UniPort Defends Proposals For Two More World Bank Centres By Williams Wodi

There are very strong indications that the University would be successful in its latest bid for two more World Bank Centres of Excellence. The two proposals are for: Centre for Public Health and Toxicological Research (PUTOR) and Centre for Economic Analysis Research and Training (CEART). The two proposals were separately defended on Monday, October 22, 2018 at the Ebitimi Banigo Auditorium and the World Bank-sponsored Africa Centre of Excellence in Oilfield Chemicals Research at the IPS Park. 

Additionally, the existing Africa Centre for Oilfield Chemicals Research (ACE-CEFOR) was also put up for re-evaluation and possible renewal by the World Bank. Welcoming a three-man delegation from the Association of African Universities on behalf of the World Bank, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale, said that the University had a robust expertise, research and collaborative experience that would be brought to bear in the proposed partnership.

“We have an ongoing Strategic Plan, Research and Development policy, Centres and Institutes, including a Brain Gain programme. We also have industry advisory boards for professional programmes, research fair and Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Office. Our University has cutting-edge ICT facilities, including internal and cyber security networks. We also have a very conducive environment to house the proposed centres if our bids are successful as we expect them to be,” the Vice-Chancellor told his guests.

In his response, leader of the delegation and Deputy Director of Research and Academic Planning at the Association of African Universities, Professor Jonathan Mba, stated that the essence of the visit was to verify the claims made by the University in its proposals for the two centres. “We want the centres to promote regional capacity to meet developmental challenges and also strengthen capacity. Based on your antecedent, the World Bank wants to scale up its activities in the University of Port Harcourt, but your proposals must be merit-based to have a chance of scaling through.

“We received 150 applications from 12 countries which were evaluated by international experts. Nigeria alone presented 43 proposals from which we selected 23 for further evaluation. If the latest bids are successful, the University would have three World Bank centres of excellence which is no mean feat. It shows the quality of personnel you have in this University,” Professor Mba said.    

In the first presentation for a new Centre for Public Health and Toxicological Research at the ACE World Bank Centre of Excellence in Oilfield Chemicals Research, Dr. Daprim Ogaji of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, reeled out facts and figures to back the University's case for the proposed Centre. He dwelt on the research potentials of the Centre with respect to the impact of oil spillage and artisanal refining in the Niger Delta with resultant toxicological effects for the inhabitants, assuring the World Bank evaluation team that many individuals and organisations had already made partnership commitments to the emergent Centre. He also brandished a solid letter of commitment from the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole.

Making the case for the World Bank to fund a Centre for Economics Analysis Research and Training (CEART), Professor Clifford Ofurum of the Department of Accounting assured the delegation that the University already had a magnificent building that would house the proposed centre of excellence. He stated that the Department of Economics and relevant Departments in the Faculty of Management Sciences would collaborate with diaspora and home-based experts to power the new Centre. 

A member of the delegation, Professor Arne Tostensen, urged the proposed Centres to use research findings to underpin policy direction by government at all levels, stressing the need to publish such findings in recognised international journals. The visiting delegation also called for sustainability of the project beyond World Bank funding, pointing in the direction partnership with multinational firms, short courses, endowments and student charges.

Professor Mba was accompanied by the President of Sudan International University, Professor Bari Saeed and a Senior Researcher at the Christian Michelsen Institute in Norway, Professor Tostensen.

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