FUNAAB reiterates commitment to manpower development for agro-allied sectors
• Speaks on allegations in student’s open letter
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), Professor Felix Kolawole Salako, has reiterated the commitment of the university to the grooming of high-level manpower for the agro-industrial sector of the economy with a view to contributing to food security, employment and wealth creation.
He also explained to The Guardian that Ifemosun Adewale, a student who wrote an open letter complaining about insecurity and transportation challenges, was expelled because he could not defend various allegations against the university and the management team.
According to him, if agricultural productivity and food security are to become a reality in the country, professional manpower development is essential, and that the university has made studies in agriculture-related disciplines so practical and simplified with the objective of producing an employable workforce for the sectors.
Emphasis is placed on academic theories and they are complemented with practical agricultural practices with modern technologies, innovations and improved techniques which are strong factors in productivity.
On why the university expelled one of its students recently, Salako said, “He made very weighty allegations and so we wanted him to clear the air on the reasons he had written the letter.
“He met with the panel that had him summoned only once, making unverified statements. So, he was asked to come with his documents which took him a month. He did not bother to report to any of the panels even while they contacted him and so they unanimously wrote and sent their reports to me and I sent the report to the Student Disciplinary Committee to invite him. Again, he could not clear the air on the allegations.”
Explaining the security situation and the complaint about frequent armed robberies of students living off-campus, Prof. Salako said: “my job is to protect them and oversee their well-being.”
The administrator reiterated that he did not write to security agents as stated in the open letter, saying, “I remember that last year when I came on board, I admonished the students to stay away from all forms of illicit dealings as the university would not condone such activities by the students. This was what he interpreted as a conspiracy against the students. The authority of the Vice-Chancellor is within the confines of the university’s premises and only on extreme insecurity issues can he invite security agents.”
He explained that the university had the about 15,000-student capacity and could not make accommodation available for only 20 per cent of the population of students, prompting most of the students to live outside the campus. This, he explained, was not peculiar to the university, as most of the government-owned universities could not accommodate all students.
On transportation challenges mentioned by the student, the vice-chancellor said “the university started it under Prof. Adedipe about 31 years ago. He provided transportation for the students. Over the years, we reviewed the system in that transportation was made available from Camp Junction to campus. For more than 10 years, students were paying N10 bus fare.
“Within these years, there were increases in pump prices and inflation in the purchase of spare parts and vehicles. When I came on board as the vice-chancellor, there were only four functional buses, and we had to do a lot of repairs and later we were able to have an additional 19 buses.
“Realistically,” he pointed out, “the funds are not available to finance all these projects. Ifemosun complained about the congestion at the bus park for more than two hours because there were no buses.
“I must say that the population of the students greatly increased as time went by and as we noticed, that the situation was getting out of hand, we devised a plan to help ameliorate the suffering of students from the situation. We moved early morning lectures for 100-level students to 9.00 a.m. to decongest Camp Junction. But we still had the problem of convergence as the students do converge at the same time. So, we took proactive measures in repairing buses so that they will be available to convey the students and we reshaped our lecture schedules, but the population of our students is a major setback.”
On the comments of rights groups that the university was intolerant of constructive criticisms by expelling the student, he explained that the university had its rules and regulations and it did not act outside the laws and that the student did not go through the right channels to relay his grievances against the school and failed to answer to the panel which would have granted fair hearing.
“We did not expel the student because we wanted to, but the student was not ready to substantiate his claims and had behaved unruly with the respective panel bodies he had met with.”
On the likely reversal of the expulsion, if the student apologises, Prof. Salako said, “The reputation of the university has been stained with the misinformation from the student and we have been queried by the society as the news of his expulsion was viral on the social media and many people had thought that we deliberately expelled the student.
“However, the student has apologised, but the damage caused by his libelous statements cannot be undone. He should find way of retracting the misinformation,” the VC said, alleging “there are insiders and outsiders working against the tranquility of the university.”