18 June 2015, Lagos – In the past eight years, ExxonMobil Nigeria has boosted the study of geosciences in Nigerian universities through an initiative, University Partnership Programme (UPP), which is geared towards improving the quality of tertiary education in the country to an internationally competitive level.
Launched in 2007, and with six new beneficiaries, the number of benefiting varsities of the UPP are 14. The six beneficiaries are: Akwa Ibom State University, Mkpat-Enin; Anambra State University, Uli; University of Jos; Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State; University of Ilorin, Kwara State; and Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun, Delta State.
They received analytical equipment consisting of six Logitech thin section-making machines, 300 mosquito nets, 24 digital cameras and a cheque of N5.77 million each to pay for students’ logistics and lecturers’ field allowances.
Disclosing that it has committed over N900 million to the UPP programme to date, ExxonMobil stated that its long-term goal is to ensure that every public varsity in Nigeria offering geosciences benefits from the programme towards improving the quality of their studies.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony at the National Universities Commission, NUC, Abuja, the General Manager, Operations Technical Geoscience, ExxonMobil Nigeria, Mr. Michael Udoh, said the programme started with six universities, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Delta State University, Abraka; University of Ibadan; University of Benin; University of Calabar; and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, while Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and University of Nigeria, Nsukka, were added in 2011.
He said: “Varsities enrolled under the UPP programme are required to prepare a map of the area in their proximity for review and publication by the Nigerian Geological Survey Agency (NGSA) and we are pleased with the progress made by these varsities in this area, as 12 maps have been published by the NGSA, another four are under review, while six others are being drafted as a result of the various fieldwork trainings and analyses by these varsities.
“We also have the University Assistance Programme (UAP), launched in 2006, to build and equip geological laboratories in some Nigerian varsities, as well as provide training for lecturers on some of the latest advances in geosciences.
“Through the UPP and UAP, ExxonMobil Nigeria has invested over N3bn into geosciences education in Nigerian varsities and would continue to invest to ensure that Nigerian geosciences can stand on equal competitive footing with some of the best varsities in the world in terms of the quality of their instruction and knowledge.
Pointing out that the primary purpose of the UPP is to improve the quality of geosciences graduates from Nigerian varsities, the Director- General of NGSA, Mr. Ndubuisi Nwegbu, said it has also created a platform that assists NGSA in fulfilling its mandate of generating, archiving and disseminating geoscience data and information to the public, and the fundamental vehicle through which this is achieved is the geological maps.
Stressing that it is only by understanding the earth that its resources could be meaningfully and sustainably harnessed, Nwegbu said; “investors in the fields of mining, water supply, agriculture, civil engineering, medicine, the environment, among others, require the information these maps provide. It is for this reason that this noble project touches the heart of the NGSA mandate, which is to provide geosciences information for public good.”
The geological maps generated by the project generally shows information relating to the various rock types and units, their structural dispositions, age relationships, as well as distribution of economic mineral occurrences or leads.
In a keynote address, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. MacJohn Nwaobiala, said the donation gives credence to the fact that sustainable varsity education in the country is a collective responsibility of government and the private sector, and this gesture would not only enhance the teaching and research activities of the benefiting varsities, but also portray the organisation as a responsible firm that fulfills its corporate social responsibilities.
Urging the beneficiaries to make optimum use of the equipment for the benefit of the Nigerian varsity system in the development of the geology programme and ensure proper maintenance culture to enable the equipment endure, he called on other organisations and well-meaning individuals to emulate the gesture by identifying and contributing to the development of education for sustainable development of host communities and the country at large.
In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the NUC, Professor Julius Okojie, who argued that Nigerian students are as good as other students from other countries and that Nigerian professors are sought after in other countries, said the equipment would further improve the quality of geosciences education in the country and NUC would monitor the usage to ensure they are properly maintained.
He said: “We are particular about maintenance of equipment and we will continue to monitor them to ensure that we use them effectively. Government will always provide the counterpart funding and we are appealing to varsities to spend the money effectively. “We are emphasising the use of funds to acquire the necessary equipment and less of structures that are not well funded. What is important is facility sharing; we will continue to ensure that we have modern equipment in our universities.”
Also speaking, the Group General Manager, National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), Mr. Jonathan Okehs, noted that this is the seventh consecutive year that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), in conjunction with Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited (EEPNL) and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), in production sharing contract has funded the UPP.
He said other landmark achievements recorded by the programme are purchase and/or donation of field and laboratory equipment; book of proceedings of Standardisation Workshop (published in 2009 by Ibadan University Press); mapping parts of the country with oversight by NGSA; adequate training of students in field mapping by experts; geologic field mapping exercises with the production of six unedited draft maps, adding that maps by two universities have been successfully published by NGSA.
He said “between 2007 and 2015, NNPC and its partners, EEPNL and SNEPCo, have committed so much towards the UPP programme, but this commitment is insignificant compared to the number of lives that have been transformed with this kind gesture.”
On his part, the General Manager, Public and Government Affairs for ExxonMobil Companies in Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arinze, said the donation is one in a series of donations and support to Nigerian varsities that have already covered seven years and almost 20 varsities have benefited.
“This is just one of many and what that tells you is that we are on a journey of partnership with the Nigerian government, our business partners NNPC and other companies that we work with to help promote, support and develop education in Nigeria.”
Adding that geoscience education is key to any economy, especially the Nigerian economy, for the company involved in exploration, production and development of oil and gas resources, Arinze said “geoscience is key, it is very dear to our hearts, it is the heart of our business so we’ve taken on this challenge of contributing to the quality of manpower that comes out of Nigerian universities in geosciences.”
A geology lecturer at FUTA, Solomon Olabode, said the donation means a lot to the university, adding that the Logitech thin section making machine would enable them generate accurate results and have detailed information about rocks and other minerals.
Before now, he said the thin section was made manually and the process is not as effective as it would be with a machine, adding that the manual method could spoil the thin section and may not produce accurate results.