This interview was conducted by Sam Kayode
What are the factors responsible for improved security on campus sir?
When we were under an intense situation of insecurity. The University persistently wrote and requested for intervention from the government. And the intervention had to do with the fencing, especially of the eastern flank and also providing some security gadgets that would help in monitoring the situation around the campus. And sometimes back in 2018, the Federal Government approved the security intervention request and about two billion plus was approved. And this over two billion was not released immediately but when I took over office, we followed up, and secured the release of the intervention from Tet fund and with the release of the intervention, the construction of the fence started and some security gadgets were also purchased, the contract was awarded. And the contractor swung into action and today we have cause to thank God.
But before 2018, Governor Kashim Shetima started the fencing..
Yes he indeed started and took it to a certain level, surely more than a kilometer. That one did not continue and it was at the time the Federal Government had announced that the security funds would be allocated to the University but the funds did not come until after a year for money to be released. We came in about the same time with the present Governor so he too took over from his own predecessor and continued the war against insurgency. And you can see the vigor with which he has been going. Now, immediately we came in, there were some bomb blasts around the campus. And the Governor even came to the campus that night, saw things for himself and God so kind our students were not involved, it was the suicide bombers that blasted themselves. Following that, the state Governor gave us newly acquired excavators at that time. They did a lot of work to dig trenches around the University. He did not only stop at that, he also helped by mobilizing the military to help us dig trenches and give more attention to this place, and with time the military took it upon themselves with the change in baton and a new theatre commander, sector commanders, to ensure that every opening was closed. We never heard of anything again until the day these guys wanted to come through polo axis to attack us. But then they were stopped.
Coming through Polo, was it a threat to the University?
Why not? Their target was to come to the university. They have been trying this main campus area but it didn’t work. We were glad they were repelled because the only option left was polo to get at us.
So is the University fence completed now?
Well as at the end of last month the fencing was almost completed. It was only a distance of about four kilometers that was not completed as at that time. But there are so many other things behind the fence thing.Because while the contractor was busy doing the work along with the military lots of challenges were encountered and that was what led to the delay otherwise by now they should have finished the work. There were situations here that only the military, the contractors and some of us understood and we don’t want to open up healed wounds for now. The fencing is being done satisfactorily, and there was a point also they reached that they had to construct a culvert because it had a challenge like a river which passed around that place. In Spite of that we appreciate the efforts of the state government. We employed some hunters that were patrolling the area. watching not only the eastern flank of the fence. The military has also been incredible. In fact, the military, the DSS, the police, we have a number of deployments and have been working very closely with them to ensure that things get better. And by God’s grace things are better.
How protected is the University community from long range missile threats like what happened in Gwange suburb not too long ago?
We are not in the position to envisage that but we have informed the military. The military themselves know that the mortar they used passed over the university to land in Gwange. When we were giving them the intel, they also said they knew. So it’s not something we can handle, we have already made it known to them to handle. There were so many stories around the whole thing, that these were supplies of the military taken around the mongunu axis and all that, but we are not in the know and we do not want to speak on that too. All we know is that these guys stood far behind the university, and shot those things until it landed in Gwange and killed many people. Apart from that we have always been praying for God Almighty to protect us which we know is the greatest protection we can get. You see, from 2014, when we took that decision not to close the University, it’s not as if we had the absolute belief that nobody will touch us or we had the absolute belief that only the military will be able to protect us. We have been working with almost all stakeholders, and that was why we brought in the hunters too. And that was why the former Governor Kashim Shettima and Professor Babagana Zulum have been coming to our aid on some of our challenges with many solutions. I have had several meetings with the military, including the former theatre Commander in this office. They will come to us to ask, what are the challenges now?. At a point in time, one of the security posted around the flanks of the fence, a Colonel came here and was worried that that place was getting porous and there were certain things we just had to do but the University did not have money, and then he said he was sent by the theatre Commander who was just recently appointed chief of army staff. Because he sent a message that if we will not do it, he will handle the challenge. And i said please kindly go back and tell him we do not have the cash to do it and he decided to come into the campus himself, the General Officer Commanding 7 division, Garrison Commander, Director SSS, they all came into the campus. went round and saw what they wanted to correct. And there after, i think they did something. And after doing that we also have been working very closely with their operatives on campus. and by the grace of God we have been successful in some of these little approaches. But since the Gwange incident, there has not been any other again by God’s grace we will continue to thank God.
Your Medical Consultants have vowed to down tools if the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System IPPIS does not restore the 30 percent slashed from their package. Does this wrong bother management?
Well nobody will sort out this except the government and its own IPPIS. The VC or the head of the bursary cannot do anything about this. All of these complaints have been brought to us and we have forwarded all of these problems to the office of the Accountant General of the federation which the IPPIS is located. We have discussed these issues one after the other with the director of IPPIS and they have always promised to sort them out but failed. Presently there is something i sent to them concerning visiting lecturers for dentistry which i think are the people who come to teach the dental students. Their allowances have not been paid for more than nine months now and we wrote and they said they were going to pay but up till now they have not. We have been assured several times. But let me tell you, even the Vice Chancellor is not getting his salary correctly courtesy of the IPPIS. What IPPIS is claiming is that people are collecting double salaries, and a staff of this university who is a Professor of internal medicine for instance, or surgery are employed to teach medical students. But then, because they are health experts, they are also supposed to work in the university which serves as a laboratory for the medical college of the university. So if the teaching hospital gives them honorarium, the university cannot say no. This is because these people are engaged in double work.They teach the students and also manage patients. So is it wrong for them to be remunerated appropriately? It’s not, but the IPPIS is looking at it as if they are taking double salaries. They say they want to streamline all these things such as if you are working for the teaching hospital, what you would be doing for them would be part time, which is not wrong. So if they say they want all their salaries to be paid by the university of maiduguri,even if they are engaged by the Teaching Hospital, then that is a different thing entirely. But for them to accuse university lecturers wrongly, look federal government have been opening many universities without lecturers. Where would they get the lecturers? If they don’t come to unimaid or existing ones to ask for help, how are they going to sustain these universities? So these are some of the challenges we keep telling the government about, that certain things you are doing, the university should not be part of it. You know a University is a universal system and all over the world a university operates differently. And this means their mode of payment should be different. All over the world, the concept of visiting Professors is there, that of sabbatical leave is there but what Nigerian government through IPPIS is saying is that while you were on sabbatical, you were being paid salary here and collecting something over there is not right but this is what happens all over the world. We cannot be different, unless we want to call our own local universities. And such should not answer the name university because this is a universal institution. And that is why a lecturer from this University can go to the UK, Europe, South Africa, America, Canada and so on to teach.
This country wants us to produce manpower that can compete globally but all the incentives that are created for academic mobility in Nigeria for these kinds of production are not allowed, What kind of country is this? So I think it is better for us to organize ourselves, recognize the fact that these are Universities and as a university, you have to allow certain forms of academic mobility to take place. However if those staff decide to go on strike we will only write their complaints and send to those concerned. We have no hand in what is affecting them right now.
Even the CMD of the UMTH is helpless on this matter too sadly.
Indeed! Raising his voice….Let me tell you, this is about the worse thing that has happened to the university education system in this country. The worst thing that has happened is that they have collectively put all the universities under the civil service system. And the university is not part of the civil service and cannot and should never be treated as such. If you do, you are killing the system. The safest thing is to take the Universities out of the civil service because it has created a lot of mess. it has run down the Universities and these are the kinds of things that the government thinks will do no harm. But they needed to have understudied the whole thing before implementation but they never did. And people tell them, we have been saving a lot of money. But is money really being saved? If we begin to ask questions about the result, everybody has complained that their salaries have been cut in one way or the other.Everyone will tell you that their salaries have never been the same again. It’s annoying.
Private Sector contributions to academic growth
One is the Mohammadu Ndimi centre for distance learning and the international conference center. These projects started during the time of my predecessor. And the University now decided to be going out, to seek for collaboration, interventions and many other things, not only from governments but from government agencies, individuals who really can come and help in the development. So the university decided to approach Ndimi and we had persistent discussion with him until the project took off and now the projects are almost completed and they are about N2 Billion worth. With the way things have skyrocketed in this country, I won’t be able to give you the exact figure of the two structures but its a multi billion naira project. secondly, my predecessor started a discussion with NNPC, so when i came in, nothing much was realized, they came in to give us the 500 sitter capacity lecture theatre. I went to the management, and discussed with the group MD being an alumnus of this university, he and some of his MD’s under him, a number of them finished from this university so we just approached them and told them this is time for you to give back to your Alma Mata and they sent their technical people for the meeting with us and we came up with our priorities, they said they wanted to do things in line with their mandate, as an oil and gas corporation, So we gave them the opportunity to choose. We started our meetings in Abuja but later ended up here. So the building is coming up for the department of petroleum and gas engineering. The building has reached an advanced stage, it has gone beyond 70 percent completion.And they are hoping to complete the structure by the end of this year. We have also approached Dangote, seeking an audience to see him and we do hope lots of development will come out of that when we finally meet. In the interim, we have written to him suggesting projects he can handle for us to grow. Apart from Ndimi we are in league with Abdulsamad, the chairman of Bua. He has also given an intervention for this University worth one billion naira to build the Center for Innovation and Product Development CIPD. As I speak to you, the contract has already been awarded and the project has started. They have done the Damp Proof Course DPC and block work has started. We also understand that beyond this he had an intention to do more for us.
You never mentioned the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN project initiated by the former Governor Lamido Sanusi. What happened to those ones?
The CBN projects virtually came to a halt. It commenced in 2013 and it was billed to have been completed by 2016. But till date the project seems to be an abandoned one. We have written our complaints to the CBN, and we sent representatives to discuss the matter on our behalf. And i have personally discussed with some of the Directors of the bank, and specifically messages have gone out to the Deputy Governor to please see how he can assist in the completion.
Is CBN angry with your institution?
Nobody is angry with us. I don’t think the CBN has any problem with the university. The impasse is between the contractor and the CBN. So the University is not the problem. We have so many things in the pipeline, we are also planning to bring our center for nuclear energy into reality.
Future development and expansion beyond convocation
We are planning to hold convocation indeed. But you see my mission in this university which is in accordance with the mission and vision of the institution. We want to expand the intellectual space, and when i came in, i contemplated coming up with some programmes which would be of great importance to this environment. So we have recently come up with a Bsc biotechnology, Bsc food nutrition and dietetics, And we are now planning a degree programme for public health or community health. The importance of that is that we have many people at the local community levels and we have many graduates with diplomas in community health but they are just roaming around. If we have a degree programme for them and we bring all of them together, it means good health care would be brought at their door step and that is one of my desired projections for development at all levels, even the village level. And to also ensure that, most of the programmes you hear in this university are confined to smaller places that restrict their advancement.
Let me tell you, even the department of mass communication is just there in a place that does not benefit them. So my thinking is that even if i do not complete it, i should initiate something that will bring about at least a situation where the mass communication department would be brough into one place. Presently they are scattered like normands. Part in the social science faculty there, part of them in the old acada area. This centre of excellence that was being planned by CBN, I understand they are part of it. They planned studios meant for them in that particular building. But because the project has not come into fruition up till now, so many of the departments that should be there cannot have what they should. As for our printing press it is functional and we also have come with unimaid printing house. Its a publishing house that will rely more on what the printing house can do. So these are some of the things we can do. We also have come up with a university of Maiduguri publishing house limited. It will rely so much on what the printing press can do. And with the repositioning of the printing press it will serve very well
Any other strong points for execution before the end of your tenure?
Many. I had put some as part of my agenda.When the matter of the innovation centre came up, I was happy because it’s something I have been thinking of in a long time and the current Director of the centre thinks the same way. Even though we think the same way he says that the only challenge for us is that the project is too expensive. I asked how much and was told its about 1.2 billion naira. But i have never allowed myself to be scared or moved by money. The amount involved lets pray over it I told him. As i was finishing that thought, the chairman of BUA called that he has an intervention of a billion naira for the university. What are my priority projects? He asked. i told him that we have a number of projects like this and this entrepreneurship centre was one of them. So he immediatly fell for the entrepreneurship project and picked it and you see the money i was looking for has just come without stress. He has the intention of doing much. So we will continue to pursue these things quietly. We will go all out. Look, I have the intention to penetrate every where even Yoruba land to look for help even from non alumni. There are many multi billionaires there. Just tell them what you want and they will respond to it. You see Universities around the world survive on donors. Not on the government. So we have to learn to sensitize people, to give to these institutions other wise government cannot fund all of these institutions effectively. And look at it even when Buhari came in recent times, from 2015 till date, How many universities has he created? the Army, Air Force, and transport University in Katsina. We have the need for these Universities, but then can the government fund all of them? So individuals who are so blessed and wealthy should spend part of their resources on education. Just like Ndimi is doing now.
How developed is your entrepreneur centre?
In the centre now if you go there, you will see lots of people we brought in who are just school certificate holders busy doing their carpentry work somewhere before inviting them. Engineer shua is a welding and fabrication person. He too has been bringing people from outside to help in many areas. We have a lot of them without degrees and diplomas yet they have been impacting hugely on the practical knowledge of our students. There is one, Abdulahi and another called Babayaro. We brought a lady who was a school certificate holder and she made them do a lot of things practically. We have those people who work on generators and things like that. He Shua has them now in the welding and fabrication centres. We know the importance of it and we have been utilizing the opportunity.