The award winning Vice Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Prof. Zana Akpagu was four years into his five years tenure on the 30th of November 2019. He assumed office formally as the 10th and first Alumnus Vice Chancellor of the University on the 30th November 2015.
Unarguably, UNICAL, a 2nd generation University has had its best days since establishment in the last four years of Prof. Akpagu’s administration. It’s almost or impossible to think of any aspect of the University that has not developed rapidly since he came on board.
Renowned for his charismatic leadership style which involves blowing hot and cold depending on which strategy best suits what he intends to achieve, Akpagu has successfully taken UNICAL from a stagnant 2nd generation University to a fast rising 21st century institution.
Akpagu, despite assuming office at a time the nation was going through one of her worst recessions of all times, he has been phenomenal. He is leaving indelible marks in the areas of infrastructure and development, programmes expansion, security, among others. Gradually, the University is becoming a huge construction sites.
It’s on record that no Vice Chancellor in the over 40 years lifespan of the institution has completed or come close to completing more capital projects than Prof. Akpagu. In terms of curriculum offerings, it’s also the same, he holds the record as the VC who has established more programmes to meet the contemporary labour demands than any other in the history of the University.
Besides, the profile of the University, nationally and internationally is rising radically. UNICAL, like the United States of America extolled sometime this year has become not just a national pride but a global brand.
Days were UNICAL was dismissed with a wave of hand are over as students and products of the University have taken the international community by storm. It wasn’t long ago that students from the University won the World Best Oralist Competition held at the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) headquarters, Washington DC, United States of America.
The University which fielded students that represented the entire Africa continent at the International Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition also emerged runners up in the competition.
Also, within the same period, UNICAL football team took the country by storm when nobody gave the University a chance by becoming the winner of the 2019 Nigeria Higher Institution Football League tournament. This was of course the first of it kind.
As if that wasn’t enough, in the area of theatre and stage performance, the University is also Nigeria’s champion. In the recently held Nigerian Universities Theatre Festival, UNICAL emerged the overall best by sweeping most of the awards. The event which had 16 Universities participating saw UNICAL coming first in Short Film, Spoken Word and Stand-up Comedy competitions. The University also won the best overall Female Actor in the event.
In other categories, UNICAL came third in Drama, Contemporary Dance as well as first, second and third in “on the spot” Solo Performance Workshop Competition. In the event’s Carnival competition, UNICAL band was adjudged the most colourful and best interpreted.
In the past four years, Akpagu has been magical as he has been phenomenal. He has touched virtually every area in the University – ranging from Sports, Security, Alumni relations, Campus aesthetics, Expansion of curriculum offerings, Staff and Students welfare, infrastructure etc.
Also recall that, UNICAL got her first ever elevator after over 40 years under the Akpagu’s administration. Many former VCs tried and got frustrated at some point in trying to install an elevator in the University Library but Akpagu who sees impossibility as illusion took up the challenge and today, students and staff who were finding it difficult to access the top floors of the building are now doing so almost effortlessly.
Below is an attempt to highlight some of his achievements under different units of the University represented in themes. This is not comprehensive because it’s too difficult to try to remember all the numerous things he has done in such a short period.
Expansion of Infrastructural Development: Construction, Supplies and Rehabilitation
• Construction of 500-seater pavilion for faculty of Engineering.
• Construction of Laboratory, Resource room and Library for faculty of Dentistry.
• Construction of Department of Physics Workshop.
• Construction of Dance Studio for Department of Theatre, Film and Carnival Studies.
• Construction of packaged water treatment plant and connection to the central water supply system.
• Construction of ultramodern parking lot.
• Construction and furnishing of 1-storey capacity Chemistry Laboratory and classroom building.
• Construction and furnishing of 1-storey capacity Physics Laboratory and classroom building.
• Construction of classrooms and offices for Institute of Education.
• Construction of elevated water tank at the staff village.
• Construction of Post graduate hostel.
• Construction of faculty office for the faculty of education.
• Construction and furnishing of 1-storey Education complex building (inclusive of classrooms, offices, Laboratories and conference room).
• Construction and furnishing of 350 computer capacity laboratory building.
• Construction of drainages.
• Renovation and equipping of Lecture rooms, laboratories and studios.
• Provision and expansion of teaching and research equipments to faculties and departments.
• Supply of library books to faculties.
• Supply of central gas to the faculties of physical and biological sciences.
• Supply of 2000 lecture theatre seats with swivel writing pads.
• Supply of (500) 8-spring double bunk beds and (3000) 8-spring mattresses.
•Procurement of (1) 30-seater bus (2) Toyota Hilux and (1) Hiace bus.
• Rehabilitation works in hall 8&9 (Female hostels).
• Rehabilitation works in hall 4 (male hostels).
• Rehabilitation of work-tops in some laboratories in the college of Medical Sciences, Sciences and Agriculture.
• Refurbishing and completion of abandoned building for department of Fine Arts, Music and Mass Communication.
• Formation of a Board for UNICAL Sports Council.
• Commencement of work on the lawn tennis court.
• Flagging off of a keep-fit exercise programme.
• Introduction of the Vice Chancellor football Club Competition.
• FIFA Graded Referee.
• Winning Laurels.
• Attracting External donations.
• Reviving of Malabor World Cup (MAWOC).
• Formation of a female Soccer team.
• Improved Security on Campus.
• The issue of acute shortage of security personnel is being addressed with the employment of 17 new security staff.
• Provision of three (3) serviceable patrol vehicles mounted with relevant security accessories/equipments.
• Provision of necessary security equipments like Matches, touch lights, rain capes etc.
• Provision of new set of uniform for all security personnel.
• Re-enforcement of internal security with about 30 armed Policemen patrolling the Staff quarters on 24 hours basis and other vulnerable points on campus.
• 90 % completion of a Police station building at the staff quarters to checkmate violent crimes like Kidnapping and armed robbery.
• Securing approval from the Chief of Naval Staff for the establishment of a naval security post and Jetty at the Qua River axis of UNICAL to checkmate violent crimes on the waterways.
• Unprecedented promotion of security staff.
• Special promotion of security staff who exhibited extra-ordinary gallantry in the execution of their duty.
• Erection of new security posts at new faculties and departments.
• Unification of the entire alumni body.
• Elevation of UNICAL alumni to a Directorate.
• Identification with the various UNICAL alumni branches across the federation.
• Renewed interest in alumni activities manifested in springing up of several branches.
• A period marked by the recognition an elevation of many alumni in various fields of human endeavor.
• Alumni enrichment of Departments by visiting alumnus.
• Shuttle Park.
• Hogan Bassey parking lot.
• Landscaping and planting of ornamental plants.
• Uniform color of the University structures.
• Upgrading of UNICAL main gate.
• Upgrading facilities in the Senior Staff Club.
Campus Municipal Services
• Campus shuttle service.
• Improved water supply.
• Move to up constant power supply.
• Recreational facilities.
• Improved Campus traffic.
Curriculum Offerings/Academic Visibility
• Expansion of the academic curricula by the introduction of new and marketable programmes like Music, Fine and Applied Arts, Tourism and Hospitality, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Engineering, Mass Communication and Digital Studies, Architecture, Estate Management and Evaluation, Surveying and Geo-informatics, Urban and Regional Planning, Physiotherapy, Food Science and Technology and Criminology and Anti-corruption studies.
• Increase in the number of faculties from 12-16.
• A hundred per cent accreditation of programmes to the National Universities Commission (NUC) for re accreditation.
• Establishment of a ranking and visibility committee.
• Elevation of UNICAL to centre of excellence (CEO) human resources for health management training across the country.
Sustenance Of Excellence In Teaching, Learning And Research
• Sustained increase in the tempo of academic activities like Faculty conferences, public lectures, departmental lectures, institute
lecturers and over 16 Inaugural lectures.
• Creation of innovators club.
• Creation of a Quality Assurance/ Control unit domiciled in the Directorate of Research and Quality Assurance.
• Setting up of Quality Assurance ambassadors in the faculties.
Staff And Students Welfare
• Uninterrupted peace and stability on campus attributed to proactive interaction with students.
• Unprecedented swift response to issues affecting students.
• Enthusiastic about set targets for addressing complaints.
• Commissioning of laundry bay to aid laundry challenges.
• Rehabilitation of the female scholarship hostel for use.
• Massive rehabilitation of hall six which was long abandoned. Now ready for use.
• Instituting an enviable culture for sanitation of the hostels which involves not only paid staff but volunteer students.
• Adding value to the hostels through massive landscaping, tiling, re-piping, re-wiring, constant supply of cleaning materials, evacuation of sewage, de- silting of soak-away and delivery of over 3000 mattresses.
• Easing of obtaining accommodation in the hostels through an electronic platform that is linked to the payment portal.
Development And Expansion Of UNICAL Productive Capacity And Consumer Services
• Developing UNICAL Agro-allied industry with capacity for the production of Animal feeds in commercial quantity.
• Commencement of Commercial Paint production by the Department of Applied Chemistry.
• Upgrading of UNICAL table water to the status of a Directorate, and functioning at optimal capacity.
• Opening of new branches of UNICAL Microfinance Bank to provide community services across the State.
• Upgrading and optimizing the UNICAL Bookshop.
COBOC, Host Community’s Economy And Improved Community Relations
• Allocating spaces to prospective business operators to carry on with their businesses.
• Regulating influx of businesses on campus.
• Creating secluded areas for businesses to thrive instead of allowing indiscriminate display of products.
• Assisting with the beautification of the campus by making sure business operators keep their surroundings clean.
• Putting an end to makeshift shops and trade hence the introduction of solid building on owner occupier basis subject to COBOC’s guidelines.
Collaboration And Linkages Between 2019 To Date
• Institute for Universal Harmony (INUH)- for training certified Universal Conflict Resolution Management Experts and Peace building Consultants and advocates.
• New Creation Educational foundation and Ivote, Macedonia- for provision of Multi-media e-learning technologies for UNICAL.
• Estuary Academic and Strategic Institute (IUES-INSAN), Douala, Cameroon- collaboration in Health and Management Sciences.
• Southern Universities USA and ICT University foundation, USA- for establishment of e-learning center and exchange program.
• Montclair State University, character Scotland and Dreams learning Solutions-for establishment of Resource and implementation character Education and Evaluation Center.
• Delta State University, Abraka- for staff/ students exchange program.
• Cross River College of Education, Akamkpa- Affiliation for award of degrees in Education.
• Construction of proposed 500-seat lecture pavilion.
• Construction of Academic building incorporating Science Laboratory for the faculty of Education.
• Construction of offices and classrooms for the faculty of Science.
• Construction of faculty of Engineering complex.
Like earlier stated, this list is not absolutely comprehensive as it’s herculean task to try to capture. Many projects may have missed out in this but howbeit, UNICAL has risen in the last four years more than any other Nigerian University and this is enough to celebrate.
As he enters his last year in office, there’s no doubt that he will do more because his passion to turn things around in the University is as strong as the first step he assumed office.
Inyali Peter is a lecturer in UNICAL and Media Aide to Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in this article are strictly attributable to the author, Inyali Peter and do not represent the opinion of CrossRiverWatch or any other organization the author works for/with.
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