From Peter Aware Azi, Jos
It was a celebration galore, recently as the Plateau State University, Bokkos was out with her maiden-first and second combined Convocation ceremony. The event witnessed the award of honorary degrees to two distinguished Nigerians, the former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon rtd, GCON and the immediate past Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okogie, OON with Doctor of Letters-Honoris Causa and Doctor of Science-Honoris Causa respectively.
The University was established since 2005 with the Foundation Laying conducted by General Yakubu Gowon, after few years of operation, the university was closed down from 2007 to 2010 by the immediate past Governor of Plateau State and a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Jonah David Jang for political reasons, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Doknan Decent Danjuma Sheni was suspended illegally and this led to undue interference in the internal affairs of the university. These among other teething problems led to the non-accreditation of the university by NUC.
Interestingly, the University enjoys the blessing of the present administration led by Governor Simon Dalung who had the cooperation of the then Speaker of Plateau State House of Assembly, to ensure the passage of the Bill into law for the take-off of the University.
They immediately swung into action by visiting the National Universities Commission (NUC) as well as Tertiary Education Trust Funds (TETFund) and received the direction on what to do, hence the Governor reinstated the suspended Vice Chancellor, the University Council reconstituted and the immediate past Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Professor Attahiru Mahmud Jega was appointed the Chairman of the Council. This followed the award of various contracts by the state government alongside the TETFund in order to meet with the requirement for accreditation, after which seven courses of the institution were accredited as two sets of the graduating students of the university are currently on national youth service corp programme.
In his address, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Doknan Decent Danjuma Sheni expressed his appreciation, stated that his joy knows no bounds as this is being achieved within his tenure as Vice chancellor, especially when the University has gone through many trials and challenges in its formative years. He said, the University structure was changed from schools to faculties and departments, such as Faculty of Social Sciences, Faculty of Management Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences.
On the area of growth and development, Professor Sheni said since his assumption in office in 2013, the Staff of the institution, particular, the academic staff were Master holders and those with PhDs were visiting lecturers and this resulted in the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Memorandum of Agreements (MoA) with various Universities overseas include; Universities of Capetown and Johannesburg in South Africa, Kenyatta University in Kenya. Meanwhile, two staffs of the university who went for their PhD degrees at the Kenyatta University, according to the Vice Chancellor are back to work. Other staffs are now in Universities in Malaysia, France, United Kingdom, South Africa, Uganda, Cyprus etc.
The VC said when he took over the mantle of leadership, there were only two buildings and the students’ chalets, the University with the funding from the state government, TETfund and Federal Ministry of Education has been able to fence the land around the academic area and put a gate, completion of the faculties of Natural sciences, Management Sciences, staff offices and lecture Halls.
He said, under his administration the university embarked on the construction of 250 and 600-seater lecture theatres, built and furnish library, ultra modern Multipurpose Centre, completion of Master Plan of the University, construction of road networks within the University, connect the institution with the Nigeria Electrical Supply Company(NESCO) grid.
Among many other developments in the institution under Professor Sheni-led administration are the completion of students’ hostels, English Language Laboratory, the new six laboratories for the Faculty of Natural Sciences, construction and landscaping of parking at the Library and Multipurpose Complex. The contracts have been awarded for the provision of kitchen, laundry, toilets and common room at students’ hostels.
The VC also enumerated some challenges of the institution such as infrastructural deficit, insecurity, inadequate staff, land related matters, pension and gratuity, accreditation programmes and lack of private investment among others.
The Visitor of the University, Rt. Hon. Simon Bako Lalong remarked that it is his esteemed honour to keep a date with history and destiny, as he addressed the occasion of the maiden convocation of PLASU, he said he will ensure that the University fulfils the dreams of the founding fathers, he acknowledged that the journey to the convocation has indeed been a challenge which he resolved to conquer.
According to Governor Lalong, “on assumption of office as the 5th civilian governor of Plateau State, one of my worries in the education sector of the state was the problem of the PLSU and we announced to the whole of the Plateau that we will tackle it headlong. The university that took of in 2005 with all the potentials of growth was on account of some ugly intrigues and self serving political reasons closed down.”
The governor also announced the automatic employment for the three graduates who bagged First Class and state government will sponsor their education up to PhD level, furthermore, all students of Plateau origin studying anywhere who bagged First Class will be equally given automatic employment and sponsored same for their academics. The graduates received their certificates; the occasion was graced by the Governor of Sokoto, Kebbi, Bauchi and Kaduna States.