Benue State University: 30 years after

With a combined convocation ceremony, management of Benue State University (BSU) rolled out the drums recently in celebration of contributions to the state and country. JOHN SHIAONDO reports.

On Saturday, February 18 2023, Benue State University Makurdi, held the grand finale to mark its 30th year anniversary.

The event also featured the 18th 19th 20th and 21st combined convocations with award of Honorary Doctorate Degrees to distinguished Nigerians including the chancellor, His Gracious Majesty, King Disreal Gbobo Bob-Manuel II, His Excellency, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, Pastor Dr Paul Enenche, Chief Christopher Chuka Edordu and Prince Arthur Eze.

At the convocation, a total of 23,060 degrees and diplomas were conferred on graduands. 20,815 were awarded Bachelor’s Degrees, 494 Postgraduate Diplomas, 1, 605 Masters Degrees and 146 Ph.D. Out of the 20,815, 63 earned First Class.

The ceremony which was tagged, ‘BSU at 30: Boundless Years of Academic Growth’, was to remind the staff, students and alumni and bring to public domain the fact that the institution has humbly clocked 30 years.
The vice chancellor Professor Joe Tor Iorapuu said, “There is no doubt that three decades in the life of an institution is undeniably significant. The anniversary also marks a moment for the institution to critically look back and evaluate the academic experiences of the journey it has taken so far.” Masters

The journey so far

The university was established via Edict No 1 of 1991 during the tenure of Rev Fr Moses Adasu and has come a long way.
The university is one of the first state universities established in the northern part of Nigeria, and since its establishment has churned out many graduates, many of whom are making waves both in the private and public sectors.
With the humble beginning in 1992/93 academic session and a population of 308 students and 149 academic staff, four faculties, it has grown into 10 faculties with a huge student population staff. According to the VC, the institution has distinguished itself in various ways.
The university was adjudged as the best state owned university in the 2003/2004 academic year by the National Universities Commission (NUC) during which period, then vice chancellor, Prof David Ker was also acclaimed the best performing VC of state-owned universities by NUC.
A 2007 first class graduate of Law of the university also came out with a Ist class in the Bar examination of the Nigerian Law School among the only two that performed the academic feat that year in the entire country.
In August 2010, a 200-level Law undergraduate of the University Mr Victor Ochogwu, participated in World Annual International Human Rights Summit debate organised in Geneva, Switzerland by the United Nations and was adjudged the United Nations best spokesman.
A Ph.D thesis in History by Patrick Ukase was adjudged by the NUC as the best in the Faculties of Arts of all Nigerian universities by the NUC in 2009.
Dr Daniel Momngu Tiough, lecturer, Department of Vocational and Technical Education won the Professor Fafunwa outstanding Ph.D Thesis Award in Nigeria 2015.
In March 2011, students of the university participated in an intellectual quiz competition, ‘Rock and Rule’ organised by a telecommunication company. The North-central zonal stage of the competition took place at IBB Square Makurdi with participants from the university clinching first, second and third positions respectively in both male and female categories.

Some teething challenges

Despite these modest achievements, the institution had experienced some of its challenges that have formed a clog in the wheel of its progress.
The vice chancellor while speaking during the convocation said the university is faced with elongated academic year due to strike and the situation had always forced them to run the school with the same source of resources for 16 months instead of 12 months.
“We are also faced with the volatile market uncertainties leading to high cost of diesel and other running costs especially with the increase of energy tariff and continuing agitations of staff on welfare issues.
“The pending NUC accreditation of 18 programmes in 2022, finding alternative sources of income for the university and accessing grants in a competitive environment are some of the challenges we are facing.
“In Benue generally, we are faced with Insecurity especially the persistent herders attack and the situation makes BSU vulnerable as many potential scholars and collaborators are weary. “Recently, a 400 level Chemistry student was killed in the Nagi attack that just took place few weeks back,” he added.

Stellar achievements

According to the VC, the institution in few years back was confronted with lapsed accreditation of several of the school academic programmes.
The challenges notwithstanding, staff of BSU had continued to excel in receiving grants through the Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER), DAAD-Germany and TETFUND.
It was learnt that only recently, some BSU academic staff were invited to defend their research work for the TETFUND National Research Fund.
With the Completion of the Research and Innovation Hub Centre, BSU would become more active, competitive and visible in research and innovation. The academic staff of the university have also ventured into production of table water which has gained a sizable market in Benue and other parts of the country.
The university has also grown in all dimensions such as capacity building of staff and students, equipment and infrastructure. From a few structures inherited from the then Government Technical College, Makurdi, it has over the years developed structures courtesy of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) former Education Tax Fund (ETF), Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) and the state government.

The VC is consolidating on these milestones, impacting on new ones such as accreditation of programmes, more infrastructure such as the academic building, new Faculty of Education, Centre for Research Development, building of intra – campus roads, environmental sanitation, timely processing of results, staff training and enhancement, among others
The Centre for Food Technology and Research (CEFTER) a World Bank project has remained one of the most active arms of the university in terms of research and collaboration.
The VC in his comments said, “Through CEFTER the visibility of the university has increased in terms of collaboration with local and communities the international communities.
“At the local level, CEFTER has contacts and community-based groups with farmers in 23 local government areas.
“Through CEFTER, BSU has established a strong relationship with the University of Zagreb, Croatia. BSU will soon begin to reap the benefits of this relationship in terms of equipment, exchange of staff and training.
“We are expecting Architecture, Geology, Building, and Special Education programmes to follow afterwards.”

The university has within the last 30-years trained students in novel programmes that have only added not only values to humanity, but have also grown in leaps and bounds in terms of scholarship and research, infrastructure development, social impact and collaboration.

Governor Ortom speaks on intervention

Various speakers at the convocation said the institution has grown to an admirable stage churning quality graduates that have contributed in the development, not only in Benue but Nigeria.

Governor Samuel Ortom, visitor of the university while speaking at the occasion said the state government has provided interventions aimed at fast-tracking the holistic development of the university, key among them which include sustained financial support and placement of the university on first-line charge, a situation that makes staff to receive salary before any other in the state.
He said in pursuance of the university’s vision of first choice in Nigeria and Africa, and among the top 200 in the world, the state government bequeathed three critical assets to the institution, namely: the Makurdi Zoological Garden, the J.S Tarka Foundation and the defunct Agricultural Development Company (ADC).
He said he had faced stiff resistance in the process of handing over the named intitutions and structures to the university, but was optimistic and convinced that sooner than later, the public and citizens of the state would soon appreciate the wisdom behind the action.
“I therefore, charge you intellectuals and management to explore the full potential of these assets to enhance research and economic fortunes of the institution.
“In the early part of my administration, we intervened in the accreditation crisis that resulted in the stagnation of our medical students for several years. Our intervention paved the way for seamless graduation of medical doctors who are doing the state proud in their various areas of practice. In the same vein, my administration handed over the Schools of Nursing and Midwifery to the university to serve as the Department of Nursing Sciences.
“This gesture is in furtherance a demonstration of our avowed commitment to providing high level manpower for the health sector.
“Let me assure the university of the continued support of my government in its drive towards attainment of the objectives of the founding fathers of the university. “We share the sentiments of the late South African legend, Nelson Mandela, who once stated that, “Education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world.
“We consider education as one of our cardinal responsibilities and this responsibility is a social debt we owe this generation and posterity. “That accounts for the huge investment we have expended in education,” he added.

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