By Emmanuel Ugwu
Acknowledging that the federal government could not provide all the funds needed to adequately meet the needs of public universities, President Muhammadu Buhari Saturday urged the management of federal institutions to go out and seek for funds.
Buhari, who gave the admonition in his address at the ninth convocation ceremony of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU), Abia State, said the governing councils of universities should lead the way in mobilising external funds.
“It is the expectation of government that beyond husbanding resources allocated to the universities, governing councils should assist universities to mobilize external resources to meet their needs, as allocations are usually limited,” he said.
The Visitor of MOUAU, whose address was read by Dr Gidado Kumo, Deputy Registrar, National Universities Commission (NUC), also stated that the nation was looking up to the ivory towers to come up with solutions to the various problems facing the nation.
He specifically noted that the universities of agriculture, by their mandate, were expected “to fast-track agricultural development and hence diversify our economy which are currently heavily dependent on crude oil”.
“Agriculture remains a critical sector of our economy both for reducing our dependence on imported food and stimulating agro-industrial development to create jobs and reduce unemployment,” Buhari said.
The president reiterated that the policy thrust of government in the agricultural sector “places premium on value chain approach to research and development”.
He therefore charged the universities of agriculture “to scale up activities to transform our agriculture along value chains while assuring them of the support of government”.
In his address, the Vice-Chancellor of MOUAU, Prof. Francis Otunta, called on both government and private business concerns to encourage the emergence of agro-processing industries in rural areas that are close to urban centres.
He assured his audience that the university was poised to put in efforts to improve agriculture production through “articulate increase in application of scientific and anting procedure”, adding that the assistance of public and private sector operators was needed to achieve this goal.
Highlights of the convocation was the award of certificates to 6,215 first degree graduands, out of which 100 got first class while post graduate certificates were awarded to 788 successful persons, including 142 in doctor of philosophy (PhD).
A former Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Azubuike Ihejirika, was the sole recipient of an honorary doctoral degree at the convocation.