MEET FRANK OSHANUGOR
By Frank Oshanugor
A recent visit by the Editor-in-Chief of AtlanticNewsonline to the three campuses of the newly established University of Delta (UniDel), Agbor which is one of the three state universities founded in 2021 by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration has revealed so much about the Governor’s determination of leaving the State far better than he met it seven years ago when he assumed office.
The visit to the three campuses located at Agbor (main campus), Owa-Alero and Owa-Oyibo confirmed beyond all reasonable doubts Okowa’s determination to finish strong as Governor of Delta State in 2023.
Contrary to uninformed discussions in some quarters that the University is a glorified secondary school, evidence on ground in the various campuses manifestly speaks volumes of the great achievements of his administration in providing a world class environment for the take off, of the institution as a centre of excellence in the training of future engineers, lawyers, accountants, environmental managers, mass communicators, theatre artists, educationists and so on.
With the admission of its pioneer students and commencement of academic activities at Agbor and Owa Oyibo campuses in the first week of March, 2022 the University is already gearing up to bear its name.
To some public analysts, the multi-campus approach for UniDel may seem unattractive in the face of multiplicity of state owned universities in Delta, yet the argument may lose its logic when juxtaposed with the glaring value addition it has brought to the socio-economic lives of the citizenry.
Agreed that proliferation of universities in a state like Delta has its own set back, in terms of funding, yet evidence of what Governor Okowa has done with the take off grant approved for UniDel and its counterparts (Dennis Osadebey University, Asaba and Delta State University of Science and Technology, Ozoro) in 2021 shows that much can really be achieved with available resources if well managed.
With the well constructed faculty office blocks and lecture halls and more on-going construction works in the campuses, it becomes evident that governors like Ifeanyi Okowa can be relied upon to provide the much needed dividends of democracy.
While it is unarguable that poor funding may creep in at some point and possibly create some draw back to the good intentions of the Governor, it is not entirely out of place to see some silver lining in the private public partnership arrangement if reasonably handled in a win-win situation by successive administrations.
Already school fees have been fixed and even though stakeholders contend that it is on the high side, available infrastructures already on ground and the ongoing works could reasonably be used as an excuse for the introduction of the fees since it is already believed in some quarters that only the government cannot fund education if Nigerians expect a smooth running of the system.
With what is on ground in the three campuses of UniDel and commencement of academic activities for the pioneer students, there is already a visible paradigm shift in the socio-economic life of the geographic environment.
At the Agbor main campus where students have resumed in the Faculties of Arts and Social, Science, Education, Computing and Owa-Oyibo with Faculties of Law and Business Management in session, socio-economic activities are up beat with landlords, traders, artisans, transporters, food vendors and many others already attracting high patronage from students admitted into the Faculties.
The landlords for example are already increasing their rents astronomically (though not a good measure) as students looking for accommodation are more in number than the available spaces within the University environment.
AtlanticNewsonline investigation revealed that some years ago when College of Education was the highest tertiary institution in Agbor, some developers had leveraged on it to establish student hostels for rental since the institution management did not provide hostel accommodation.
Over time, the developers were said to have lost interest in the business as only a few people showed interest seeking admission into the College. This scenario, according to sources in the university environment, prompted some developers to restructure their hostel apartments and subsequently offered them for sale.
Findings however, have shown that with the conversion of the College of Education by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s administration into a full fledged university last year and establishment of no less than eight faculties with each having average of seven departments (apart from Faculty of Law), life has come back to the environment with hundreds of students now seeking accomodation following their admission into the school.
The accommodation problem was understandably created by the sudden intake of new students into many departments without a commensurate arrangement of how to house them even though lecture halls and other facilities are largely available in the main campus which was initially conceived to be the permanent site of the former College of Education. Facilities are also readily available at Owa Oyibo campus.
Investigation also revealed that some developers who had earlier abandoned their hostel buildings have recently rehabilitated them and are now offering them to new students at outrageous rates. One of the hostels (name with-held) in Alihame area of Agbor was visited by AtlanticNewsonline Editor-in-Chief on Monday where he was told that rent for a room apartment was fixed for N125,000 as at first week of March when the University officially resumed but as at Monday March 14, 2022, the rent for the same one room student apartment had gone up to N169,000 per annum due to increase in demand.
The same increase in rent has also been observed in many other private hostels and room apartments visited in the area by AtlanticNewsonline which reportedly has become worrisome both to parents of the new students and the UniDel management.
It was gathered from sources within the University main campus that the school management was already showing some concern over the increase in rent by landlords in the area. An unconfirmed source hinted that the Vice Chancellor and her team were planning to have a meeting with landlords with a view to halting the astronomic increase.