By Desmond Ejibas
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday called on the private sector to invest in research and development in the nation’s universities.
Buhari spoke at the 32nd Convocation Ceremony for the 2016/2017 and 2018/2019 academic sessions of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT).
He said the Federal Government alone could not meet all the needs of universities and needed support from the private sector.
The president, however, added that the private sector must be encouraged to invest in research and development in universities.
“This means that universities must make themselves relevant to the private sector through research to attract funding from the sector.
“Therefore, universities must develop a more relevant curriculum. The Federal Government is working hard to attain global best practice in the education sector,” he said.
Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Anthony Onwuka, said that tertiary education in the country had undergone progressive transformation in the last four years of his administration.
According to him, funds had been released for the building of new structures, purchase of equipment as well as funding of high impact researches.
“Recently, the Federal Government also released the sum of N20 billion as intervention fund to the universities. We are determined in our efforts to support our universities,” he added.
Also speaking, Prof. Ndowa Lale, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, said that UNIPORT had witnessed immense infrastructural and academic development since the new management took office.
Lale said that since he took office in 2015, several programmes had been introduced with the focus of making UNIPORT a world class university in academics, research and development.
“For instance, the tradition of commencing lectures on the first day of resumption has firmly taken root unlike in the past when students reported for lectures weeks after resumption.
“In addition, the Senate of the university has approved that only students who attain mandatory 75 per cent of class attendance are allowed to sit for examinations,’’ he said.
The vice chancellor further said that that research and development had been accelerated under his watch resulting in several breakthroughs that earned UNIPORT local and international recognitions.
“To this end, our colleagues in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UNIPORT Teaching Hospital (UPTH) recently celebrated the delivery of their first baby through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) method.
“This breakthrough has raised hopes for childless couples in the country. Also, the cost of carrying this out in UPTH is far cheaper than what is charged elsewhere,” he said.
Lale said that the university in collaboration with stakeholders had completed rehabilitation of 15 hostel accommodation, nine lecture halls and 16 of the 32 housing units for staff of the university.
On his part, the Chancellor of UNIPORT, retired Gen. Muhammadu Bashar, decried the encroachment into land and assets belonging to the university allegedly by the host communities.
“The land speculators have continued to besiege the university with the attendant tension and strained relations occasioned by such forceful encroachment beyond the properly delineated boundaries,” he said.
Bashar, who is the Emir of Gwandu in Kebbi, urged traditional rulers and opinion leaders in the university’s host communities to urgently intervene in order to ensure peaceful co-existence between both parties.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 9,452 students were conferred with degrees, higher degrees, diploma as well as certificates and prizes, with 106 bagging First Class degrees.
No fewer than 4,771 students bagged degrees in the undergraduate category while 4,681 students received the Doctor of Philosophy degree, Master’s degree and Postgraduate Diploma in various programmes.