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‘How were tackling challenges at Ishiagu agriculture college’


Prof. Mrs. Justina Mgbada

Professor Justina Uzoma Mgbada is the Provost, Federal College of Agriculture Ishiagu, Ebonyi State. She spoke with Nnamdi Akpa in her office on how she has transformed the institution to become one of the best in the country and other issues.

What have been your experiences since you became the provost?

Well, as a provost, I can say I have garnered a lot of experiences which include leadership, interactive and community experiences. And by the
Grace of God we have been able to surmount some of these experiences.

The basic ones we surmounted when I came in newly were crises. There weas lack of love and unity among the students, staff and students, among staff members, and the college and host community. But today, there is peace in the college.

The crisis was a burning issue then but it was also being discussed but I don’t want to lay more emphasis on it because it has been discussed severally.

What I can tell you is that we were able to surmount it. Because when I saw it as one of the things that could hinder the success of my administration, I initiated dialogue with the staff, students and the host community and appealed to everybody to bury the hatchet and join hands with me to move the school forward.

There were about 14 issues raised as the cause of problems in the school but I’m proud to say that we have been able to resolve all of them.

The last one was leadership issue but that has been resolved. The position has been given to the person who is supposed to be there. We also met with the community and we both agreed to work together and we have been working together. But to God be the Glory who gave me the grace and wisdom to resolve the issues.

There has been increase in students enrollment to the school in the last two years, what is the magic behind it?

That’s a very good question. You know they say development is like a we-like thing. When I came here, it was just like a glorified secondary school. That’s what they used to call it.

A village secondary school. It is not only that it was structurally backward, it was filled with crises. So, under that condition, no youth, girl or boy, will want to go to school in that kind of environment. 

When students go to school, they like to boast that they are in federal institution with good environment. That was the case at that time and it made students especially those outside the catchment area not to enroll into the school.

When I came in, I discovered these causes of backwardness. Those things that make students not to like here were addressed. One of those things that made students not to like here was lack of school gate but within six months of my assumption here, I constructed the college gate.

At least, when one is passing, the person will know that this is a federal college. The gate gave the college a facelift.

Before then, there was no structure or road that led to the school as a federal institution. As at then, those coming into this school will have to pull off their shoes or trousers to be able to cross the mud on the road and those coming into the school in dry season wear dust as socks.

Based on our financial capacity then, we were able get stone dust from quarry industry to at least make the road accessible to an extent. But after a while with God on my side, I was able to secure a budget that we used to tar the road. As I’m speaking with you now, every part of the college is tarred even to the farm.

All of them asphalted.  In front of the gate, it has a well landscaped outfit with flowers. And in last year’s budget, we were able to secure approval for installation of solar energy light.

We installed it on all the streets of the college such that if you come here in the night, you won’t believe what you will see. And the students are happy.  It’s just like what is happening in the state. Our governor is beautifying the state to the status of Las Vegas.

That’s what they call it now. Las Vegas of Nigeria. We can now say that our college here is Las Vegas of Ishiagu. That is another factor. As a parent, you will not like your children to live in a school where there is no drinking water. 

This place before now, had no drinking water and because they have a peculiar topography, it is difficult to get borehole from this place. What I did was install 400-capacity water treatment plant using the only one perennial river, Ivo River, to supply water to the treatment machine.

So, today, our students have their drinking water which is safe and healthy. We also have light now.

It will amaze you that a big town like Ishiagu does not have electricity. Because of this, we supplied solar panel. Every department/class in this school has 24 hours light under the solar panel services. So, these are the basic things needed for anybody’s survival.

Now, the face of the school has been lifted and the youths are now happy to be associated with the school. You can see students in front of the gate snapping pictures and posting them on Facebook and other social media platforms. They are now proud to say, yes, this is my college.

Because of the developmental strides, youths from all parts of the country are eager to come to the school. The structure of the school has also been enhanced.

You can see our crops, learning facilities, classrooms, hostels, e-library, CBT and everything you can think of is obtainable in this school.

And we have well-equipped and trained personnel. So, why will students won’t come to study here? Every unit has PhD holders. And when you graduate here, you can compete favorably with your counterparts from any part of the world.

That’s why people see this place as a good place to come and they have been coming. In the past two years, we have been having influx of students from all parts of the country.

How did you raise fund to do all these?

Yes, you know it is said that anybody with the favour of God will always get anything you planned for or dreamed about. I’m somebody that believes that nothing is impossible.

Some people look at the tremendous challenges and problems facing them and they will just be demoralized. But myself as a professor of Agriculture Extension which is all about programme development.

So, in our trainings we were told that no problem is insurmountable. Because of that and coupled with favour of God upon my life, that when sit down, I plan, pray, pursue, overtake and get what I want.

So, all these funds are from the federal government. I have never collected one kobo loan from anybody. And I have never misused any money given to me. I articulate and carefully craft them into the budget and I go to Abuja to strongly defend them with strong points that nobody will question.

When it is approved, God helps us in securing some releases, though, we have never had 100 per cent releases.

But we ensure that anyone that is released is used for whatever thing it is released for. No diversion of fund, no embezzlement and no greed. I have always told myself, I am a woman.

What do I need? I need minimal things. So, my aim and objective is to put my name in print that whenever I finish and go out, people will always make reference to my stay here. Whatever money I get from federal government I put it to use and people see it.

How can you assess government policies in combating food insecurity in Nigeria?

In food production, I can say, that they are trying because a lot of interest and attention is being given to agriculture. Even when we go to Abuja for budget defence, priorities are given to agriculture-based institutions.

That’s why we were able to get much. But you know that policy is a three-stage something. You make the policy, you transfer the policy and execute the policy.

So, policy wise, agriculture is getting priority interest from the government. And for us, we are making sure that the end users which are the farmers including the youths are being equipped with what they need to go into better production of food. With what is happening I can say, there is increased food production in the country.

People are advocating that the federal government should revisit the abandoned farm settlements across the country and make them functional. Do you share the same?

The old type of farm settlement if revisited with conscious attempt to deliver or achieve its goals, it will be good. But there is one thing we noticed. Because we are the people in the field as extension personnel, sometimes when the youths are trained and they get the empowerment, they abandon the programme.

We are saying that if adequate attention will be given, farm settlement will help to solve the problem; if not for any other, for acquisition of land.

What have been your challenges?

My challenge I can say is that most of the projects I planned to execute are not yet executed because of lack of funds. You can see that is the general problem. Even when budget is appropriated and approved, release sometimes becomes a problem.

Sometimes releases come after the planting season, it affects production and because it is dry season sometimes only cassava survives.

Does the institution have any end products?

Yes, we produce cassava into different products like garri. We also have a specie of cassava we produce for export. We also have produced high quality cassava flour which is composite of bread making. All those things are produced here and they are all marketable.

We also plant palm trees and process the fruits into oil. This year, we had about 18 drums of oil which is well processed and sold.

We also have a form of bee farming which we process in honey processing machine and today, Ishiagu has one of the best honey. We have fish unit starting from hatchery to juvenile which we produce into adult. And we have special way of processing our fish to any form you want.

Some are smoked and others half-smoked with some spices that will make them to last for six months. We have pork and other things and all these are finished to end product for sale. We have marketing unit. If you go there you see what we produce.

What is your relationship with your management staff like?

We have a very cordial relationship You see I came a little bit late today because one of my management staff came to my office to say, Prof, this one you came late, I hope there is no problem?

That’s to tell you the extent of our cordial relationship. We live like a family. Since I assumed office, I  have no problem with my management and it transcends to other staff and the students; because, without them I cannot do it alone.

Sometime ago, my management staff contributed money on their own without my knowledge and gave me award, bought gift items for me. So, that explains the kind of relationship between us.

How have you been able to manage cultism and other social vices among students in the school?

Before I came in, the school had many cases of cultism but we have dealt with that once and for all. I expelled many students and others learnt their lessons. So, you hardly see any cult activity again.

For those who indulge in exam malpractice, we have a disciplinary committee and every semester, once after exams they write their report.

Students involved in exam malpractice will face the panel and those found guilty some will be expelled, suspended and some failed and that has been on. And we have done it consistently such that students have known that

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