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‘I desire to make Niger State Polytechnic a degree-awarding institution’

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Rector, Dr Egbako

Dr Umar Ahmed Egbako is the Rector of Niger State Polytechnic, Zungeru, in Wushishi Local Government Area of the state. In this interview with Adelowo Oladipo, he enumerated some of his achievements in office, including the polytechnic’s affiliations with the University of Sokoto and University of Maiduguri.

 

What have been your achievements since your appointment as the Rector, Niger State Polytechnic, Zungeru?

Since I came on board on June 1, 2014, it has been from one level of transformation to the other. As you can see, we now have a lot of new structures in the institution. I can boldly say that 90 per cent of these new structures showed upwhen I came onboard. I have attracted so many projects, may be more than new 20 projects, among which are the school of engineeringcomplex, school of mechanical studies complex, road networks, street lights, ICT centre, girls hostel, accommodation for about 301 students, the administrative block is completely renovated and I bought engineering equipment that are worth more than N100million.

 

Tell us more about the Bida campus?

In our Bida campus, we are running a collegiate system. Our Bida campus is called SAS, meaning School of Administrative Studies. There, we are doing so many projects; we have a 500-capacity hall, eentrepreneurship centre, while the campus of the school has been fully fenced. We have provided four buses, five Toyota Hilux vans, among other things. In fact, we have changed the looks of the entire polytechnic. In terms of academic development,when I came on board, we had only about 20 programmes being accredited by the National  Board on Technical Education{ NBTE}, but as we speak,we now have 38 programmes. We are proud today that we have 58 courses fully accredited by NBTE.

In terms of human development, when I came on board as the rector of the polytechnic, I was the only PhD holder in the institution, today. I can tell you that we have 18 additional PhD holders in the institution and we have over 100 staff undertaking their Masters degrees in different disciplines both within and outside the country, with some stillrunning their PhDs programmes both within and outside the countryy.

Again, it is unless if you don’t want to attend conferences or workshops that you will not be given the chance to do so. The moment you show the interest and you are able to apply for one, the institution is ready to sponsor you to attend. That is what we have been doing since we came on board.More so, I’m glad to inform the general public about our recent convocation ceremony, which held on Saturday April 14, 2018. It is noteworthy to let you know that, Niger State Polytechnic has not been able to hold convocation ceremonies in the last 12 years. So, these are some of the issues.

 

With all the laudable achievements you have enumerated, are you saying there have not been financial challenges?

Truly, there has been paucity of funds, but holistically management of the available funds is the major issue. What you may regard  as paucity of funds elsewhere may be too much for me to manage. I agree that there is lack of adequate  funds, but the little we have, we are managing judiciously. What some institutions find difficult to use N1million to do, here we use to carry out meaningful projects. I am grateful to God and also to TetFund.

As far as physical development is concerned in the institution. We have also disciplined ourselves on the little revenue we are generating from the students. Also, I appreciate the state Governor, His Excellency, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello who has taught us in the institution on how to fish, rather than giving us fish to eat. There is a difference from giving you fish to eat and being showed how to catch the fish. Our governor has taught us how to fish and the proceeds of the fishing we  are maximising appropriately. Some of these projects are being carried out through the Internally Generated Revenue. From the look of things on the issue of accommodation for our students, since the government couldn’t come to our aid as prompt as possible, we thought of establishing a village where stakeholders, which included individuals from the communities, state and Federal Governments could come to develop the land for us under the Public Private Participation (PPP). When we took the proposal to the government, it agreed to provide us with 30  hectares of land. Now,we are opening it up to do the lay-out survey. Having done all these, would now allow individual investors to come and buy the land with a very subsidised price. Thereafter, we will prototype it to the type of buildings we want. Then, both the students and staff on campus would be able to take the advantage of the provided accommodation and the challenge would be reduced to the barest minimum. That is the idea behind the BoT or PPP arrangement between the school management and the investors.

 

How did you address the issue of treated water supply on the campus since Wushishi and Zungeru villages are rural communities?

We have a way of addressing the problem of potable water supply on our campus. We operate a mobile borehole and we have tankers that are supplying treated water to us. It will interest you to know that River Kaduna is within our boundary here to the West, so, we do tap water from River Kaduna. We treat it and then we supply the end users.

 

With the motto of your institution, which is “Technological Innovation for the advancement of the Society,” what is the contribution of your students to the developmental projects?

The  survey activities that is going on in the Polytechnic village is done by our students from School of Environmental Studies. They did the design; the prototype of the design. In fact, they did virtually everything. We train our students in vocational skills such as soap making, pomade making and the rest of them.That is where the phrase‘technology for self reliance’ that you spoke about comes in.  As a polytechnic, we want our students to be employers of labour rather than jobs seekers; virtually all of them have what it takes to be on their own after graduation from the school.

 

Having spoken so much about what you have been able to do through the IGR; don’t you think this is putting too much burden on the students?

If you look at the fees being charged by every state-owned tertiary institutions in Niger State, ours is the lowest in terms of the tuition fees. This is due to the peculiarity of our environment.We ensure that we don’t charge exorbitant fees in order to encourage most of our students. Unlike students who are schooling in the cities, who usually go to school from their homes. There is access to social amenities in the cities, but you cannot say that about our students who are schooling in the rural environment.

 

What are the other challenges facing the institution?

The institution is not fenced and the polytechnic land borders Zungeru and Wushishi, so, if we are to fence this mass land area, it will cost us a fortune and since we cannot, we are being faced with a porous environment.There is an issue of insecurity; the Fulani herdsmen are trying to make incursion on our lands and because they could be very aggressive at times, we are constantly dialoguing with them to avoid troubles. In addition to this, we have insufficient security personnel, owing to paucity of funds and coupled with the fact that government has placed embargo on employment in the state. There is also the issue of inadequate staff, especially in the academic unit. In fact, virtually all the departments need at least a staff, two or more.This has led us to considering the issue of visiting lecturers, hence we had to employ lecturers on part time basis with some agreement between us.

 

Can we share in your future projections for Niger State Polytechnic?

Apart from my vision to transform this polytechnic to one of the best in Nigeria.It is also my desire to make Niger State Polytechnic, a degree-awarding institution in collaboration with some other universities. The Federal Government has already given some polytechnics the go ahead to run degree programmes So, every polytechnic in the country is working hard to meet the  requirements achieve this feat and today, I’m bold to say that my polytechnic is capable of running them too. So, it is my desire to make Niger State Polytechnic a degree-awarding institution in collaboration with some other universities. As we speak, we have some affiliations with the University of Sokoto and  University of Maiduguri. Ourefforts are geared toward sensuring that we run degree programmes; that is our focus.

 

 

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