OUR MEMBERS ARE READY TO HELP GOVERNMENT SUCCEED – UNILAG ALUMNIOlabode Eyiaro
As part of its contribution to national development, the University of Lagos (Unilag) Alumni Association has offered to make available to the Federal Government the abundant skills and talents in its various sectoral Alumni groups. The Olor’ogun Dr Sonny Kuku OFR, FAS; National President of the Unilag Alumni and co-founder of Eko Hospital, who made the offer during a courtesy visit by members of the National Executive Committee of the Association to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Aso Villa in Abuja yesterday, said the Federal Government can draw from the Association’s various sectoral groups as resources and think-tanks.
Welcoming the Alumni to the Villa, Vice President Osinbajo said the task of nation building is a demanding one and the Federal Government needs all the help it can get from every Nigerian. He assured members of the Association that he would continue to do his best in the discharge of his duties as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and make the University and its Alumni association proud.
In his speech to the Vice President who is also an alumnus of the widely acclaimed university of first choice, Dr. Kuku noted that the Association is keen to support the Federal Government in Nigeria’s trying times and to provide its perspective on the way forward for the nation and its economy as well as the university system. He gave the Alumni’s perspectives on social development especially relating to human capital development, security and the provision of quality social services. He emphasized the challenges of infrastructure improvement, diversifying the economy through agriculture and manufacturing, resolving foreign exchange issues and providing a more business-friendly environment. He also presented the Alumni’s perspectives on improving the university system in terms of funding and autonomy.
He urged the government to seek ways of engaging the youth, particularly on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), as a way of ensuring that the contribution of this vital segment of the population is efficiently exploited. He added that the government needs to accelerate and sustain its interventions in power and transport sectors.
Highlighting the need for the government to make agriculture a top priority, Dr. Kuku said the government should focus on policies and programmes that would lead to significant improvements in agricultural yields and products quality. “There must be proper administration, void of corruption and misappropriation of funds. It is time for a change. It is time for a revolution.”
Declaring that doing business in Nigeria is still very tough in spite of the government’s best efforts, the Unilag Alumni Association’s president said there is a need for clarity and consistency in policies as well as alignment between monetary and fiscal regimes in order to build confidence and grow FDI. “To this extent, the government should streamline the work of the ministries for co-ordination and effectiveness.”
The Association recommended a 3-point solution to the perennial problem of funding in the nation’s university system. It wants the Federal Government to pay the universities per student instead of the current arrangement where subventions are doled out. Also, the Association wants our universities to place less emphasis on the tedious task of driving internally generated revenue because this distracts them from offering resourceful solutions to the nation’s challenges by way of inventions and breakthrough research, among others. “Lastly, the students must be encouraged to pay reasonable fees and all levels of government (local, state and federal) give scholarships and student loans”, just as individuals, communities and well-meaning organizations should also come to the party, he said.
Giving the Association’s perspective on university autonomy, Dr. Kuku said “We believe that universities should become autonomous and governed independently, rather than through the Federal Ministry of Education, which could remain a regulator… We also believe that the structure of appointments to university councils should be reviewed.”
The association expressed delight with the Library Funding support by the Federal Government to the University of Lagos recently. It sought further intervention in addressing housing deficiency in the system, land reclamation and structural changes in financial autonomy to cut red tape and enable the university to fast track development.
The Vice President, himself a Distinguished Alumnus of the widely-acclaimed University of first choice and the Nation’s Pride, in his response, expressed his appreciation to the Alumni for the time taken to visit and share with him their ideas on moving the nation forward. He said the issues mentioned by the Alumni are very valid and believes the country is fortunate to have credible men who are concerned about the Nation’s challenges.
In his speech, he reassured all that the Government is completely focused on dealing with issues the country is grappling with and is determined to make the country better.
In reference to the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Federation, Prof. Osinbajo stated that President Buhari is a leader with integrity who has no personal business or endeavor to compete with his total dedication to making Nigeria work.
He stated that this Administration is committed to empowering the relevant anti-corruption institutions to ultimately foster an environment where the kind of astounding corruption that has held sway becomes a thing of the past.
He reminded the gathering of some of the Government’s quick wins including the reversal of the insurgent onslaught which would have resulted in the complete takeover of Local Governments in the North East, had the corruption impeding the country’s fight against Boko Haram not been curtailed.
In the area of agriculture, he said Government is looking at self-sufficiency particularly with Rice and wheat production. A typical farmer wants the assurance that he will find a market for his produce. To encourage local rice production, the government has made arrangement to subsidise and buy up produce from farmers. Government has also placed some restriction on importation of rice.
VP Osinbajo reassured all that this Administration understands the pain felt by Nigerians because of the transition the country is facing. He articulated that they are also aware that no clarification can take the place of food on the table of the common man. Thus the Administration is working on making things better for the citizenry.
On the petroleum sector, Prof. Osinbajo reminded all that the downstream sector has been deregulated with a view to freeing the country completely from subsidy payment which was largely a scam, going by evidence of huge arbitrage in PMS subsidy.
In concluding, the Vice president spoke about several other projects that were in the works, some of which are:
- Rail projects – in conjunction with General Electric and Chinese Construction Company, two companies who have put in huge investments into these projects. Ultimately cargo will be moved less by road and more by rail
- Creation of Jobs and training- 500,000 jobs have been created for graduates and training and disbursements for about 65,000 market women. The Government will not rest on its oars in creating more jobs
- Providing a more Business-friendly environment- The Government has set up a team from the Private Sector to provide recommendations for improving ease of doing business in Nigeria as it is committed to partnering with the private sector to drive growth
On issues regarding the University of Lagos, the Vice President promised to think through the concerns raised and revert.
He rounded off by assuring the Alumni that he will continue to cooperate with the Association and with the University of Lagos.
Members in the Alumni Association’s delegation to the Villa included Otunba Seni Adetu, 1st Vice President, Deaconess Arit Ibanga, 2nd Vice President and Professor Olayide Abass, the immediate Past President of the Association, among others.