Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa on Friday deplored criticism by the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that the state government was proliferating universities with the recent establishment of three new ones in the state, saying it was a necessity.
The Governor explained that the universities were established to broaden access to the teeming number of students from the state desirous of university education, adding that it was to ensure that no qualified student from the state was denied admission into the university.
Okowa made this known at the inauguration of Chairmen and members of the Governing Councils of the three new universities in the state at Government House, Asaba.
He also stated that the ongoing strike by universities teachers was nationwide and arose following failure by the Federal Government to address issues raised by ASUU, explaining that teachers in the state’s universities merely joined in the action in obedience to their union’s directive.
According to the governor, “Some of the issues being raised by ASUU at the national level are already being enjoyed by staff of our institutions for some years now.
“We are not in dispute with any staff union in any of our tertiary institutions.
“The issues raised by ASUU at the national level do not pertain to us in Delta as the allowances they are asking for are already being enjoyed by staff in our tertiary institutions for several years now.
“Let me also respectfully disagree with the position of ASUU that there is an unhealthy proliferation of state universities in the country.
“The establishment of universities is on the concurrent list and, as a state, we do so when the need arises.
“In our case, it is to fill the gap created by shortage of space and increase access to university education for our qualified youths,’’ he said.
Giving statistics, he added that “in the JAMB report of 2018, 80,131 Deltans, representing 4.85 per cent of total applicants sat for the board’s university entrance examination. However, only a fraction of those who passed could be admitted.
“Also, for the 2019/2020 academic session, 25,896 candidates from the State chose Delta State University as first choice. Out of this number, 22,358 qualified but only 4,854 candidates could be admitted.
“From the foregoing, you can see that even the state-owned DELSU has reached its full carrying capacity, hence, it is incumbent on us as an administration to broaden access to university education for our bright students, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering, law, ICT, and architecture.”
Okowa described members of the universities’ governing councils as men and women of proven integrity and impressive track record in academia, public administration and the private sector and urged them to bring their wealth of experience to bear in the respective institutions.
“As the supreme governing authority of the university, members of the council are expected to use their expertise and experience to help put these universities on the trajectory of growth, academic excellence, and national recognition.
“It is incumbent on them to bring balanced and disinterested judgement to policy issues, the general management of the affairs of the university as well as provide the expenditure template for the universities.
“I expect the councils to lead the efforts in ensuring financial autonomy of the universities. To do this successfully, you need to concentrate more of your efforts on marketing these institutions and sourcing help, financial and otherwise, for them,” he stated.
He disclosed that his administration had embarked on the construction and upgrade of 44 infrastructural projects in the three universities which were already at advanced stages of completion, and assured of accelerated development in the institutions before the end of his administration.
Responding on behalf of members of the Governing Councils, Professor Emmanuel Nwanze described Governor Okowa as a visionary leader whose impact in the creation of the three new universities would be felt and properly appreciated in about 20 years time.
Nwanze, who is the Chairman and Pro-Chancellor of the University of Delta, Agbor, commended the governor for the opportunity given to them to serve and urged other Pro-Chancellors and members of the Governing Councils to distant themselves from the day-to-day running of the universities to eschew acrimonies in the institutions.
Those inaugurated for University of Delta, Agbor, were Prof. Emmanuel Nwanze, Pro-Chancellor/Chairman and Dr Geoffrey Enita, Rear Admiral Peter Eluma (retd); Prof. (Mrs.) Ebele Egwunyenga; Dr. Roland Oritsejafor and Prof. Job Akpodiete as members.
Dennis Osadebey University, Asaba, has Prof. Robert Ikomi as Pro-Chancellor/Chairman, with Dr Christopher Onyemenam; Prof. Ezekiel Agbalagba; Prof. Peter Aloamaka; Prof. Sam Ogege; Dr Arnold Ojugo and Chief Elimina Vivian Nanah as members.
Delta State University of Science and Technology Ozoro has Chief Godson Echegile as Pro-Chancellor/Chairman; Prof. Benedict Binebai; Prof. Arthur Ekpeko; Chief Terry Otuya; Prof. Sam Aghalino and Mrs Felicia Omatsola are members.
The ceremony was attended by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Chief Ndudi Elumelu, the State Chief Judge Justice Theresa Diai, President of the Customary Court of Appeal, Justice Patience Elumeze, members of the state legislature, Vice-Chancellors of the state universities and other top government functionaries.