ADDRESS DELIVERED BY THE VICE-CHANCELLOR, PROFESSOR SULYMAN AGE ABDULKAREEM, AT THE PRESS BRIEFING MARKING THE BEGINNING OF THE 36TH CONVOCATION CEREMONIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN ON MONDAY, 18TH OCTOBER, 2021
CONSOLIDATING IN STRENGTH AND PRIDE
It is with utmost pleasure and joy I welcome you all to this annual tradition of press briefing, which usually heralds our consistent yearly convocation ceremonies. As I am welcoming you with heartfelt appreciation of your presence here today, I am profoundly grateful to the Almighty God for not only sparing all of us to witness this momentous occasion, but also for the good things He has done for us and our University in the last two years. The COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the entire globe for close to two years now, has inevitably disrupted our lives as individuals and corporate entities. That we are still alive today is therefore a favour from the Almighty God.
At this juncture, I welcome the gentlemen of the press, who are our main guests and audience here today. We thank you for always being with us as an indispensable partner in our steady progress to the greater height we desire; and for supporting our committed efforts at achieving the goals we set for ourselves. In the same vein, we are grateful to all our well-wishers all over the world, including those that are attending this event physically here, virtually online, and those who could not; for their support and encouragement that have continuously inspired us to doubly dedicate ourselves to our mission and vision. With profound gratitude, I welcome all the important personalities and friends of our University who are here today to witness our stock-taking and celebration of the consolidation we have made in the last two years at the University of Ilorin. I also welcome the graduating students, parents and guardians that are in our midst today.
Very importantly, too, you will also permit me to recognise all the members of the University of Ilorin community for their untiring commitment to excellence, sterling integrity, sacrifice and endurance. Let me put it on record that we would not have been here today to kick off the 36th Convocation ceremonies without the wholehearted sacrifice and diligence of the ‘teaming’ staff of this University, TEAM UNILORIN. We are today very proud to say that our Institution is probably the only public university in Nigeria that did not cancel out a session despite the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19. We are, therefore, very proud that we can maintain our unbroken record for stable and undisrupted academic process and calendar because of our collective resolve to make our University distinct.
I will ever be grateful to the Provost and Committee of Deans particularly the Provost, for mobilising and driving us all for the feat we achieved and for the unique story we have written with the way we have maintained our unbroken record for stable and undisrupted academic calendar in spite of the devastating challenges that threatened the record. Of importance, too, are members of Senate, who have always been giving us tremendous support with their express approval of academic initiatives that have continued to bring glory to this University. Without their approval, we will definitely not be here today. I also thank Directors of Departments, Centres, and Units, Heads of Departments, Deputy Registrars and senior administrative staff who are genuinely committed to moving the University to the enviable level we desire. The unalloyed support and cooperation from all these groups of people, including the ceaseless toiling of level advisers, the persevering spirit of all senior and junior staff, both teaching and non-teaching, have worked in no small measure to culminate in the landmark achievement we are celebrating on this grand occasion.
I must also specially appreciate my loyal lieutenants, who should forgive me for breaking the protocol in order to first give honour and appreciation to the ‘TEAMING’ staff that had made our job much easier. Thus, I specially appreciate the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Professor Sylvia Malomo; the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Management Services), Professor Bolaji F. Sule; the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research, Technology and Innovation), Professor Mikhail Buhari; the Registrar, Dr (Mrs) F. M. Olowoleni; the University Librarian, Professor Abdulwahab Olanrewaju Issa; and the University Bursar, Mr. Hakeem Sonde. These committed and loyal lieutenants have been my backbones since we started the journey together; and they have not faltered and relented in any way. Their faithfulness, commitment and wisdom have not only re-strengthened my vision for this University, but also continuously reinforced my assurance that I will also leave this University far better than I met it.
Distinguished guests, gentlemen of the Press, ladies and gentlemen, the University’s 4th Strategic Plan, which has been the major roadmap and visionary initiative of my administration, is aimed at propelling the University of Ilorin to an exceptionally high altitude of excellence. Thus, in the last four years that I have been in the leadership saddle of this University, the goal that I have been vigorously pursuing is enhancing the status and ranking of our University as an international center of excellence for learning, research, probity and service to humanity. I have been passionately driving this University on a course of becoming more reputable for research outputs that can change the world. With the Unilorin Team, we have been collectively and conscientiously transforming the University into an academic hub of discovery, learning and innovation. We have, indeed, launched the University into the orbit or new era of excellence in university education in Nigeria. The evidence of the giant strides we have made in respect of all these goals is clear and unquestionable.
The 2019/2020 academic session, which was bedeviled with the emergence of COVID-19 and the ASUU strike, was supposed to be the year of consolidation for us at the University of Ilorin. However, with the collaboration and cooperation of the Unilorin Team, we responded effectively to the challenges of the pandemic and the strike. The University, with the support of all its staff, adopted the virtual classroom system and a subsequent phased resumption of physical classroom activities. We were able to use the blended learning model to complete the interrupted 2019/2020 session after which we began immediately the 2020/2021 session. To achieve this feat, the University spent more than N68 million to improve on the university-wide internet infrastructures. We increased Glo’s bandwidth from 620Mbps to 1Ggps. We also acquired additional 1Ggps internet bandwidth from NgREN (Nigerian Research and Education Network). In the like manner, we acquired Zoom Licenses at the cost of 67,000 USD for delivery of lectures, meetings and tutorials; 2000 for 300 concurrent participants, 8 Licenses for 1000, 7 for 500, 5 webinar licenses for 3000 and 2 webinar licenses for 5000 concurrent participants. The 3000-participant licences were also shared among Faculties, Departments and academic staff of the University.
Similarly, our Directorate of COMSIT was mandated to assign, plan, implement and develop new website for the University main domain under the COMSIT Re-engineering Project so as to enhance our visibility and online operations. This assignment was handed over to McGeorge Consulting Limited in accordance with TETFund award guidelines. It is our hope that the new website will be delivered to Directorate of COMSIT soon for content population and necessary implementation.
Thus, despite its challenges, the 2019/2020 academic session was again an eventful and fulfilling year — in all ramifications of academic excellence. In this academic session, we consolidated on our past achievements and glories in research, teaching and community services while we solidly enhanced our commitment to stamp our name on global epitaph of academic excellence and reputation. We were gratified to win the 2019/2020 JAMB’s pioneer award for ‘The Most Subscribed University’ with a cash prize of Seventy-Five Million Naira (N75,000,000.00). The University also bagged the JAMB’s award for the University that admitted the highest number of foreign students for the 2019/2020 academic session and was thereby awarded another cash prize of Seventy-Five Million Naira (N75,000,000.00) ; making a total of One Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N150,000,000.00) that our University got from the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) during the 2019/2020 academic session. Similarly, NUC’s 2020 ranking placed University of Ilorin as the second best in Nigeria after University of Lagos.
In the 2019/2020 academic session, we won many awards of recognition. We were nominated for the prestigious global recognition for the “Top 100 Achievements’ Award” by the United Kingdom based International Achievement Forum. In addition, the University emerged as one of the 20 universities that produced the most employed graduates in Nigeria. This was contained in the report of the concluded study conducted by Stutern Nigeria Graduate Report on the products of the Nigerian university system.
One of our great achievements in the 2019/2020 academic session, which we are passionately proud of, was the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we consummated and signed with the Nigerian Army to support research development of ballistic composites and the promotion of local content development.
The University, during the 2019/2020, session proved its mettle on the global stage with its emergence as the winner of Global competitions such as the global Artificial Intelligence (AI) competition anchored by Scale Early, Rapidly and Securely (SERS) of the Carleton University, Canada.
Our researchers during the 2019/2020 session vigorously supported our mission of making the University the hub of innovative research that could change the world.
A large majority of our faculty members published quality and impactful research findings in high-indexed journals of international status while many of them also won huge research grants from local and international funding agencies for innovative studies. One of such huge grants that is worthy of mentioning here today is the 324,578.983 US Dollars grant won by Dr. M.O. Sunmonu of Food Engineering Department to enhance agricultural value chain in Nigeria using data analysis and Geographic Information System (GIS). It also gladdens our hearts that Professor O. M. Kolawole won N45,467.100.00 TETfund National Research Fund (NRF) to investigate Epidemiology and Outcome of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Nigeria. Similarly, Professor D.S. Ademola-Popoola won N23,819,425.00 TETfund NRF to investigate Key Information Method for Prevalence and Causes of Childhood Visual Impairment and Blindness in Kwara State, Nigeria. The N17,000.000.00 TETfund NRF grant won by Professor B. V. Owoyele to examine the Effect of Vitamin D3 Receptor Stimulation on Dopamine Metabolism and CA2+ Toxicity in 6-Hydroxydopamine Lesioned Nigostriatal System is also one of our flaunts for our consolidation in strength and pride.
Our patenting profile was also firmly consolidated during the 2019/2020 session. Processed Patents Certification for new inventions during the session include:
Production of Fibrillated Hybrid Polystyrene Composite for Ballistic Protection by my humble self and my assistant, Dr. A.G. Adeniyi;
Wood Plastic Composite Binded by Polystyrene Based Resin by my humble self and my assistant, Dr A.G. Adeniyi;
An Orthogonal Power-Transmission Lawn Mowing Cum Slashing Machine by Professor S. M. Adebayo; and
Process for Making Bio-Composite Abrasive Grinding Wheel by Drs H. A. Ajimotokan & A. A. Samuel.
To appreciate and recognise the contribution of the dedicated team of faculty members in the University, we resuscitated our tradition of awarding Professor Emeritus to deserving members who could satisfy the stringent criteria for the award. Four of our eminent retired but not tired researchers, whose academic excellence in research, teaching and community service was well acknowledged, were already appointed and ratified by Senate. Their appointment recently got Council’s approval. Likewise, we instituted monetary prizes for appreciating all our faculty members who could publish in Q-rated journals as a way of motivating and pushing our desire of being known for impactful research that could change the world. Our Researcher of Year award is being strengthened to make the criteria for winning the award more stringent in order to enhance our stand and passion for justice, fairness, quality, productivity and global recognition.
We continue to motivate our staff through training and re-training while we are also consolidating the culture of mentorship through which the lecturers could be adequately inspired and appropriately guided. We are consolidating on the revived quality assurance, monitoring, evaluation and control mechanism to enhance lecturers’ discipline, productivity and commitment. As I said last year, promotion and general wellbeing are hygiene factors that adequately increase productivity of workers. We acknowledge this fact, and it has been the guiding principle and priority of our administration. Stagnation of qualified and competent staff is no more part of our promotion policy. This year alone, we have promoted not less than two hundred members of staff across different cadres of academic and non-academic positions.
The excellence of our teaching was also validated this session with the performance of our students at various external examinations and competitions. While two of our 300 level students of the Department of Accounting, Adebayo Yusuf Akanni and Oyetola Oyewumi Adedamola, were declared as the overall best students in ATS III and Cost Accounting respectively in the ICAN examination, a 300-level student of our Faculty of Law, Miss Famuyiwa Olushola, likewise won the Maiden Edition of the International Bar Association (IBA) Vlogging (Video-blogging) competition. Our mission of providing a world-class environment for learning, research and community service was consolidated in this academic session, and such consolidation was validated by the National Universities Commission. During the 2019/2020 session, we presented 42 academic programmes for NUC’s accreditation, and 34 (thirty-four) out of the programmes presented earned full accreditation status while 8 programmes earned interim accreditation.
To enrich our commitment to enhancing the health delivery system in Nigeria through the training of competent and globally competitive medical practitioners, we have upgraded our College of Health Sciences not only with an expansion in its facilities and laboratories, but also with the establishment of an additional Faculty of Basic Clinical Sciences. We have also begun the training of Dentists within our new Department of Dentistry and Radiography. With the help of TETfund, we have established a Molecular Diagnostic and Research Laboratory with a view to assisting in the surveillance of diseases like poliomyelitis, Lassa fever and other viral haemorrhagic fevers. The laboratory will also be of immense benefit for COVID-19 diagnosis, Forensic Medicine, Oncology and management of Sickle Cell disease. We have commenced the establishment of the Institute of Medical Research and Training. A substantial section of the road leading from the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital to our College of Health Sciences has been rehabilitated and asphalted to ease access of our medical students from the College to the University Hospital.
In 2020, we were faced with protracted financial challenges resulting from the economic meltdown occasioned by the lockdown. We had a deficit variance of income expected from the Federal Government to the tune of more than 2 Billion Naira and there was a deficit of actual receipt from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). The drastic financial drop in our projected income put a lot of financial pressure on us and constrained us in meeting the requirements of our growth objectives. Since the cardinal principles of my administration have always been discipline and prudence, we cautiously managed the meager resources that we had to the extent that we ultimately had a commendable overall budget performance and we were able to execute not less than 26 physical infrastructural projects in the year under review. Details of all the new projects and renovated facilities we were able to execute are contained in our Annual Report, which we will present to the Visitor on the Convocation Day. However, permit me to list some of them here for your acknowledgement.
Construction of Extension of the Main Library
Construction of Administrative Block for the Faculty of Environmental Sciences
Construction of Surveying and Geo-Informatics Department
Construction of the Faculty of Engineering 500-Seat Lecture Theater (ongoing)
Construction of Department of Chemical Engineering (ongoing)
Construction of Carpentry Workshop and Paint Factory for Technical and Entrepreneurship Center
Asphalt Overlay on the existing surface road to the College of Health Sciences (Phases 1, 2 & 3)
Construction of 130 Meters of Asphalt Overlay of 6 meters-wide and 2 meters width surface dressing overlay on the existing surface road to the College of Health Sciences
Laying of Paving stone on the existing parking lot within Senate Building
Construction of the new GNS Building from our IGR, which was possible through the prudence and commitment of the former Director of General Studies Division, Professor Nasir AbdulSalam,
Renovation of a building on the Mini Campus of the University that would serve as Clinic Annex for students of the Open Distance Learning (ODL), JUPEB and Institute of Education.
The health and wellbeing of our staff and students has always been paramount to us. To this end, we improved on our health delivery services during the year through various projects that included:
Drug and Consumable procurement for students and staff to the tune of Forty-eight Million, Two Hundred and Fifty-nine Thousand Naira only (N48,259,000:00);
Payment of medical bills of students that needed specialist attention with their referral to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH);
Purchase of instruments, equipment and consumables that the University Health Services needed for prevention and control of COVID-19;
Purchase of Consumable for the Dental Unit of the University Health Services; and
Approval for the extension of the University Clinic, which would commence at any time from now. The extension is part of the NEEDS Assessment Project.
We are indeed consolidating our globalisation drives. To this end, we have been able to consummate academic linkages and collaborations with some prestigious foreign universities. For example, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National University of Science and Technology Pakistan, and had also renewed our MoU with the University and CSIR –IMMT Bhubaneshwar. Like I have earlier said, we won the JAMB’s award for the University that admitted the highest number of foreign students for the 2019/2020 academic session because we had intensified our international students’ enrolment. Currently, there are over three hundred and sixty-two (362) international students studying various courses at Language immersion, undergraduate and postgraduate levels at the University of Ilorin. During the year, five international students from Cameroon who successfully completed their MB;BS programme were inducted into the Nigerian Medical Profession with two (2) of the students awarded best students in pre-Clinical and best in Physiology. This is to confirm the extent to which we have consolidated on our goal for globalisation and diversity among staff and students.
Last year, I mentioned that we are moving to the point when we would be sponsoring every academic staff to at least one local or one international conference annually, and sponsoring every senior non-teaching staff to at least one local or one international professional conference annually. The dire drop in our finances hampered the complete fulfilment of this promise. Nevertheless, many of our staff benefitted from the TETfund overseas conference grants. We attracted a total sum of Seventy-Two Million, Four Hundred and Fifty-Six Thousand, One Hundred and Eighty Naira only (₦72,456,180.00) as TETFund conference attendance grants in three (3) tranches to sponsor Forty-Seven (47) Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff to different parts of the world for international conferences.
Distinguished guests, gentlemen of the Press, ladies and gentlemen, we are also seriously consolidating our community services not only in terms of assisting the community around us in their quest for support of various dimensions but also in our efforts at making life much more comfortable for them. For example, we distributed COVID-19 palliatives (e.g. hand sanitizers and nose masks) to the neighbouring communities through our COVID-19 Committee. We are almost concluding a plan to construct Unilorin small hydropower plant to be propelled by the river feeding our small earth dam to generate power that can be used by our community and those close to us. The feasibility study and design of the hydropower have been carried out by our National Centre for Hydropower plant Research and Development. The bill of quantity has been prepared and construction will commence in due course as part of 2021 capital projects.
Through a special intervention from the Central Bank of Nigeria, we have started a mega poultry farm that will greatly serve the needs of the people within our environment. With its bright prospects, the farm is also going to be a great source of internally generated revenue for us and a training centre for the staff and students.
Our Open and Distance Learning degree programme on which we had spent so much of our resources is set to take off soon. We are starting off with Computer Science Programme. The National Universities Commission had come for resource verification, and with their exit report, which looked very good; we will soon be given the final approval to start the programme that will be unique in its delivery and operation. The goal of this programme is to extend access to our quality education to all and sundry across the world. On this note, I thank all that have contributed immensely to the growth of the Center. Permit me to single out the present Director of the Center, Professor Omipidan, for his dedication, perseverance and sacrifice and my DVC Academic that drove the project.
Students Graduating from the University of Ilorin in the 2019/2020 Academic Session
Distinguished guests, gentlemen of the Press, ladies and gentlemen, it is gratifying to declare here now that we shall be convoking a total of 10,922 students during the 36th Convocation Ceremonies we are heralding with this press conference. Out of this figure, 9,338 are First Degree/Diplomas graduands while the remaining 1,584 are graduating with Higher Degrees/Postgraduate Diplomas. In the First Degree/Diploma category, we have 180 First Class, 2,836 Second Class Upper Division, 4,879 Second Class Lower Division, 1,110 Third Class and 14 Pass. We also have 140 MB;BS graduands, 46 graduands in Nursing, 5 graduands with Distinction and 16 with Pass in Optometry, 6 graduands with Distinction and 49 with Pass in Pharmacy while we have 37 graduands in Veterinary Medicine. Furthermore, a total of 20 graduands are obtaining Diploma from the Institute of Education. For emphasis, the total number of higher degrees to be awarded at this occasion is 1,584. This figure comprises 142 Postgraduate Diplomas, 1142 Masters from various Faculties, 113 MBA/MPA/MILR/MGIS/MPH/MHPM and 187 PhDs.
The 2019/2020 session was also special because we had 2,766 students from our affiliated institutions that completed their programmes and will be awarded Postgraduate Diplomas after going through our rigorous and high standard of academic excellence as well as our stringent quality control mechanisms. Another 84 students from institutions affiliated with us are also being awarded Diploma degrees in various disciplines.
Distinguished guests, gentlemen of the Press, ladies and gentlemen, let me use this opportunity to invite you to all the other activities and events that are part of our 36th Convocation Ceremonies, which we began with a special Juma’at service that held last Friday 15th October, 2021 at the University Central Mosque and an Interdenominational Church Service on Sunday, 17th October, 2021 at the St. Thomas Acquinas Chaplaincy on our Campus. With this Press Briefing, we are kicking off the main events of the 36th Convocation Ceremonies. On Thursday, 21st October, 2021, we shall have the Convocation Play, entitled Aadoye (No Secret Anywhere). The Play is a South African Dance Interpretation by Steve James. It is choreographed by our own Felix Akinsipe, and will come up in two sessions at the University’s Performing Arts Theatre – one at 4.00 p.m. and the other at 6.00 p.m.
This year’s Convocation Lecture, entitled “Tertiary Education and the Future of Nigeria” will be delivered here in this Auditorium on Friday, 22nd October, 2021 at 10.00a.m. by our own legal luminary, Mallam Yusuf Olaolu Ali, SAN. Mallam Yusuf Ali is a reliable ally and age-long friend of this University. He has been a dependable partner who gives us support and solidarity with all he has to enhance our capacity in delivering our core mandates. There will be the Chancellor’s Cocktail in honour of the Lecturer at our Multipurpose Hall by 1.00 p.m. on the same day.
The grand finale of the Convocation Ceremonies for the award of prizes, First and Postgraduate Degrees, and Diplomas for all the 15 Faculties and the Postgraduate School degrees will come up on Saturday, 23rd October, 2021 in the University Auditorium here, beginning from 10.00 a.m. The Visitor of the University will commission some completed projects at various sites on our campus by 2.30 p.m on the same day while the day’s events will be rounded off with the Convocation Luncheon and Merit Awards given to deserving staff members by 3.00 p.m. at the Multipurpose Hall of the University. The 36th Convocation Ceremonies of the University will be brought to a close with a thanksgiving Church Service that will be held at the Chapel of the Light on Sunday, 24th October, 2021 and a special Juma’at service of appreciation on Friday, 29th October, 2021 at the Unilorin Central Mosque.
Let me at this juncture quickly note that physical attendance at the main Convocation event on Saturday, 23rd October, 2021 will be restricted to only graduands with First Class Degree Honours, Prize Winners and Doctoral Awardees. Therefore, entry into the Main Auditorium will be strictly by invitation cards. I must also enjoin all our visitors that will be on campus for the Convocation Ceremonies to put on their face masks and strictly observe all non-pharmaceuticals protocols as well as personal hygiene.
Let me then thank all members of our Ceremonial Committee for their ingenuity and dedication.
Distinguished guests, gentlemen of the Press, ladies and gentlemen, let me repeat that: honestly, God has been wonderful to me as the Chief Executive Officer of this University since I was divinely given the mantle of leadership, and particularly during one of the challenging years of my tenure. What the University was able to achieve and consolidate in spite of the excruciating challenges and experiences during the 2019/2020 academic year has strengthened our hope that the University’s future is potentially bright. I, therefore, urge all the University’s stakeholders to renew their energy, devotion, faith, attitudes and ethos that can rekindle the unique Unilorin spirit for attaining the greater height we envision. I want to repeat what has been my philosophy over the last four years: “The only limit in our realisation of tomorrow”, as Franklin Roosevelt had once said, is “our doubt of today” and as I am always motivated to say, we all need to continue to work together without fear. With providence on our side and your collaborative commitment, which we adequately demonstrated during the 2019/2020 session, there is an assurance of brighter future and further accomplishments. Together, we will continue to rejoice in the confidence that Unilorin remains on top forever.
Thank you for your kind attention.