VICE-CHANCELLOR’S CHRISTMAS MESSAGE Let Us Rededicate Ourselves To Better Service Delivery In 2017


Dear Compatriots,
One challenging year is about to end and another one is beckoning to all of us with renewed promise of what we can accomplish together as a select community of scholars, administrators, technocrats and students. As your Vice-Chancellor, I want to make a passionate appeal to all stakeholders in the affairs of the University to give maximum cooperation to the administration that would enable it attain enhanced service delivery in 2017.
The beginning of my tenure served as a learning curve and a period of finetuning the system I inherited for greater performance. Despite the orchestrated disruption of the system by a few dubiously motivated forces in and outside the University last April, this administration has done very well in many areas to justify my optimism of improved service delivery in the coming year.
On assumption of office, we focused attention on security for obvious reasons. As everybody knew at the time, the University and its environs came under siege from kidnappers and sundry criminal elements that made life hellish for all of us. We had spent much money on renting and reconstructing a Police Post that was never populated until the current Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Francis Odesanya did it for us. We even got far better than we bargained for as a crack team of no-nonsense and fearless police personnel was deployed to the staging base from the Federal Capital Territory with different rules of engagement.
Today, there is relative calm in the University and its neighbourhood as the special team under the able command of Mr. Ben Igwe, has already made landmark discoveries and put the criminals on the back pedal. For instance, they have promptly rounded up the killers of Barrister Ken Asuete, while those that murdered our own Lecturer, Dr. Eebah Lebari of the Faculty of Management Sciences are currently cooling down in Police net and awaiting their day in court. 
As I address you, incidents of cultism have reduced significantly on our Campus and Senate of this University is going even tougher against the evil practice that had truncated the ambition of so many young people. As you would recall, once I assumed office on July 13, 2016, I embarked on a Campus-wide facility tour that revealed the magnitude of rot that we had to clear. I was humbled by what I saw—especially at students’ hostels that had not been renovated for over forty years. From what I can see, people are very happy that we are finally recreating the hostel to make them habitable for our dear students once more. 
The public toilets I promised on assumption of office will be commissioned this week, meaning that residents and other visitors to the University can now answer the call of nature in dignity and privacy. Slowly, but steadily, we are making verifiable progress, some of which may not be immediately tangible. For instance, we continue to deepen the academic culture and streamline the bureaucracy that usually undermines efficiency in the Public Service.”
About a fortnight ago, we facilitated the promotion of forty-four academics to the professoriate in one fell swoop, a feat that may not have been recorded in the entire Nigerian university system before now. The affected academics were overjoyed that their labour can pay off in such a bountiful manner. Let nobody be fooled, however, to think that the greasy ladder to the professoriate has been lowered to accommodate mediocrity in the hallowed corridors of the academia by the sheer number of those promoted. We were simply rewarding scholarship and excellence in the finest academic tradition.
The Appointments and Promotions Committee is not Santa Claus that generously dispenses favours from fairyland. On the contrary, we have established very stringent criteria for purposes of promoting deserving academics. Accordingly, we are determined to maintain scholarship and a culture of excellence for which academics in this University are well known. All the external assessors that came here to evaluate our candidates for the professoriate praised them for the depth of their scholarship and public service records. Interview procedures have been streamlined on my watch in such a way that Deans are now excluded from nominating external assessors. To ensure transparency and credibility of the process, we now go online to source external assessors that cannot come under undue influence and there is more confidentiality in the process. Some of the assessors have promised to introduce the same stringent evaluation criteria back in their own institutions.
The National Universities Commission recently sent thirty-five teams that evaluated programmes in the various departments and from the feelers we are receiving, the University did well in the daunting exercise. We spent so much money, time and energy to host the various accreditation teams and we thank the Honourable Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu for conveying executive approval in the absence of a Governing Council. We hope that the improvements made in time for the accreditation exercise will not only secure us accreditation in the programmes evaluated, but would ultimately translate into better research and teaching.
On linkages, more institutions and corporate bodies are partnering the University in cutting-edge research and training of scholars to give of their very best to the system. We are forging collaborative ventures with universities in the United Kingdom, including Oxford and other high profile industry players around the world. For instance, the partnership between the IFP School in Paris and our own Institute of Petroleum Studies is providing exemplary training for our students in the oil and gas industry. We recently signed a new partnership agreement with the Management of IFP School which has brought enormous visibility and goodwill to the University.
Many people who knew the Gladys Cookey Children’s Resource Centre would readily agree that the Centre has undergone remarkable transformation in recent times. The leadership of the University of Port Harcourt Women Association (UPWA), has truly added value to Montessori education in the neighbourhood through its commitment to the development of the UPWA School. Staff and students there now teach and learn in a very enabling environment.
It is our hope that most of the vices that plagued our system in 2016 would be reduced to the barest minimum in 2017. In the next academic session, Senate of the University is ready to deal decisively with errant students, while the right policies are now in place to identify, diligently prosecute and, where necessary, dismiss staff that fail to operate in line with the terms of their employment as part of our effort to clean up the system.
My message to the University community is that we have very good reasons to celebrate and congratulate ourselves for what has been achieved as we look forward to Christmas and prepare to roll into the New Year with renewed hope of what we can bring to the table together.
I wish to use this opportunity to welcome the newly-admitted students into the University and to warn them that gaining admission is the easier part of university education. They must work hard to earn every mark that they desire in a system that lays emphasis on excellence and creativity. I am particularly happy and wish to congratulate those students who are proceeding on the mandatory one year National Youth Service Corps scheme to serve their fatherland after successfully completing their studies here. I hope they would identify with the Alumni Association wherever they may be. I also wish to felicitate with our staff for their solid contributions to the growth of this University and hope that they would make more sacrifices in the New Year to help take the University to where we all want it to be.
The “Arab Spring” that nearly consumed our University on April 11, 2016, was totally unnecessary and highly condemnable. Those who instigated a few students to go on rampage with a view to getting rid of the Vice-Chancellor through concocted lies and clandestine meetings, only succeeded in hurting the system. The self-congratulatory posturing was unnecessary as we now know. Unfortunately, the university system is currently suffering from poor funding which has resulted in declining motivation for research by scholars, some of who do not seem to understand how a conventional university works. 
Most scholars and administrators think that only the position of Vice-Chancellor exists in the university system today. The result is that some of those who lose out in the contest for the position regroup to mount relentless opposition to the successful candidate, who is compelled to combine his statutory functions with devising lawful ways of containing such sinister forces and their godfathers. What they seem to forget is that the Vice-Chancellor is here for only five years and is gone for good.
It would be preferable for the loser to join the winner to build a great university that would be bequeathed to posterity. My advice to implacable foes is that they should not destroy the system because they or their preferred candidate are not on the saddle, because the system will certainly outlive the very best of us as an inexorable law of nature. As Vice-Chancellor, I have no intention of segregating the system into competing interest blocs. For instance, I did not sack most of the personnel I inherited from my predecessor’s administration. Those I replaced had statutorily come to the end of their tenures.
The University of Port Harcourt is a truly metropolitan institution that has become an attractive brand for people from all over the country and beyond and no one Vice-Chancellor can alter this impressive mosaic of talents that enrich our institutional profile and the learning process. In the final analysis, this University must remain peaceful and prosperous to advance our collective interest as a community of scholars.
As we celebrate, we must be security conscious and avoid keeping late nights. Also, we should not over-indulge ourselves in activities that may compromise our health and total wellbeing. I pray that we all return to our desks and classrooms to continue the onerous task of institution building bequeathed to us by our visionary founding fathers in 1975.
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year in advance! See you in 2017.



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