Ekiadolor, Iyamho: A tale of two universities

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 The establishment of two universities in Edo State has brought joy to a set of people and anguish to another set, writes Banji Aluko.

The joy of the people of Ekiadolor, a community situated in the outskirts of Benin off the Benin-Ore expressway, knew no bound when in 2004 Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State announced plans of his government to upgrade the state college of education situated in the town to a university. To demonstrate his seriousness, the governor sent a bill for the upgrade of the former Advanced Teachers Training College that was established in 1979 and moved to Ekiadolor in 1986, to the Edo State House of Assembly. The lawmakers quickly passed the bill in March, 2014.  In no time, Governor Oshiomhole decided to honour the memory of former Commissioner for Education in the defunct Bendel State, Chief Tayo Akpata, hence he renamed the institution Tayo Akpata University of Education, Ekiadolor. The College community, management, staff and students began celebrating.

 

The economy of the community largely revolves around the institution. Without the college, many in Ekiadolor would not have ventured into building hostels nor would the women fill their shops with goods. With a student population put at about 2,500, it was like the elixir they had been waiting for. Hence the reason they rejoiced when the announcement for the upgrade was announced.

 

As Ekiadolor people were celebrating, another group of people in far away Uzaire clan in the northern parts of Edo State were celebrating for a similar reason. The approval for the conversion of the Ekiadolor College to university was done at about the same time the state government approved the creation of the Edo State University of Science and Technology in the Uzaire clan. Even when the community that will host the university had not been named, the entire clan celebrated because they knew of the spin-offs of citing university in their midst. By the time the ambiguity of location was resolved and Iyamho was named as host, other Uzaire communities still celebrated knowing fully well that a university had berthed amongst them.

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Two years after the approvals for the two universities were granted, the stories of Ekiadolor and Iyamho have, however, taken divergent paths. Today, one community has every reason to be joyful, the other does not. The lucky one is the Iyamho, which is in the process of admitting its first set of undergraduates, while the Ekiadolor College of Education, despite being an existing institution with existing facilities, is yet to see actions that match its new status of a university.

 

A visit to the college revealed that the institution is far from reaching the university status slapped on it. At the Ekiadolor campus, there is nothing to suggest that the place has existed for 30 years. Getting to the college alone was troublesome as the road leading to the campus is earth-road and sandy. When it rains, the about 300-metre road is hardly passable. Buses conveying students to campus stop at the college’s junction, leaving the student with the arduous task of finding their ways to campus. Often, the students will have to remove their shoes, roll their trousers or skirts and put their legs inside the mud to get to school.

 

A tour round the facilities in the institution did not last more than 15 minutes. It was that simple. Situated in the middle of the campus and opposite the entrance gate is the administrative block. It is a storey-building that houses the offices of the principal officers of the institution. A block of old classrooms and offices line the back of the administrative building. Built like lock up shops, they accommodate the 56 departments in the college. Long passages separate the blocks from one another. A senior staff of the college said the building berthed with the college in 1986.

 

On the right of the administrative building are the projects undertaken by the Federal government interventionist agency, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) and its precursor, the Education Trust Fund (ETF). Some of them are the biggest and most modern projects in the university and what gives the Ekiadolor College some features of higher institution. Without these buildings, the place could pass for a secondary school.

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They include the college’s library, the ICT Centre and the big lecture halls in the college. Even the chairs and tables in the classrooms are still among the numerous contributions of TETFUND and ETF.

 

A senior staff of the school, who preferred anonymity, said save for a lecture theatre built through a joint effort of the Lucky Igbinedion administration, no project has been completed in the college in the last 20 years by the real owners, the Edo State government.

 

The left side of the administrative building is dominated by the students. The hostel built at the inception of college, the SUG building and some make-shift structures that serve as business centres are located there.

 

There is a large piece of land in front of the SUG building. It takes patience to unravel what the place is for. It is was discovered to be a football field. Overgrown with weeds, the goal posts are the only reminders of the original design of the place.

 

 

 

In all, a forlorn atmosphere enveloped the college. A bush at the entrance gate of the institution welcomes one to the place. It is pointer to a common feature inside–overgrown weeds.

 

For the staff and student of the College of Education, Ekiadolor, it has been one long wait for the arrival of the university. Perhaps they hope that the university will give the place a turnaround. They said they had expected university programmes to take off in the 2014/2015  academic calendar, the academic calendar after the upgrade. Some of the new students said they were prepared to lose a year in order to convert their studies from the National Certificate of Education (NCE) programmes to Bachelor of Education programmes when the upgrade was announced in 2014.

 

Public Relations Officer of the institution, Dickson Agbonwaneten, said it was a known fact that the institution exists as a college years after it was pronounced as a university.

 

President of the Ekiadolor College of Education Student Union Government (SUG),  Obosa Enabulele, said the university status given the college only exists in name, adding that there is little to suggest that the university will take effect soon. He was joined by his Director of Information, Gideon Udehi, in appealing to the Edo State government to effect the upgrade to university or at least upgrade existing college facilities.

 

This is why the announcement last month of Professor Aduwa Ogiegbaen by the Edo State government as vice chancellor came to many as a surprise. According to Udehi, the college cannot run a university programme at least in the next six months because the school has not completed the first semester. He said if the college will ever run a university programme, it will not be in the lifetime of the Adams Oshiomhole’s administration because the students only started the first semester 2015/2016 examination in April and the examination will end in May. He noted that another academic calendar would not start until late in the year when the Oshiomhole’s government would have exited.

 

“They said they have changed the school to Tayo Akpata University of Education, but I don’t believe it. Apart from the signboard that you see at the College Road announcing Tayo Akpata University, there is nothing to suggest this place is a university. Early in 2015, they said that Bachelor of Education programmes would start by September.  September came and passed without the programme starting. They have given another date. We are waiting. I want to ask you, does this place look fitting for a college of education? If this place is not good enough for college of education, can it be good for a university?” Udehi stated.

 

The story in Iyamho, where the Edo University is located is, however, different. Right now, all is set for the matriculation of the first set of students at the new university. In April, the National Universities Commission (NUC) approved the institution as the 41st Nigerian state university and 142nd university in Nigeria. Principal officers including the vice chancellor and registrar have been appointed. In February, an advertorial was placed in a national daily announcing vacancies for academic and non academic staffs as well admission into degree programmes for 2015/2016 academic session. This is coming just as application for the first set of students is about to be completed at the university.

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A look at its website showed that a matriculation for the first set of students is imminent. Approved school fees for the departments have also been released. The school fees were initially put at about N700,000 across the departments, but another notice on the website indicated that the school fees inclusive of tuition, accommodation, library and payment for ICT, has been fixed for N400,000.

 

In the 2016 Edo State budget, about N1.2 billion, representing about 10 per cent of the total budget of the education sector, was allocated to the university. The amount is, however, incomparable to the level of work at the Iyamho permanent site of the institution. At least four gigantic state-of-the-art buildings including lectures halls, offices, library and auditorium are already completed, while works are ongoing on several other buildings.  Other projects ongoing in the institution are the teaching hospital complex and a 168-room hostel.

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Tongues have been wagging over the status of the two universities with many accusing the state governor of double standard. A former Commissioner for Education in Edo State, Dr. (Mrs) Elizabeth Edomwandagbon, who is from Ovia North East Local Government Area, where Ekiadolor is located said the Iyamho University was ill conceived, saying now is not the best time to start a new university when the existing state-owned Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, and other higher institutions were not being well funded.

 

She alleged that more than N30 billion has been expended on the EUI, noting that the amount was enough to give existing state-owned higher institutions considerable facelift. She added that the most confounding aspect of the new university is the impression that is being created by the state government that the university is a public private partnership when checks showed that every penny spent came from the purse of the state.

 

According to her, “The deceit started with the name. In the bill sent to the Assembly, they called it Edo State University of Science and Technology, Uzaire. Uzaire is not a name of any town but a clan. Oshiomhole’s true intention later came out when they changed it to Edo State University of Science and Technology, Iyamho, his hometown. Nobody even knows when state and science and technology were removed from the name to make it a general university. It will interest you to know that Oshiomhole has not built a toilet at the Ekiadolor College of Education that he now calls Tayo Akpata University. What he doesn’t know is that Edo people are watching.”

 

Edo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Prince Kassim Afegbua, however, said that the state government was on course to kick staring degree programmes in Ekiadolor and Iyamho. Afegbua, also clarified that the Edo University, Iyamho is fully owned by the state and every money spent on it is owned by the state. He stated that people saying that the university was spending  money not budgeted for were ignorant of the workings of budgets

 

He said: “The university is owned by the state government hundred per cent. It is an Edo State university. It is not a private property of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. We are building a state-of-the-art university that will cater for the education needs of the people out thinking is that is that instead of people going to Ghana and all these other countries acquiring half baked education. The university must be able to run itself and not necessarily depend on government for subventions.

 

“If a government can build a five star hotel in Edo, what stops the same government from building what could be termed a five star university. A university is an investment that can attract fund to the state and provide employment. When we place advertorial for employment, we receive over 39,000 applications. When we were vetting the applications, we discovered that more than half of the applicants were family members of the PDP people. We know because our government is run on ICT. These are the same people condemning the establishment of the university. There is nowhere in the world where education is cheap. We are running free primary and secondary education in Edo and that costs us a lot.”

 

On the status of the newly created Tayo Akpata University of Education, he said: “We have appointed a vice chancellor for the university. We have set up a committee made up of eight professors led by Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor. They submitted their report barely a month ago. They have given us a recommendation and we are following their recommendation. We are about announcing the chairman of the governing council so that we can operational structure in place before they commence degree programme. Give us some respect as a government that we are also thinking. You don’t stampede government; government is methodical.”

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