An exclusive interview with professor Gerald Ndubuisi Okeke on the standard and improvement of educational system in Nigeria.
QUESTION 1. Introduction: Who Is Prof. Okeke?
Answer: Professor Okeke Gerald Ndubuisi is a native of Umulogho , Obowo in Imo State. He is an Environmentalist cum Safety specialist and a lecturer at the Triune Biblical University, USA.
He was recently awarded a professorial seat at the university on Safety & Environment. Speaking to our correspondent, he talks about his success, challenges and funding of educational sector in Nigeria and suggestions to take care of the environment, especially, reduction of carbon footprints and environmental pollution.
QUESTION 2. How Can The Nation’s Education System Be Made Better In 2022?
Answer: The nation’s educational system could be made better in 2022, if we adhere to the following:
1. Govt and ASUU should work together, by settling their differences.
2. Incessant strikes from ASSU should be discouraged in all its ramifications.
3. Govt should as a matter of urgency, honour the agreements they signed with ASUU.
4. More funds should be channelled into research projects in our tertiary institutions.
5. Wealthy individuals/ corporate bodies should be encouraged to invest in our educational sector. Funding of education should not be left to the govt alone.
6. Nigerians in diaspora should be encouraged to come home and invest in our educational sector and other sectors of our economy, just like what Prof Adeleke Daniel Durojaiye is doing presently with Triune Biblical University in Nigeria. Triune University is one of the best modern university in the world that runs both campus based and online studies. It has one of the best libraries in the world, just like Harvard and Cambridge universities.
When we do the aforementioned and other good things, definitely, the value of education would increase in the country.
QUESTION 3 . If You Are To Handle The Sector As Minister Of Education, What Will You Do Differently?
Answer: What I would do different as a Minister of Education. In all sincerity, I don’t think that there would be much I would do differently if I am appointed as Minister for Education.
Rt Hon Emeka Nwajiuba and his senior counterpart in the education ministry ( Mallam Adamu Adamu) are doing great job. Hon Emeka and his ministry have been handling the educational sector very well and they should be commended.
Like I stated earlier before now, the govt and ASUU should come together and agree on the way forward, at least by honouring the agreements. You can agree with me that our economy is in red now and we cannot as a nation channel all the available resources we have only to educational sector alone. If we do that, definitely other sectors would suffer.
That is the reason why I am advocating for corporate bodies and rich individuals to come out and pump more funds to our educational sector.
We should have critical reappraisal of our educational sector to make it more viable and workable.
QUESTION 4 . Is It Possible For Government To Provide Free Education In This Country?
Answer: Yes dear it is possible for government to provide free education in the country, but not with state of our economy presently. Our national economy is bleeding, inflation is assuming a serious dimension now, so it would be suicidal to advise the govt to provide free education for now.
If we get our priorities right and heal our national economy, then free education is achievable, but for now we can not go ahead with free education.
Secondly, I want us to understand that education is capital intensive. Its not yet Uhuru for free education in Nigeria.
QUESTION 5 . Do You Support The Suggestion That Government Should Place Embargo On Establishment Of New Universities?
Answer: I don’t subscribe to placing embargo on establishment of new universities. The bedrock of any meaningful development in any nation is education.
The State of New York in USA, has close to 50 universities and polytechnics.
The problem here presently in Nigeria is that some politicians have started using building of tertiary institutions for political purposes.
Some of them would go ahead and build universities, but will not equip them properly to enable the universities to stand on its feet. They would go ahead to build another one at a different senatorial district , while the first one is still not properly funded.
So at the end of the day, it becomes an exercise in futility which politicians wants to use to achieve some political points by saying that they built this and that universities.
QUESTION 6 . How Can Government Address The Environmental Pollution In Niger Delta?
Answer: Environmental pollution in the Niger Delta is assuming more serious dimension now with the production of soot that is pervading some cities in the Niger Delta.
Port Harcourt is worst hit in this case of soot. The black substance called soot is unburned hydrocarbon that comes from illegal refineries around the Niger Delta region.
I think we have govt task force that patrols the creeks to fish out illegal refineries. The truth is that some people have seen it as a business, without minding the collateral damage they are foisting on the environment. The present govt under President Mohammed Buhari budgeted millions of dollars for the Ogoni Cleanup campaign. I need to find out the present level of the cleanup for now.
Shell petroleum committed serious environmental damage around the Ogoni area and it would take years to clean up the mess. I don’t know why Shell allowed things to get out of hand in that area. Shell cannot create this type of environmental damage in other climes that they operate.
Shell should emulate companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil in environmental protection. Chevron places more importance on the environment and would not allow or encourage oil spill within their areas of operation.
ExxonMobil does the same thing too. They are environmentally friendly and frowns at oil spill. Govt should come up with stricter penalties against environmental pollution in the Niger Delta region. Multi national oil and gas prospecting companies should be made to pay heavy fines or in some cases withdraw their operating licenses to serve as deterrent to others.
QUESTION 7 . Do We Have Laws Or Regulations To Tackle Environmental Issues In The Country?
Answer: Yes we have laws or regulations to tackle environmental problems in Nigeria.
But the problem we have in this country is enforcing those laws.
We have various government regulatory agencies saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring a cleaner, healthier environment.
The regulatory agencies should as a matter of fact up their game and live up to expectations.
Having the laws or regulations is one thing, but enforcing those laws is another thing.
Some of these regulatory agencies are trying their best,but for now, their best is not good enough .
QUESTION 8 . More Universities Are Now Running Oil And Gas As Course, Do We Have Books For Students?
Answer: You are correct my brother. More universities are running oil and gas courses presently in Nigeria.
Like Federal University of Petroleum Resources , Effurun, Petroleum Training Institute, Triune Biblical university extension campus here in Nigeria, FUTO Owerri, even DELSU Abraka, where I did my Master’s degree program in Energy & Petroleum Economics, etc.
I want to use this medium to advise parents and guardians to encourage their wards to pursue full time education in oil and gas related courses, especially, Health, Safety & Environment (HSE), Safety & Environmental Management, Industrial Safety Engineering, Risk Management & Disaster program,etc.
Safety and the Environment are the trending courses now all over the world.
We need more of Environmental specialists, Earth scientists, geologists, etc.
Now mother earth has been messed up sequel to anthropogenic activities of mankind on planet earth.
That is the reason why the earth’s temperature is assuming a serious dimension, sequel to global climate change that is ravaging planet earth presently. We need to do something humanly possible to pull ourselves from the environmental quagmire we have been plunged into. Let’s go green and encourage afforestation and condemn deforestation. We need to plant more trees around our environment which would invariably help in the production of fresh oxygen for mankind .
QUESTION 9 . As A Professor, What Has Been Your Contributions In Your Field?
Answer: As a Professor of Safety & Environment, I have contributed positively towards this sector. My contributions in Safety & Environment have made me to win more awards and laurels for the past 34 years I have been practising Health, Safety & Environment.
In summary my contributions in this aspect could be summed up as follows:
Clocked 5 million manhours without any recordable incident or LTI .
Trained / lectured close to 5,000 students in the higher institutions in Nigeria especially during students Engineering week, e.g., Auchi Polytechnic, Ambrose Ali University, Petroleum Training Institute, Effurun, etc
Trained close to 2750 members of some churches on basics of Domestic Safety Awareness on Pro bono basis.
Have been running a Radio & Television program titled “Safety & Environment Corner” at Delta Broadcasting Services, Edjeba, Warri.
Have written a lot of research papers on Safety & Environment, which students in higher institutions of learning use a reference point for their academic works eg – Causes & Consequences of Accidents in the Oil & Gas Industry, Global Climate Change a view on our Environment.
Safety Orientation: A gateway to Accident Prevention & increased productivity in all sectors of the economy.
Carbon Footprints: The implications on health & local economy .
Biological hazards associated with electromagnetic radiation, etc.
Achievements/milestones are as follows:
Won the Best Behavioral Safety award (BBS) in Chevron, 2004.
Won Best HSE Officer award from Noble Drilling MD, USA, in 2001.
Won award during ACI Conference at Accra Ghana on a paper I presented titled “Global Climate Change: A View in our Environment in 2019.
Awarded Safeer Ambassador plenipotentiary by World Safety Organization in USA.
Won an award as Best TV/ Radio program from DRTV, Warri.
Written a book on “Basics of Industrial Safety – Volume1.
The importance of Tailgate meetings . Etc