On November 4, 2019, a new chapter was opened in Kwara State Polytechnic, when Engr. (Dr.) Abdul Jimoh Muhammed assumed office as the new Rector of the Institution. In this interview with newsmen he spoke on his strides thus far. Excerpts:
You took over the mantle of the leadership of the Kwara State Polytechnic over a year ago, how has been the journey, thus far ?
I took over the mantle of leadership of the Polytechnic precisely on the 4h of November 2019, it has been challenging, like you said. But we thank God, we are moving on.
As a tertiary institution, it is expected that you will have solve the problems or challenges of the immediate environment as they come. So, when I came into office, one of the major and global challenges was the issue of COVID-19, which the institution has risen up to. The major way of preventing COVID-19 is by way of regular washing of hands. You’ll observe that when most people want to wash their hands, they use their hands to open taps, which means after washing their hands. They still use their hands to turn them off, which means the virus on the surface would have been picked up again. That was how we came up with pedal-hand washing machine, which is different from other machines that use solar. In the case of solar-powered machine, it is more expensive and may be more difficult to operate. But this one can be operated by just anybody, it is cost friendly, because it is very cheap. That is one of the first things we have done.
We have established a table water factory for the polytechnic. You see, most institutions use this as a means of branding their names. It also serves as Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for them. We are almost there, our table water is now being sold on campus and even in town.
We have also set-up a bakery, which now produces Kwara Poly bread. It will be a source of IGR for us and it will also be a way of rebranding Kwara State Polytechnic.
We also looking into how to renovate the hostels, so that our students can comeback to the hostel. It is unfortunate that for the past years, the tertiary institution has been operating without hostels. It is very shocking for a tertiary institution not to have halls of residence. So we are thinking of bringing the students back to campus.
We hope that this will enhance their behaviours and seriousness. It is even safer for students to be on campus than to stay off campus. This is because by staying off campus, males and females students co-habit; and by co-habiting, males and females of young age like you, can engage in activities that can destroy their future.
Co-habitation (couple’s life) can lead to unwanted pregnancies; and in the process of terminating it, it is possible to lose one’s life or damage one’s womb. So in order to minimize that kind of social vices, we want to bring students back to campus. It will also assist their academic. When you are on campus, the way you read on concentrate to your studies cannot be equated to what you will obtain when you stay in town.
How are you addressing the falling academic standard of the Institution?
I am looking into a way by which the academic standard of the polytechnic can be further enhanced.
This is because in the past, when you heard Kwara Tech, it was as if you were at the Harvard University. Some people even prefer going to Kwara Tech (Kwara State polytechnic’s former name) than going to university in those days, because of the standard of education. I did 1year SBS (School of Basic Studies) here before I moved to the university. When I got to the university, the first 2years were like child’s play, because the academic rigour we had already gone through here at the polytechnic.
By the time I got to the university of Ilorin, it was like a piece of cake; and people who had passed through this institution have similar experiences. So if you had gone through this institution before going through the university, you will find it easy.
I am not comfortable with the academic standard here. I want to look at a way by which student’s project are not recycled again. I am looking at a way by which any student that passes this institution will raise his/her head anywhere in the world and say “I am a product of the Kwara State Polytechnic,” just like we used to be very proud of the institution in our own days. So academically, I am not comfortable with what I met; and we are working seriously to enhance the academic standard of the Polytechnic.
Knowing the Kind of bitter politics that went into the succession battle of Kwara Poly Rectorship, How have you been able to manage all interests ?
I have mentioned it, the challenge of making many things possible without assistance or without subvention. The challenge of having so many requests (from Kwarans and other residents) and believe that once you come here you can always get a contract are challenges we are equally facing. Many people feel that once they come to the Polytechnic, they have to go back home with one contract or the other. And that is seriously putting undue pressure on the Management.
Also, it is creating enmity, because when you come here and don’t get what you want, you may likely be disappointed. There are some groups of people that have demanded for all kinds of favour. If you are not meeting their demands, it becomes a problem; and if you want to meet them, it will have effect on payment of salaries.
During the last administration of the former Rector, there were promises of providing internet connectivity. But it remained a pipe-dream up till the time he left office. What is your administration doing to give Kwara Polytechnic internet facility?
If you switch on the wi-fi now, you can see that it is on now, if you are not aware, I am using my wi-fi now, I’m not using my data, If you look at the opposite of the office (administration block), Network Operating System (NOS), is working, we just want to make it go a far distance. So, the campus now have a wi-fi. So we shall keep on improving it with a view to increasing the speed of the connectivity.
Students and staffs alike, have complained about the unavailability of intra-campus shuttle to ease on campus movement, what is your administration doing to ease intra-campus commuting ?
Intra-campus shuttle was cancelled because it was discovered that it was being used to commit crimes; and the culprits usually find it easy to escape. So, it was cancelled for security reasons. However, the SUG has come to plead with us to allow the operation of intra-campus shuttle; and we are currently looking into it. We are going to put in place some measures that will serve as control. This is to ensure that not just any tricycles is plying our campus’, Those plying will be painted differently in the front and back, so that when they commit crimes and want to escape from a far distance we can quickly recognise the tricycle used for the crime. We are also looking into a way of making the tricycles operators to be wearing vests. This will make it easy for us to identify them as registered, we are working towards bringing campus shuttle back.
Fighting corruption in Nigeria is such a risky and tedious exercise , how have you been able to fight corrupt in the system and stay afloat ?
The saying that corruption always fight back is real! Usually, when you are used to a kind of lifestyle or a system through which you get cheap money that you are not ordinarily supposed to get, and some came and quarries you and ask you to stop, definitely, it is expected that you will resist.
You observe that the two major leakages or drainpipes of this Polytechnic are through school fees and wage bill (staff salary). Payment for certificate is also a drainpipe, but that is minor. These two major leakages and some minor ones have been identified and blocked.
On the issues of school fees, you will observe that our portal is not robust enough. And as such it gives room for leakages. You might not know (about some financial frauds) when operating the portal; but anyone with ICT knowledge will be able to identify that it is easy for those handling the portal to steal our money. When you log on to kwarapoly.edu.ng, that is the Polytechnic website domain, and you click on payment, it takes you to another domain that is kwarapolyportal.org.
It is not like that in other institutions portals. so, when you want to pay, you click on payment. On getting the other domain, you are expected to input all necessary information.
There, the amount to be paid will be displayed. If you right click, it will display the sort code and the sort code is editable. The school account number is usually displayed, which can be deleted for another account number. We discovered it is very easy to manipulate the Polytechnic’s funds especially by those handling the portal. We carried out our investigations, followed by queries, and we decided that the best thing is to terminate the appointment of the portal operator.
We have brought in another portal manager; and since its inception, there has been no single complain of double payment (of school fees and other fees). Before now, it (double payment) was a frequent complain by the students. Double payment is not in the interest of the institution. When students double pay, one (of the payments) goes into an account we don’t know, the other goes to the Polytechnic’s account. So when students complain, they bring receipts providing the two payments were made into the school’s account.
But the account would show that the payment was made once. The money paid into the school account would have to be used to refund the students involved. It is as if the students did not pay any school fees at all. Up till now, some students have not paid for 2017/2018 academic session, because the portal allows such. We have been able to rectify that now.
On the issue of salary, we have been able to reduce the monthly wage bill by nothing less than four million naira every month. That is because we discovered that what we were paying as salaries every month was far more than what we were actually suppose to pay. For instance, in the month of March we used #120 million to pay salaries. After detecting the fraud in April, #117 million was used (to pay the same salaries). While in October, we used N125 million despite the fact that there were increment in salaries as a result of promotion of 2,056 staff members. And other staff moved up the ladder by one step (which led to increment in their salaries).
On the issue of certificate, we have been able to block another leakage too. We discovered that some staff used to collect money from graduands to help them process their certificates. They used to collect money from about five graduands and make just one payment into Polytechnic’s account. They use to take original receipts and edit (forge) it for other four graduands. But now, we have signed an agreement with Haven and Gold incorporated in London for printing of our certificates.
If you look at the old certificates, you won’t find any security feature; but on the new certificates, there is going to be some security features with the picture of the students appearing on it. And the payment of the certificate will no longer be done separately; it will be paid together with school fees when students are resuming for HND II and ND II.
So, after completing their examinations and their results are approved by the academic board, three weeks after, their certificates will be ready’ even before convocation. And when students come for convocation, all they will need to do is to pick up their certificates at various collection points. Students will no longer need to apply, wait for so long to process it before their certificates will be out for collection.
Another issue with the old certificate is that we (the Registrar and Rector) have to append our signatures on all certificates manually; and that comes with much strenuous work. On the new certificate, we no longer need to sign manually.
Unavailability of social amenities like running water, functioning toilets and electricity are making life a bit difficult for students on the campus. What is your administration doing about them?
When I came in there was no water running in the administration block. You can imagine if there is no water in the office of the chief executive of the Polytechnic, what will happen in other places. Thank God, we are now gradually solving the problems. For the IAS (formally known as IBAS) complex, all the laboratories there had no water running in them. All the toilets too had no water. We have sunk an industrial borehole and provided overhead tanks. And, all the toilet and laboratories now have water.
There was a complain from the Medical Center on water too; and we have sunk an industrial borehole that supplies water to the offices of senior lecturers and other neighboring offices.