The Ironies of Oshiomhole’s Iyamo University


Francis Akhigbe

We refer to the newspaper adverts in February for vacancies for academic and non-academic staff as well admission into degree programmes for 2015/2016 academic session of Edo University, Iyamo, in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State. It would have been a thing of joy that another university has been added to the existing tertiary institutions in Edo State. But considering the present financial position of the state government and the total neglect of the already existing government tertiary

institutions, one can only conclude that the establishment of Edo University, Iyamo, is not just uncalled for, it is retrogressive, untimely, a misplacement of priority and meant to serve the personal interest of the Comrade Governor. The establishment of the university is another of the several deceitful ways that the Comrade Governor has worked out.

Presently, Edo State has a university (Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma); School of Technology and Management Sciences, Usen; College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi; Michael Imoudu Institute of Physical Education, Afuze; School of Health Technology, Benin City; College of Education (Tayo Akpata University of Education), Ekiadolor; College of Education, Igueben; and School of Nursing and Midwifery, Benin City.

Apart from these state-owned tertiary institutions, there are federal institutions like the University of Benin (Uniben); Federal Polytechnic, Auchi; Federal Institute of Construction Technology, Uromi; and some privately-owned ones such as Igbinedion University, Okada; Benson Idahosa University; Samuel Adegboyega University, Ogwa; Shaka Polytechnic; and Light House Polytechnic all in Edo State.

For a governor to even contemplate establishing another university where you already have five, three Polytechnics, two Colleges of Education, five Schools of Nursing and Midwifery, one School of Physical Education, one Institute of Construction Technology means that the governor not only lacks direction and focus, but is also clannish, wasteful and insensitive to the needs of the people.
As at today, all Edo State Government-owned tertiary institutions are glorified secondary schools as a result of lack of adequate funding, facilities and personnel. The few capable hands in the government that would have been able to make the education sector work are not allowed to display their competence in the day-to-day running of the administration, and this is not surprising. What do you expect from an administration where the governor functions not only as the overall chief executive, but also as secretary to the state government, head of service, commissioner, accountant-general, auditor-general, and even the head of boards of parastatals?

In all the tertiary institutions owned by Edo State Government, there are no viable projects that can be credited to the present state government.

When the management of Ambrose Alli University requested N1.26 billion from Edo State Government for the accreditation of all the courses in the university and upgrade of teaching facilities, Oshiomhole gave out a paltry N120 million. As at today, all the courses in education at AAU failed accreditation and those that were fully accredited before now have been reduced to the status of interim accreditation as a result of lack of facilities and manpower. Since he became governor of Edo State, no employment or replacement has been done in the university to fill the existing vacancies.

For the state government to establish a new university where the existing tertiary institutions are in shambles and staff salaries and allowances not paid as and when due is callous. These institutions have no potable water, no in-service training for teaching staff and no scholarship and bursary provided for Edo students.

Edo people, especially those from the Central senatorial district where AAU is located, are not taken aback by the lukewarm attitude of the governor towards the institution. He had done virtually everything humanly possible to move the university to his home town, Iyamo, but for the resistance of influential personalities from that senatorial district.

When Oshiomhole concluded the plan to establish a university in Iyamo because of his inability to move Ambrose Alli University there, he knew that it would not receive accolades from Edo people. In his crafty nature, he came up with two executive bills to the House of Assembly. One was to upgrade the College of Education, Ekiadolor, to the status of a university to be known as Tayo Akpata University of Education, Ekiadolor, and the other bill was to establish a new one to be known as Edo State University of Science and Technology, Uzairue. It is pertinent to note here that there is no particular town or village called Uzairue. Uzairue is a clan that has about 11 villages or towns, among them are Jattu, Iriaokhor, Afashio, Afunwa and Iyamo. In terms of population and size, Iyamo is the smallest, but that is the Comrade Governor’s village and where he chose to site the university.

Oshiomhole knew this very well, but he deliberately put Uzairue in order to douse tension or criticisms that would have trailed the siting of the university in his village. He later sent another bill to the House of Assembly seeking to amend the act establishing the Edo State University of Science and Technology, Uzairue, to Edo State University of Science and Technology, Iyamo-Uzairue (Estako West II). Within 48 hours, the amendment bill was passed into law and the university became known as Edo State University of Science and Technology, Iyamo.

In an advertorial on Wednesday, February 24, 2016 for vacancies for academic and non-academic staff and admission into degree programmes, the name was no longer Edo State University of Science and Technology, Uzairue, or Edo State University of Science and Technology, Iyamo, as amended but Edo University, Iyamo. The question, is when was it amended from Edo State University of Science and Technology, Iyamo, to Edo University, Iyamo? This is another deceit by the Comrade Governor. As it stands now, Edo University, Iyamo, could be considered illegal and all actions pertaining to it null and void because there is no act establishing it. It is, therefore, advisable that those that may apply for job or admission there hold on for now so that they would not be defrauded or duped.

From the outset, the Comrade had no intention to upgrade the College of Education, Ekiadolor, to a university status. The bills for the upgrade and for the establishment of a new university were passed on March 24, 2014 by the House of Assembly and the governor did not assent to the bills differently but at the same time. How come that the Iyamo University that had no single block on ground is now ready for academic activities while the so-called University of Education(AKA: Tayo Akpaka University of Education) Ekiadolor, with existing facilities, teaching and non-teaching staff listed for upgrading, has not been able to take off as a university? Very curious circumstances that only Oshiomhole is in a better position to explain.
Since Oshiomhole changed the College of Education, Ekiadolor, to Tayo Akpata University of Education, Ekiadolor, nothing has been done to reflect a university status. There are no capital projects in the institution and for the past six years, though provision has always been made in the annual budget for the college, there has been no release of the funds.

The school has a wage bill of about N86 million monthly but the monthly subvention given by the state government is N66 million, a clear shortfall of N20 million. How would one then expect the school to survive or the workers to function efficiently when they are owed salaries and allowances? The school authority deserves commendation for being able to forge ahead in spite of inadequate funding, lack of manpower and dilapidated facilities. It may interest Edo people to know that all the tertiary institutions in Edo State are on half subvention, hence academic activities in them are barely standard.

Referring to the passing of the Edo University of Science and Technology, Uzairue, bill, Oshiomhole was quoted to have said, “Until we have a country where the governor’s child can go to a public school, then we have not gotten there.” This was another deceit that it was a public university, whereas one of the clauses of the executive bill reads, “The Edo University of Science and Technology, Uzairue, which will operate as Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, fee-paying university will be self –sustaining and charge economic fee necessary to sustain competitive international standard.” Public Private Partnership means that the university would be managed by the state government and private investors. There is an allegation that the state government has 35 per cent interest while the private investors have 65 per cent interest in the university. Edo people would want to know who these private investors are. Speculations are rife that there is a grand design to collapse the 35 per cent into shares of the private investor thereby making it a full blown private university.

The billions of naira so far sunk into the building of the university are more than enough to upgrade all the existing Edo State Government tertiary institutions to international standard. For Edo people not to know the contract sum and also to deprive many capable contractors of bidding, Oshiomhole adopted the Restriction Tendering Method.
In this year’s budget, N1.2 billion (about 10%) was earmarked for Edo University, Iyamo, from the total budget of N13.64 billion for the education sector.

Without doubt, the contract sums are in billions of naira and highly inflated. We challenge the comrade governor for the sake of transparency and accountability to explain to Edo people the actual amount for the projects, who are the private investors and how much the private partners have invested in these projects.

As said earlier, the establishment of the university is a misplacement of priority and meant to serve the personal interest of the Comrade Governor. If Oshiomhole was sincere in equitable distribution of social amenities, why did he put the university in Iyamo, his home town, which is just about five kilometres away from the Federal Polytechnic, Auchi? Why did he not upgrade Michael Imoudu Institute of Physical Education, Afuze, to the status of a university? Why did he not establish the university in the neighbouring Akoko-Edo, which presently has no tertiary institution? Is Oshiomhole saying that Owan and Akoko-Edo people do not deserve a fair share of the dividends of democracy or is it the Comrade’s own way of telling them that they are not politically relevant in Edo State? How can it be imagined or said that Edo State Government has three universities offering the same courses? The truth is that Oshiomhole’s purpose for Edo University is to extinguish Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma,and to make sure that the College of Education, Ekiadolor, he upgraded to a university does not see the light of day.

The Iyamo university scheme, like the Airport Road project where undisclosed billions of naira was spent on a 6.7 km road, is another conduit pipe for siphoning the state’s scarce resources. For Edo people who the governor has kept in pains of high taxation and other unholy financial assaults, it is time to act and act right.
––Akhigbe, a public analyst, writes in from Benin City