•Urges universities to develop COVID-19 vaccine
Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Umuahia and Francis Sardauna in Katsina
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed his frustration with the continued reliance of Nigeria on imported food and raw materials, despite the abundant resources and knowledge available in the country.
Buhari also admonished Nigerian universities to intensify their research to develop the COVID-19 vaccine to tackle the dreaded virus afflicting the country.
He made these remarks at the convocations of the Federal University, Dutsin-Ma, Katsina State and Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike (MOUAU), Abia State.
Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Mohammed Abubakar at MOUAU, said the agricultural sector, apart from helping the nation to attain food security, “remains the major driver in industrial development and diversification from heavy dependence on non-renewable mineral oil.”
The president added that the expectation of his government was for the universities of agriculture “to drive the rapid development of the knowledge and skills (needed) to increase local production of food and raw materials”.
“We can and should be able to feed ourselves on the rich soils and diverse ecologies that God has endowed Nigeria with. We should be determined to wisely exploit the natural resources and inheritance of our nation to feed our people and possibly export to other nations.
“Government expects that universities of agriculture should bravely confront the heavy dependence of our nation on imported food and raw materials with the view to reducing it to the barest minimum at the shortest possible time,” Buhari said.
Buhari, also the Visitor to MOUAU, said that the agricultural policy of his administration was focused on achieving a sustainable green economy.
But he emphasised that the universities of agriculture “must play their crucial specialised role in catalysing the development of the agricultural sector” to achieve the government’s stated goal.
Buhari promised that efforts were being made by his government “to put in place policies and programmes to strengthen agencies and parastatals to provide the enabling environment for increased production”.
“To this end, NALDA has been re-constituted and re-established to promote mechanised agriculture,” he said, adding that “Government expects that specialised Universities of Agriculture will collaborate with NALDA to ensure increased local production of food”.
Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, in his remarks, commended MOUAU for its immense records of achievements in manpower training, research, and innovation since its inception.
Ikpeazu, represented by his deputy, Sir Ude Chukwu, said the abrogation of some courses that were hitherto part of the academic programmes of MOUAU has adversely affected the chances of Abia youths hungry for university education.
Earlier in his address, the Vice-chancellor of MOUAU, Prof. Maduebibisi Iwe, said 5,817 graduands were found worthy to be awarded first degree certificates of the institution with 92 graduating with first class.
At Federal University, Dutsin-Ma, Buhari admonished Nigerian universities to intensify their researches to develop a COVID-19 vaccine to tackle the dreaded virus afflicting the country.
He explained that Nigerian universities were supposed to be centres for scientific and technological discoveries, inventions, values, and character formation as well as drivers of societal development.
The president who disclosed this yesterday in Katsina during the 5th and 6th combined convocation of the Federal University, Dutsin-Ma, said the development of the vaccine would fortify Nigerians’ immune system against the virus.
Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Chukwuemaka Nwajiuba, noted that his administration remained committed to tackling the challenges of sustainable funding for research, capacity building, and employment creation.
He said: “You all know that in the year 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began its devastating effect on the education sub-sectors leading to the destruction of university academic activities.”
He, therefore, urged the universities to intensify their researches “to come up with a more potent vaccine to fortify our immune system against this dreaded virus”.
Buhari also tasked the universities to explore available opportunities, including research collaboration with allied industries and development partners to create other sources of revenue generation to support his economic diversification drive.
He, however, said the federal government was committed and determined to combat and defeat all acts of criminality across the country for meaningful development to thrive.
“Our security is a collective responsibility, we must join hand with the government by providing security agents with useful information to enable proactive mitigation of any of these occurrences”, he added.
The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Armaya’u Hamisu Bichi, urged the federal government to dig trenches around the main campus of the institution because of the current security challenges in the country.
He said the university had graduated 1,201 students with 56 as holders of first-class, 92 postgraduates, one Ph.D., 24 masters students, 19 professional diplomas, and 48 PGD in different academic programmes.