Looking at the last two and a half years that you have been on the saddle as the Vice Chancellor of FUD, what have been the achievements and challenges so far?
I am happy to say that among the nine new universities established by the Federal Government in 2011, we are the second to commence academic activities in August 2012. We are in our third academic session now. Our pioneer students are in their 300-level and we hope to graduate our first set in July 2015. Our students are reasonably accommodated, though some of them get their accommodation outside campus. In terms of teaching facilities, FUD is strongly committed to providing conducive learning atmosphere for our students. We have air conditioned class rooms for our students which is very rare in public universities in Nigeria. The university also has a functional library complete with an e-library section. Our young library has about 3,223 volumes of physical books, 452/456 volumes of journals, 7,448 volumes of e-books and 1,388 e-journals. We also have four laboratories for students’ practical. We have recruited some seasoned professors to serve as our pioneer deans and lecturers in the three faculties. All our programmes are manned by qualified academic staff. Part of our resolve at FUD is that we will not run a department without adequate academic staff. In terms of electricity, we enjoy almost 18-hour electricity supply and we also have a standby generator for the hostels and class areas. Water is also available in the university. We have built an ultra-modern student centre for the relaxation of the students after a hard day’s work, a clinic for both staff and students that runs 24-hour service and a gymnasium. In order to generate internal revenue, the university has established a Guest House at the Fatara Housing Unit. We have also established a university farm for academic and commercial purposes among others. In all these projects, TETFUND has been our backbone. I must also use this opportunity to thank the management team and staff of the university, for their commitment toward making FUD a reality.
What about the challenges?
The university is steadily becoming a popular choice among applicants, considering the increase in the number of candidates seeking for admission. But we are hamstrung by shortage of facilities, especially space for offices, laboratories and lectures. The Federal Government has awarded contracts for the construction of two faculty buildings, a central library, a computer centre and an administration building over a year ago. These buildings should have been completed long ago and handed over to us for use, but this has not happened. They have also awarded contract for the construction of a 500-bed hostel which is barely at the substructure level. We will continue playing our role of telling the government, the stage of completion of the projects but we are not in control of the contractors. If the projects are not delivered before the end of September 2014, it could seriously jeopardize our chances of starting the 2014/2015 session on time.
Recently you have introduced some new courses in the university. Can you expatiate more on that?
For this 2013/2014 academic session, we have introduced the BSc Fisheries and BSc Forestry and Wildlife programmes in the Faculty of Agriculture. The fisheries programme will complement our animal science programme and will have wide application considering the fact that 70% of the surface of the earth is covered by water. Also, Nigeria spends about N90 billion annually for the importation of fish. Clearly, there are employment opportunities in the sector. The forestry and wildlife programme will help us contribute to the greening and improvement of biodiversity in our precarious sahelian environment which is an urgent necessity. The Faculty of Science has also introduced programmes in the three basic sciences. They are BSc Chemistry programme, BSc Physics programmes, BSc Botany and BSc Zoology. We have gone back to basics as it were by introducing degree programmes in the basic sciences. The basic sciences are fundamental to the development of technology for human advancement. They attempt to explain nature through observation, experimentation and unbridled critical thinking. They offer hope of a level playing field by flattening the world for those who can readily discern. The basic sciences will, therefore, be there forever.
We are yet to start the BSc Biotechnology programme because of the dearth of senior academics in the discipline. We will certainly do whatever is necessary in order to start the programme in the next academic session. Biotechnology is the in-thing in biomedical sciences and offers endless possibilities in advancing the frontiers of knowledge, especially in Agriculture and Medicine. The Federal University Dutse shall not be left behind. We shall, however, continue to admit only the number of students we can cope with, so that we can intensively teach them in small groups. In the next two academic sessions, we shall establish three new faculties. These are the Faculty of Medical and Allied Health Sciences, Faculty of Management Sciences and the Faculty of Education. We shall also establish the two research centres specified in our Academic Brief namely Centre for Social and Economic Research and Centre for Arid Zone Ecology. These research centres will focus on methods of poverty alleviation, transformation of the almajirai education system and the deplorable and rapidly deteriorating Sahel environment, among others. In fact, for our proposed Faculty of Medical Sciences, we have initiated contacts with the two major hospitals in our locality, namely, the Federal Medical Centre, Birnin Kudu and the Rasheed Shekoni Specialist Hospital, Dutse as our future teaching hospitals.
In your inaugural speech at the first matriculation you talked about refunding the fees of the best students in the university to encourage academic excellence. Has the university commenced that initiative?
Yes, of course. Two months ago the first set of beneficiaries who emerged as best students in the various departments got a refund of their fees for the whole academic session. The university will continue to fully refund the fees of the best students in all programmes to encourage excellence, which is in our motto. We have set up the Students’ Benevolent Fund to assist students facing serious financial difficulties by offering some assistance or a soft revolving loan and I was the first person to make a personal donation to the fund as I promised during the maiden matriculation ceremony. This year, we shall take concrete steps to encourage others to donate to the fund.
What advice do you have for the students?
Let me use this opportunity to congratulate our new students. I regret that most of our students have to live off campus this session. The policy of government is to share the burden of hostel development with the private sector. However, we hope that the new 500-bed hostel will be ready before the next session to alleviate the sufferings of students. This university will not tolerate indiscipline and criminal activities such as drug abuse, affray, cultism, examination related misconducts and other social vices. The university shall waste no time in sending out of the system those identified with these vices. On a more positive note, however, we hope that at the end of their stay here, the students would have learned some basic things in the subject of their choice, acquired some basic inter-personal skills and group cohesiveness, be able to deploy critical thinking to solve new problems, have a drive to go beyond trodden paths, accept ICT as research and working tool and, above all, adopt a culture of lifelong learning.
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