Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia
The federal government is yet to release take-off grant to the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia State, 25 years after it was established as a specialised tertiary institution.
Two other Universities of Agriculture at Abeokuta and Makurdi that were established in 1988 got their take off grants at inception but MOUAU which took off in 1992 was left without any take-off grant till date despite strident appeals by successive managements and governing councils.
A renewed appeal for the release of the take off grant was made at the weekend at the 8th convocation ceremony of MOUAU during which it also marked its 25th anniversary. The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the school, Hon. Muhammadu Lawal Zayyana, passionately urged the federal government to release the take-off fund.
â€œIt is on record that this University is the only University of Agriculture in Nigeria that did not at inception and till date receive any take-off grant,â€ he lamented.
Unfortunately neither the visitor to the university, President Muhammadu Buhari nor the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh and his education counterpart, Mallam Adamu Adamu attended the eighth convocation cum silver jubilee celebration of MOUAU. They did not send representatives either.
Nonetheless, the chairman of governing council passionately appealed to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission (NUC) â€œto take a critical look at this situation and make fruitful representationâ€ to President Buhari.
He prodded the two ministers and the Executive Secretary of NUC, Abubakar Rasheed, to visit Mr. President and â€œencourage him to demonstrate his fatherly goodwill and magnanimity by approving a take-off grant for Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike.â€
Zayyana, who was former Speaker of Sokoto State House of Assembly, stated that MOUAU â€œis in dire need of increased funding so as to address major infrastructural deficits.â€
Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, in his address, expressed misgivings about the federal governmentâ€™s decision to delist some academic programmes at MOUAU considered not to be core agriculture courses.
He urged the federal government to reconsider its position on the affected programmes arguing that Abia has unlike other states of the federation has no other federal tertiary institutions hence the need for MOUAU to operate as a conventional university â€œto train our children in all fields.â€
While commending the Buhari administration for refocusing the nationâ€™s economy on agriculture, Ikpeazu called for enhanced funding of universities of agriculture and farmers to effectively play their required roles in Nigeriaâ€™s drive for agriculture revolution.
â€œWe want o see farmers who are millionaires; we want to see farmers that are prominent in the society,â€ he said, adding that with enhanced status of farmers Nigerian youths would be encouraged to go into agriculture instead of struggling for non-available white collar jobs.
Vice-Chancellor of MOUAU, Professor Francis Otunta, while lending his voice to the call for the release of take-off grant, said the specialised university has remained steadfast in fulfilling its mandate as contained in the law establishing the institution.
He said that since he assumed duties as the chief executive of MOUAU on March 1, 2016 he has continued to steer its course of development of the university by providing both â€˜hardwareâ€™ and softwareâ€™ projects as well as making staff and studentsâ€™ welfare a priority.
According to him, the developmental projects were funded from many sources, adding that he made efforts to ensure that the second tranche of MOUAUâ€™s 2013/2014 NEEDS Assessment fund was released which amounted to N2, 166,963,212.89, representing 40 percent of the full amount.
A total of 4,958 graduated at the convocation with 98 of them making First Class, 1,437 got Second Class (Upper Division), 2,111 graduated in Second Class (Lower Division), 1,276 earned Third Class while 36 persons finished with pass grade.