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Why govt, stakeholders should assist FUPRE, by VC

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During a visit to The Nation, the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE), Delta State, Prof. Akaehomen Akii Ibhadode, spoke with AKINOLA AJIBADE and AMBROSE NNAJI, on  the university’s achievements and funding challenges. He urged stakeholders to assist the institution.

What makes the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE), Delta State, different from others?

Let me start by saying that there are two reasons we are paying this visit to the management of The Nation. Firstly, we are here to appreciate The Nation for the visibility the school has been enjoying from it, especially during its convocation last year. Secondly, we are here to present to the newspaper the possibilities of the university, its potential and challenges.

FUPRE was set up in 2007 as a specialised petroleum university.  Up till today, it is the only petroleum university in Africa and the sixth in the world. The school has the special mandate to train high-level manpower for the oil and gas industry. As we all know, crude oil remains the mainstay of the country and as a result, the Federal Government felt the need to establish a specialised university to develop the petroleum industry.

The insitution has had some challenges.  Through the mandate of the university, the school has a crop of highly committed and talented members of staff who are delivering the mandate based on available  resources to take care of the school.

The school has 13 courses which are fully accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC). We have full accreditation from the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN). It is a specialised university and it’s different from others because it tries to put industry skills into its curriculum from its inception.

What is the relationship between the university and oil and gas industry operators and stakeholders. What has the school done to prove its mettle?

The school interacts with stakeholders in the oil and gas industry to enable students after graduation, walk into the oil companies and secure jobs. It has done a lot of collaborations with the industry in this regard. In terms of the things the school has done, it has come up with quite a number of innovations. Some of them have been patented while others are still in the process of being patented.

Last year, some students and lecturers of marine engineering department came up with a design where they generated energy from ocean waves. That project had support from a Norwegian company to develop it further.

Also, the school has developed a robot for surveillance of petroleum pipelines. In the event there is a leakage in the pipeline, this robot can detect the leakage by sending signal through which to locate the leakage(s).

The school in 2015 entered the Shell Eco-Marathon competition, which holds yearly in South Africa. In the competition, students of each competing school designed a vehicle or car that can go a kilometre with one litre of fuel. Our university came first and overall best with its vehicle – Delta Cruz. In 2016, the school entered again and came second. In 2017, having seen the accomplishents of the university, Shell chose to sponsor our project in the competition and we came second again. For the first two years, the school ran the project by raising money within our means. Shell has challenged us to establish automobile engine that can run on electric fuel, or solar. We are working on that. We also plan to build a refinery. We have come out with a design and we are working on bringing it to fruition.

That is one of the reasons we are urging the stakeholders, such as the government, and operators in the value chain to come and see what we are doing. On our own, we are trying to reach out to investors in the industry with a view to see how we can bring this to pass.

The idea is to make this mini-refinery operational so that after this, we would build another modular refinery. These are the things we have done. It is our dream to find solution to the recurrent fuel scarcity.

We want to build low-cost refineries in various states of the federation and we are appealing all stakeholders and funding agencies to support this objective. We are reaching out to operators, including those of marginal fields to see how they can tap into these inventions, produce and refine oil at reduced costs. Apart from solving the fuel issues, it will create unimaginable direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians.

What do you want the government to do for the university?

We are challenging the government and other stakeholders to come and assist us and bring this idea to fruition. We are partnering a United Kingdom-based company to achieve growth in the petroleum sector. We are also developing some computer industrial games for the students. As students, instead of wasting their time on other games and social media networks or dating platforms,they can have fun through these computer industrial games and while doing this,they can also learn from the process one or two things about their professions and disciplines in more practical-like ways. In our mid-year report, all the things we are doing are stated there. That is why we are looking at how our challenges would be solved by telling people to come and see what we are doing. As I said, our research would not be driven by the publications but by the need to create the right value for the society.

These are materials for wealth creation. We need at least N5 billion yearly. We need to build laboratories, get a drilling rig for practical and a couple of simulators for engineering activities. If we have the funds, we would procure a drilling platformwhere students can train using training simulators, among other equipment. Because the university does not have one, our students have to travel all the way to the Nigerian Naval College in Sapele to use theirs for training.We want to see how we can use the waste materials around us to provide energy, so that we can discharge less fumes into the environment.

With this we will be able to create values for the society. We would not remain like this. We aim at making our discoveries very standard an also commercialise them such that the society will derive value from what we are doing.

There are so many problems facing us as a country ranging from turning our raw materials into valuable finished products, among others and those are the areas we are focusing on.

How can we extend the life of an engine?

That is why we are calling on companies to come and partner us since we have funding challenges. If we able to create value for the system, we would better the lots of the society.

Why is the government not showing interest in the university?

It is not that the government is not showing interest, but FUPRE is not getting what it requires as a specialised university. You know the government has a lot on its hands. Sometimes, the presentations made to government officials are applauded, but after that everybody goes to sleep.

We have made noise to let the stakeholders know what we are doing and we can do as an institution, and we are now throwing the challenge to the government and to whoever cares. If we get the needed attention, we are sure we can deliver on our mandate.

The fact is that FUPRE got the first take-off grant of N500 million released by Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). The Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) was supposed to release another N500 million to the university, but that has not happened. But last year, the PTDF said they were working on it and we are still waiting for them to do so.

Also, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, PTDF and the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) were expected to contribute two per cent of their yearly budgets for development of research programmes in petroleum technology and facilities acquisition in the university but the contributions are not being made. PTF was also given the mandate to do the same thing. And also it sounds ironical that the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) does not have a single project in FUPRE. We find that very strange. We have gone to them that they said they are going to do something, we are still waiting for them to do that. I must tell you that since this management came on board, it started creating a vision of making the university one of the best specialized universities in the world and it has been working towards achieving that. One of your correspondents came during our convocation he saw a lot of things we exhibited. We also provide trainings, research and development (R&D) services for oil and gas sector.

We are facing serious funding challenges. We are calling on stakeholders to come to our aid, we are not begging, we are saying come and see what we are doing and add value. We want to be industry relevant by solving industry problems and for oil fields owners. We want the university to be a training hub for Africa especially the countries that have oil. Nigeria has over 50 years’ experience in the oil and gas industry, then Ghana, Tanzania and all other countries that are coming up, we will be able to assist them. Let the resources come so that we would be able to do that which we are supposed to do.

What we are saying is that the University after 11years of establishment is suffering from serious neglect. What is important in this matter is that the petroleum industry will remain the mainstay of our economy even in the foreseeable future. Yes the government is making efforts to diversify the economy, but as it is today, the main driver of our economy is the petroleum resources, and it is established that we are created to train high level manpower that will drive the industry, so the university needs all the support now.

From what you have said, doesn’t the Federal Government give adequate allocation to a federal university like yours?

They do, but you know there are over 40federal universities so the resources are shared in the formula based on students –that is why we are saying they should capture us in the 2018 budget and if they do let the budget be fully implemented.

The post Why govt, stakeholders should assist FUPRE, by VC appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

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