“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things”. These timeless words from Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, succinctly encapsulate the inspiring leadership ideals and outstanding strides of the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUTMinna), Prof. Abdullahi Bala, fsssn, (Walin Zazzau, Suleja), a distinguished and erudite scholar who has continued to positively rewrite the narrative of the revered institution.
Since his assumption of office on December 3, 2017 as the seventh substantive Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof Bala has demonstrated an unprecedented passion in the discharge of his duties to the delight of many.
His appointment three years ago was described by many staff and students of the institution as a breath of fresh air (permit me the cliché) based on his antecedents as an achiever in previous responsibilities he has undertaken, within and outside the University. It is instructive to note that Prof. Bala has been committed to the lofty ideals instituted by the University’s founding fathers.
Within the last three years that he has held sway as the University helmsman, he has transformed the fortunes of the institution in all facets for good. Little wonder FUTMinna has become a by-word for academic excellence and administrative distinction among the comity of universities in the country. Based on verifiable evidence of Prof. Bala’s astonishing achievements in the last three years, it will not be an overstatement to say that he has taken FUTMinna to the next level.
The University has maintained a single digit position in webometric and 4ICU rankings of universities in Nigeria and for over three years, FUTMinna still remains the best University of Technology in Nigeria, the best specialized university in the country and has also been consistently ranked among the top 10 and 100 universities in the country and Africa at large respectively.
In furtherance of the University’s commitment to broadening access to quality university education, the Centre for Open Distance & e-Learning of the institution also secured approval from the National Universities Commission (NUC) in 2019 to run degree programmes in Computer Science via ICT-enabled learning mode of Open and Distance Learning (ODL).
The pioneer students of the Centre have been admitted, matriculated and have commenced academic activities. The programme offers working class Nigerians the opportunity to work and at the same time, study towards earning a university degree.
Furthermore, access to quality university education was broadened through affiliate programmes with polytechnics and colleges of education. At the Federal Polytechnic, Bida, there are over 500 students pursuing university degree programmes in three departments namely; Building Technology, Quantity Surveying and Electrical/Electronics Engineering.
The same is applicable at the Federal Polytechnic, Offa, Kwara State; the Federal College of Education (Technical), Akoka; the Federal Polytechnic, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State and the Federal College of Education, Gusau, just to mention a few.
As a consummate researcher and administrator par excellence, Prof. Bala has supported research activities in the University which have culminated in the award of notable research grants and discoveries by the university’s researchers.
Notable research grants attracted by the university researchers from local and global sources include the total sum of N23, 280, 232 under the TETFund Institutional Based Research Intervention (IBRI), while five other groups also won the TETFund National Research Fund (NRF) which attracted the total sum of N175, 943, 776. This represents a success rate of fifty six percent, which is one of the highest in the country in 2019.
In addition to TETFund grants, some faculty members of the institution also attracted research grants from the Raw Materials Research and Development Council (N20, 000, 000) and the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development (N15, 275, 000).
The University also secured two international grants, first being the 1.4 million Euros under the African Intra-mobility Programme. FUT Minna’s role in the consortium will be the training of M.Tech and Ph.D. students and staff exchange/visits.
The second is a grant of 155,465 Pounds Sterling from the Royal Academy of Engineering, United Kingdom for Artificial Intelligence for Clean Energy. Not forgetting the fact that the University also won a World Bank grant of $6 million dollars for the establishment of Africa Centre of Excellence for Mycotoxin and Food Safety. All these grants won during the tenure of Prof. Abdullahi Bala represent the highest ever attracted to the institution since its inception.
In the area of research, FUTMinna has consistently recorded commendable research breakthroughs. The University in collaboration with the Nigeria Air Force developed a locally made ventilator to curtail the deadly coronavirus disease and support patients with respiratory challenges.
The ventilators have been unveiled and presently subjected to further scrutiny by relevant government agencies before mass production. In the same vein, the University’s Department of Microbiology also set a new pace in the fight against the deadly virus with the production of a sterilized brand of face masks, a first of its kind in the country.
In addition, the University has never had it so rosy in its history in terms of massive infrastructural upgrade. Remarkably, the University has become a beehive of construction activities.
Notable among these projects is the second phase of the School of Engineering and Engineering Technology Complex (completed), construction of Cyber Security Department building (second phase, almost completed), construction of 40 Units of male and female lavatories (completed) and the construction of twin lecture theatre for the School of Information and Communication Technology (completed).
Within the years under review, the Vice-Chancellor also gave approval for the renovation of male and female hostels at both campuses to make the hostels more habitable for students.
To address the problem of poor water supply in the School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology, the Vice-Chancellor also gave approval for the drilling of borehole and erection of steel surface as well as steel overhead water tanks. This interventional project by Prof. Abdullahi Bala’s administration has been completed.
Also worth mentioning are the twin gigantic School of Life Sciences and School of Physical Sciences at the Main Campus to aid the relocation of both Schools from the Bosso Campus to the permanent site. The projects are at appreciable stages of completion, further rising hopes of the two faculties relocating to the Main Campus within the first quarter of 2021.
The TETFund-supported street light project attracted to the University by the Vice-Chancellor to the tune of N200 million aimed at lighting up the University at night has been completed, with the installation of 500 units of solar panel-enabled street lights. The University has also completed the installation of CCTV camera to enhance the protection of lives and property on campus.
The University Campus radio station – Search FM 92.3 – also received a face-lift, courtesy of the Vice-Chancellor’s magnanimity which necessitated the procurement of digital broadcast equipment and the flag-off of the station’s live studio by the Pro-Chancellor of the University, Prof. ‘Femi Odekunle.
The University Staff Primary School equally received a face-lift through a massive renovation of the School’s premises and procurement of basic teaching facilities with internet connectivity. This project was executed in collaboration with the Parents Teachers Association (PTA). The Vice-Chancellor also donated an 18-seater Hiace bus to the School to address its transportation problem.
In addition, he successfully attracted the donation of a 7.5 KVA generator to the School from the former Speaker of Niger State House of Assembly, Hon. Ahmed Marafa Guni.
Equally important, Prof. Bala has leveraged his enviable contacts in the society to attract notable projects to the institution in order to complement Federal Government’s efforts in the provision of world class infrastructure on campus. To this effect, the University secured the donation of two IT hubs from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
The IT hub donated by NITDA has been completed and equipped with modern IT equipment to aid learning, research and teaching while that of NCC is at an appreciable stage of completion. These two hubs will provide hi-tech IT facilities for the training of students in 21st century technologies in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Block-chain technologies and autonomous vehicles, among others.
In the last quarter of this year, the Vice-Chancellor secured the donation of hi-tech IT equipment worth over 26, 000 dollars from Huawei Technologies Limited under the University’s Huawei Academy programme.
Still under IT related matters, the University now has a certified International Test Centre which has been inaugurated by the Vice-Chancellor. The International Test Centre is the second of such centre in the entire North-central Zone of the country and will provide IT certification opportunities for students such as Cisco, Certitrek, Adobe certified associates and International Computer Drivers’ License (ICDL) among others.
As part of his concerted efforts in providing a conducive ambience for guests of the University and other visitors to the state capital, Minna, the Vice-Chancellor, attracted a multi-billion naira 40-room hotel facility from Shelter Suites and Hotel to the University.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the joint venture deal was sealed in Abuja and the construction site has been handed over to the company. This is the first major investment to be attracted from a private firm since the inception of the University in 1983.
To his credit, Prof. Bala further secured a multi-million naira Centre of Excellence for Technology Development Studies, with funding from the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) for the training of much-needed manpower in Research & Development in the Oil and Gas industry. The project kick-off meeting has been held and the Centre will soon take-off.
At this juncture, it is worth stating that the University’s programmes are fully accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC). Same goes for other programmes that require professional accreditation were also accredited by the professional bodies.
It is germane to note that out of the 16 departments that underwent the NUC accreditation exercise last year, 15 of them got full accreditation status with over 90 per cent points while the only department that got interim accreditation scored above 70 per cent. The Vice-Chancellor has also walked the talk in the area of programme expansion.
It is on record that the University Senate has given approval for the establishment of departments of Mining Engineering, Oil & Gas Engineering, Applied Geophysics (pioneer students have been admitted), Plant Biology, Animal Biology, Information Technology and Horticulture.
Within the year 2020, the University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bilaad Realty Nigeria Limited in respect to curriculum development, Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) and entrepreneurship starts-up and spin-offs for students.
Another MoU was also signed with Geria Construction Limited for the construction of 20 blocks of students’ hotels at the Main Campus under the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) agreement. The proposed hostel, when completed, will provide an additional 3, 616 bed spaces for the University.
This deal is similar to the almost completed hostel building being constructed by Urban Shelter Nigeria Limited under BOT agreement, with capacity to provide over 5, 000 bed spaces for students on campus. The hostel accommodation projects are in tandem with the Vice-Chancellor’s promise on assumption of office in December, 2017 to house about 75 per cent of the University’s students on campus.
In addition, the administration of Prof. Bala has done a lot for the host communities in the area of corporate social responsibility and community engagement. An example of one of such engagements with the communities is through the Campus-Community Communication Forum under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration) of the University, Prof. Emmanuel Emeka Udensi, fnip. The Forum is meant at forging peaceful disposition and ensuring that peace and understanding reign between the University and the host communities.
The University, within the last three years of the present administration has also organized IT trainings for some selected youth in four Emirate Councils in the State namely; Bida, Borgu, Suleja and Minna. The University also renovated the Palace of the Hakimi of Bosso to make it more regal and befitting for living.
In respect to sports development, it is pertinent to note that the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Abdullahi Bala also initiated the Chancellor’s Kids football championship in honour of the University Chancellor, His Eminence, Eze (Dr.) Eberechi N. Dick (JP) for primary and secondary students in Minna. In the same vein, with the support of the Vice-Chancellor, the University Sport Committee also introduced the Staff football championship which is now in its third edition.
Within the years under review, students of the institution also participated in all university-based sporting fiesta in the country namely; Nigerian Universities Games Association (NUGA), West African Universities Games (WAUG) games and other invitational sporting tournaments.
As a sports loving Vice-Chancellor, he also introduced cash reward system for athletes of the institution. No doubt, the Vice-Chancellor’s support towards the development of sporting activities in the University has also changed the face of sports in the University.
With all these milestones recorded within three years as the University’s generalissimo, expectations are sky-high among students and staff of the institution that Prof. Abdullahi Bala (Walin Zazzau, Suleja) will leave the Federal University of Technology, Minna better than he met it by the special grace of God.
Indeed, to whom much is given, certainly, much is expected. But in the soft-spoken and erudite Prof. Bala, FUTMinna has found a capable administrator whose bold and indelible strides are not only writing a new story worth reading for the institution, but one that will remain etched on the sands of time for ages.
Written by: Ugboaja, Stanley Uzoamaka, rpa, Anipr (PhD in view)
Twitter handle: @Bigflostanley