The President and Chairman, Board of Directors, African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), Prof. Benedict Oramah, the Chairman and CEO Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, and Architect Donald Arinze Nwandu were among the honorary awardees at the weeklong 15th and 16th combined convocation ceremonies of Nnamdi Azikiwe University which held between the 13th and 18th of March, 2022.
In his address, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Charles Esimone, FAS disclosed that the graduands have been certified by the institution in character and learning, hence are ready to contribute meaningfully towards the growth and development of the society through their choice of discipline, having undergone the thorough requisite training.
According to the Vice-Chancellor, “The combined convocation was for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 academic years. A total of 6727 first degree graduands, 154 postgraduate diploma graduands, 992 Masters’ degree graduands, and 556 doctorate degree graduands were conferred with the appropriate degrees/diplomas at the convocation. Prof. Oramah and Alhaji Dangote were both conferred with the Honorary Award of Doctor of Development Economics, while Architect Nwandu was conferred with Doctor of Architecture Innovations.
Prof. Esimone averred that the elevation of the School of Postgraduate studies to a College status in compliance with the NUC directive has yielded great dividend to the institution citing the introduction of online platforms for lectures, seminars, final defense for theses, and dissertations’ presentation as a motivational factor that has led to an increased studentship in the College.
Describing the choice of the honorary awardees, Professor Esimone maintained that the University Council and Senate had thoroughly scrutinized the personalities of the candidates and found them highly deserving of the Honour following their notable and invaluable contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria in their various fields of endeavor.
The Chancellor of the institution, His Majesty, Da Jacob Gyang Buba, Gbong Gwom Jos and Chairman, Plateau State Council of Chiefs, while congratulating the graduands, appealed to ASUU, other University staff unions, the Federal Government and all stakeholders in the Nigerian University system to join hands not only to bring the present strike to an end but to also make a deliberate attempt to proffer permanent solutions to issues of frequency of strike actions in the Nigerian University system.
The Visitor to the University, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR while felicitating with the graduands, expressed optimism that the University has fortified them with requisite functional skills for sustainable employability in the private and public sector while asserting that the Federal Government has initiated various intervention programmes aimed at creating employment opportunities for young Nigerian graduates. President Buhari further assured of the Federal Government’s commitment to industrial harmony in the educational institutions and shall continue to dialogue with the staff unions for an amicable resolution of their grievances. “I appeal to the University staff unions, particularly the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to tread softly the path of incessant strikes, in preference for dialogue as a way of tackling the multifarious challenges confronting the socio-economic development in Nigeria. In the same vein, I urge students to shun violence and other forms of social vices which are inimical to attainment of academic violence,” he advised. President Buhari was represented at the ceremonies by Mrs. Ilyasu Rakiyat, Director in charge of universities Education in the Ministry of Education on Thursday for the Award of First Degrees, and Prof. Abdullahi Ribadu, a visiting Professor from the NUC on Friday for the Award of Postgraduate degrees.
Earlier, the Pro-Chancellor, Prof. Sulyman Alege Kuranga while felicitating with the three distinguished honorary awardees, commended President Buhari, the Federal Government, and its relevant agencies for all their support to the University.
Reacting shortly after the award, Prof. Oramah described Nnamdi Azikiwe University as an institution he admires for its innovative approaches to teaching and learning under challenging circumstances. In his words, “This University has produced hundreds of graduates that are redefining the future of Nigeria from science and technology to the arts and the creatives industry; from business and economics to medicine and politics. Hence, why I feel truly honoured that the University has recognized my modest contributions to society. I have devoted much of my adult life to development issues, more precisely development finance. Prof. Oramah averred that Afreximbank under his leadership is one of the foremost institutions that has taken on the mantle in strengthening African economies. He revealed that when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and financing disappeared, Afreximbank supported African economies with a 7 billion U.S. dollars pandemic response facility. According to him, “As vaccine rationalism raged and denying Africans of access, Afreximbank stood behind Africa with a 2 billion US dollars’ facility that supported the procurement of 400m doses of COVID-19 vaccines”.
Prof. Oramah announced a grant in the amount of 55 million naira from Afreximbank to the Centre for Disability and Special Needs Research, to support teaching, learning, and the provision of three internship spaces for UNIZIK students at the bank. He further appreciated the University Management for the grant of space for the development of a Heritage Centre for Preservation of Igbo Culture and Tradition to be built by his Foundation.
The Afreximbank President equally announced the construction of a twin 190 fully equipped bedroom space hostel blocks for the University by Alhaji Dangote. In the same vein, Architect Nwandu while appreciating the University for the honour disclosed that the gigantic edifice built by his family for the department of Architecture will be ready for commissioning and handover to the institution’s management in May 2022.
The highpoint of the occasion was the installation of Prof Amechi Christy Oyeka, Prof. Chinwe Antoinette Okaka, Prof Nnaluo Augustine Eboatu, and Rev Canon Prof Chuka Benjamin Osisioma as emeriti professors.