By Osaigbovomwan Iguobaro
Prof. Lilian Salami inherited a basket full of challenges when she assumed office as the 10th substantive Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) in November 2019. By any measure, the effects of the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) in March 2020 in Nigeria and the prolonged strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which had been suspended, grounded academic activities in public institutions across the federation, made matters worse and altered the timeline in execution of projects in the institution.
But with commitment, determination and zeal in the face of daunting challenges, the Management of the University under the leadership of Prof. Imuetiyan, took a different route from the trajectory of the past by making a concerted and innovative efforts towards enhancing basic and applied research that will yield maximum result and benefits for educational development.
On Wednesday June 9, 2021, the
the Vice Chancellor of the institution embarked on assessment of ongoing projects including the construction of College of Medical Sciences Block 24 and Interior furnishing of the twin Lecture theatre lecture seats with upholstery at the Faculty of Agriculture that were inherited from past administration and a few others that were initiated in the University, have gotten a boost.
This initiative started yielding results especially in some of the projects that were initially delayed due to paucity of funds that have been activated. They include old and new projects she has initiated in the Institution to meet the growing demands of academic and non academic Staff and students
and make a meaningful and long lasing impact in addition to the construction of international male female hostels and construction and furnishing of Professorial office building that would address shortage of offices in Ugbowo Campus.
Others projects that have experienced some level of progress are the interior furnishing of upholstery Lecture seats at 500 numbers’ Lecture Theatre for Life Sciences, 100 numbers’ Lecture Hall at the Faculty of Law, 100 Numbers’ Lecture/Seminar Hall at the Faculty of Pharmacy, 75 twin Lecture classroom at the Faculty of Environmental Sciences and the proposed 250 twin lecture theatre for College of Medical Sciences students at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) premises. This intervention will bring to and end the nightmare of medical students shuttling between UNIBEN and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) for Clinical training.
The projects also include construction and furnishing of the Centre for Educational Technology, construction of food Science and Human Nutrition Building, supply and installation of collapsible Auditorium seats and Desktops computers for the University of Benin, and construction and furnishing of twin Lecture Theatre as well as the construction of one storey Laboratory Building for the Department of Urology.
Fielding questions from journalists during projects assessment, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, Prof. Lilian Salami attributed the pace.of development in the University to prudent Management of its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and the goodwill of the Federal government though the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), UNIBEN Alumni Association, and the support from Edo State government under the watch of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
She said, “For now, we have now fall back on our IGR, which is not doing enough. But, we are doing as much as we can within the little resources that we have available to us. That is why we are not doing much contracts as it could be.
“Of course there are challenges. It is a potpourri between the beauty and the ugly, the sane and insane. We have challenges. Of course, the major one is funding. We have had issues with funding and there is never a time when there would be enough funding in institutions of higher learning.
“We are now using direct labour in driving most of the little projects that are ongoing on Campus.
“I think we are doing very well compared to other institutions. We have been able to attract many projects within the short period that this administration has come into being.
“We have enjoyed the goodwill of the federal government, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and even the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki has been so wonderful to us.
“We cannot thank UNIBEN alumni members enough. When I came on board, I actually met them to ask for their support. And that they should be a strong pillar, create ideas and find ideas that will make a public institutions like ours to survive.
“We have graduated note than 350,000 graduands and they are all doing well. Some are trail blazers and Chief Executive officers (CEOs) in their different professions. We anchored on that by encouraging them to come to our assistance. They have been very gracious.
“Most of paintings and landscaping in the Faculty of Law were done by UNIBEN Alumni. So, we are grateful to them because they have in their magnanimity decided that this is the time to payback to the institution that actually made them who they are today.
“Our major mandate as an institution is to teach, learn and carryout research. So, anything that empowers this mandate in carrying the students, Staff, is laudable. It has helped us to become marketable both locally and internationally. It helps to drive the system to be globally competitive.
Speaking on the relative peace the University Campuses, the VC said: “We have had absolute peace, but we had a little bit of little problems here and there. The University is a Community with 60,000 students and a Staff strength of almost 10,000. This is a City on its own. So, if you have this kind of a Community, you are bound to have clashes once in a while. We have gone through that. We have learnt our lessons and are better behaved.
“The students are willing to cooperate with this administration and we are willing to listen to them when they have issues. So, I think with that kind of understanding between management, students and Staff, we are bound to have a safe environment that we are aiming at.
Asked why she decided to prioritise the beautification work in the institution, Prof. Salami said: If you come into an institution such as this, the environment should be calm. It will make you well even if you were insane because it is an environment where people learn, and develop good character.
“So, we think that aesthetics throws in that message and that is why we started driving all of that without compromising the fact that this is an environment for teaching and learning.
The Vice Chancellor also affirmed zero tolerance for education corruption including sex-for-money or money-for-grades or sex-for-marks, warning that whoever compromises on such issues would be dealt with and sanctioned as the situation demands.
“We have zero tolerance for education corruption. I do not care how it is defined. Whether it is sex-for-money or money-for-grades or sex-for-marks. We have zero tolerance for that. We have said that before that whoever compromises would be dealt with and sanctioned as the situation demands. This is an administration that demands good conduct.
“We want our students to be able to learn under a conducive environment. We want Staff to be a able to teach under a conducive environment. This is the way the Management of the University can drive positive change”, she stressed.
Also speaking, the Director of Physical Planning Division of University of Benin, Mr. Timmy Ikhisemojie, said the ongoing projects are being executed based on conditions of contracts which include Architectural, Mechanical, and Civil structural designs and the bill of quantity which define the various standard specifications for the construction.
He also revealed that projects in the College of Medical Sciences which started in 2005 and in 2007, were abandoned due to lack of funding by the Federal Government. Thereafter, in 2012 and 2013, some little works were done and suspended temporarily until 2019 when the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lilian Salami came on board, the University attracted some funds from the Federal Government to continue the project.
The Director of Physical Planning further said that the Building for Professors is the VC’s innovation to cater for the office accommodation needs of over 300 Professors in the University.
“Most of them do not have comfortable offices. For research and learning to be done thoroughly, a comfortable accommodation is needed, the Vice Chancellor decided to dedicate a building to the Professors with other ancillary facilities including libraries, toilets, Secretary offices and Computer rooms.
He also revealed “the proposed Executive hostel for international male and female students. The hostel comprises, 12 Blocks of rooms”.
For the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Lilian Salami whose smiles are constant even in the toughest times, her message to all Management, Staff and students in the institution is to sit up and all would receive a pat on the back.