Professor Mike O. Iloeje was the Rector of the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu from October 17, 2011 until last week when a new Rector and Governing Board was appointed for the polytechnic by Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi. In this interview conducted before the end of his tenure, he spoke on the efforts he made to repair dilapidated buildings and upgrade learning facilities. Excerpts:
The institute had faced a lot of challenges, what major steps are you taking to tackle them?
I came here from the Federal University of Technology (FUTO) Owerri in Imo State where I served variously as Head of Department, Dean of Faculty, University Orator, Director of Academic Planning and Deputy Vice Chancellor, until I was given an appointment here as Rector of IMT in October 17, 2011. Initially, I was very reluctant to come to IMT because in 2011, it was in a state of disrepair. In fact, the federal government through its supervisory and regulatory agency – the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) had virtually closed IMT. The government ordered the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to close all their activities in IMT, to remove IMT from the schedule list for admission and to stop processing admission into IMT anymore. The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was asked to immediately stop processing mobilization for any graduate from IMT until further notice. That was the situation. And IMT accreditation to continue to operate as a polytechnic had been withdrawn by the NBTE. So, who in his right mind would be happy to come into such a big mess called IMT in 2011? But like we all say in Igbo language, aka melu azu o di nkulunku (it’s the hand that made a roasted fish to bend); somebody has got to do the job.
I’m happy to announce to you that from that 2011 to date, we have rehabilitated, re-branded and restored IMT to the path of upward growth and development. It’s been very difficult but anybody who is going to face such a difficult task must step on someone’s toes to get the job done without fear or favour and stick to the regulations. I won’t tell you it’s been rosy. But I’m personally, professionally very, very satisfied that we have done a tremendous job.
In terms of the accreditation withdrawal, what actually happened and how did it affect the institute?
I will give you a situation report on both accreditation of the courses and accreditation of the institute. What was withdrawn was not accreditation of the courses but accreditation of the institute; more or less your franchise. So, our franchise to operate as a polytechnic that was supposed to award Diplomas, ONDs and HNDs had been withdrawn. That means you cannot operate as a polytechnic anymore.
The first thing I did when I came here was to go to NBTE in Kaduna where I said that the Board was established by law to supervise the orderly growth of technical education in Nigeria and not to superintend over their death and burial. I also did say that if given the chance, out of all polytechnics in Nigeria, within a week, I will produce other polytechnics in this country that may have broken the rules as much as IMT did. It was not in contention whether IMT broke the rules or not because we knew we broke the rules. And the rules are; our carrying capacity is 7,080 but at that time IMT had 35,312 students, more than 500 percent over-bloated and that was after serious warnings from NBTE.
So there was no doubt at all that IMT broke the rules. But then the defense was: we broke the rules and you sentenced us to everlasting hellfire, and I will also bring other polytechnics that have broken the rules similarly and I would like to know the punishment that has been given to those ones.
Well, the NBTE gave us what is called zero-student option. That is we should phase out all the current students in IMT and start from zero students until we reach our carrying capacity. And I said that option was untenable. For an institution in the southeast zone of Nigeria where education is the mainstay of our industry, you cannot just close shop and disburse the students to surrounding polytechnics. Rather; I presented to them a very credible two-year programme of down-sizing our institution to the approved 7,080 population. So, in two years we kept faith with that understanding from NBTE. We down-sized from 35,312 in the 2010/2011 academic year and by the 2012/2013 academic year we had come to 7,080. And that was the condition under which the NBTE now restored our withdrawn accreditation.
I also negotiated with them very credible patterns for more than 15,812 graduates of IMT that were not mobilized for the NYSC programme. I said they should be mobilized in five batches because these graduates are our children; they are our sons and daughters, citizens of Enugu State and Nigeria generally. Taking them out of the NYSC programme was like inflicting on them hardship situation that was untenable. We arranged with NYSC and they allowed these graduates to join their colleagues in the national youth service. We also discussed with the JAMB registrar and gave him a credible programme of our compliance with JAMB guidelines. They returned us to the JAMB list and started processing our admissions as deemed fit. That was how the accreditation was restored on December 9, 2011, barely two months after my appointment.
We obtained from NBTE, a caveat that we are not bound irrevocably forever to remain at 7,080 students population because you can’t run an institution like this at that carrying capacity; definitely, not in the southeast where you have about 40, 000 applicants struggling to get admission into IMT yearly. It would be a great disservice to our people. So, we obtained a caveat from NBTE that we can continue to grow our students’ enrolment if we can show commensurate improvement in our physical resource base.
For example, if a laboratory can take ten microscopes, you can only have ten students using the lab. If you can provide thirty microscopes, then you can put thirty students there. We worked assiduously to expand our enrolment base. And I am very glad to tell you that we have had two resource visits where they had officially improved our carrying capacity. We did it gradually. We restored 7,080 students population in 2012/2013. In 2013/2014 academic year, we rose to 9,974 students because we had more facilities. Then in the just concluded 2014/2015 academic year, we rose to 11,028 students. You can see the increase.
Right now, what is the population of IMT students?
In 2015/2016 academic year, we increased our enrolment to 13,776 students. I am mentioning these numbers off head because I am passionate about doing this job and doing it right. You can see our determined, gradual increase in our students’ population. But how were we able to do this? We were able to do this by increasing our physical resource base. (Daily Trust)