on-track award for producing the most Energy-Efficient Racing Car in the gasoline prototype category as the car ran 55.9km with just a liter of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS-Petrol).

The same FUPRE Shell Eco-Marathon team also won an off-track award under the technical innovation category for designing a technology which makes it impossible to steal the vehicle.

A team of researchers of FUPRE that participated in the oil and trading logistics (OTL) downstream development Africa at the 2015 OTL African conference emerged the overall winner of the competition for its entry titled “Ground Robotic Oil Spill Surveillance Systems (GROSS).” The team was led by Dr. O. Tega of the department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering.

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FUPRE Chapter of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) emerged first at the petro bowl competition in Nigeria and represented Africa in the United States of America. The chapter also emerged first in the 2016 African Regional qualifier Petrobowl quiz and paper contest and will represent Africa from September 26th to 28th , 2016 in Dubai.

FUPRE ranks 12th out of the 74 Nigerian Universities at the 8th Nigerian National Mathematics Competition for University Students (NAMCUS) held on April   3rd to 9th, 2016 in Abuja.   Our students of the department of mathematics won silver and bronze medals at the competition and were listed in the top 2% and 5% of Young Mathematicians in Nigeria.

FUPRE is collaborating with the private sector on the design and upgrade of mini-refineries in Nigeria. FUPRE pioneers an on-going design and fabrication of Light-Weight Utility Vehicles for use in rural communities.

Great optimism

Looking at the next 10 years, the authorities of university in a special information sheet made available to Saturday Vanguard, said:   “FUPRE has greater prospects to grow as a university of global acclaim. Our products are already making waves with international recognition. Standard workshops and laboratories are already in place to enhance teaching, learning and research.”

“The university in the next 10 years would witness massive infrastructural development to re-position it as a center of global excellence. There are plans to attract more professionals and expertise while human capacity development is being intensified. There is every hope that in the next 10 years, the university will break new grounds.

“There is the possibility that by the next decade, the research efforts of the university will lead to innovations that could draw global attention. Then, the university would have built its world-class library, a befitting Senate building; more students’ hostels would have adorned the skyline of the campus to overcome the challenges of accommodation.

“There would have also been well-built staff houses and well-paved roads crisscrossing the entire length and breadth of the university. It is also likely that by the next decade the university would be generating its powers and distributing to the neighbouring communities and a mini-refining facility would be distilling out petroleum products, just as the university would be making giant steps in its vehicle assembly project.

“There are truly great prospects for FUPRE and with the accreditation of courses on-going, the university will position as the pivot for the human capital development for the oil and gas sector to complement the quest of the Nigerian Content policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria,” it said.

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