Wednesday, 29 November 2017

THIS IS FUTO; A TOUR ROUND FUTO - Aniebo Anthony

I sat at the front seat of one of the commercial vehicle that usually conveys students and staff of Federal University of Technology Owerri from campus to Owerri and vice versa, and a myriad of thoughts ran through my innocent mind. The area was noisy as market men and women went about their various businesses of buying and selling. “FUTO through Obinze road, hold you change o”, shouted the driver who apparently was in his early 40’s donned in an old looking yellow shirt and a black trouser. The grimace on his face suggested that he has been through a lot of life ordeals to eke out a living.  The commercial mini bus park was located somewhere along the popular Douglas road, few meters away from Mbaise road Junction. One spectacular thing about the area was that it harbored all sorts of kleptomaniacs and many students have been bamboozled even in broad day light (of which the writer is a victim). The vehicle was an 18-seater bus with the inscription “FUTO STUDENTS BUS SERVICE” boldly painted on it.
The vehicle was in its worst condition but we had to manage the bus the way it was. Commercial drivers no longer follow through Nekede-Ihiagwa road en route to FUTO since the road was waterlogged and dilapidated. Recently, students from FUTO and Federal Polytechnic Nekede staged a clamorous remonstration as a way of letting the government come to their rescue since the area houses two great tertiary institutions in the state. The journey to FUTO was relatively smooth until when we reached the bus park on campus located close to the Goodluck Ebere Jonathan Engineering Complex (SEET Complex) which happens to be the last bus stop. Everyone alighted and went his or her way. It was a busy day and students hovered round the campus. I began my tour!

 
(Photo1: Senate Building)

BRIEF HISTORY AND LOCATION
FUTO is the premier Federal University of Technology in our country established in 1980. It is also the only university of its kind in the South-East geo-political zone of the country. It was founded to continually advance the frontiers of knowledge through training and research, with the motto: “Technology for Service”. The institution was formerly located at the “Lake Nwaebere” campus before it was relocated to her permanent site in 1995. The institution is located 25 kilometers south of Owerri in Owerri-west Local Government Area of Imo State and it has two major entrance routes which are through Obinze road leading to the front gate or through Ihiagwa-Umuchima road leading to FUTO back gate. The FUTO landmass cuts across Obinze, Umuchima, Eziobodo and Ihiagwa communities. The institution has a population of over 20,000 students from different parts of the country, over 100 academic staff and over 150 non-academic staff. The Otamiri River transverse the site from North to South and with the beautiful Vegetation in its river basin forms an important physical feature.

ACADEMIC LIFE
Just like any other Federal University of Technology, FUTO is headed by a Chancellor who is usually a royal father and he is followed by a Vice-Chancellor who oversees the daily activities of the institution. Currently, there are eight faculties/schools in FUTO which includes: School of Engineering and Engineering Technology (SEET), School of Physical Sciences (SOPS), School of Biological Sciences (SOBS), School of Management Technology (SMAT), School of Health Technology (SOHT), School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology (SAAT), School of Environmental Technology (SOET) and Postgraduate School (PGS). These schools are headed by a Dean. In SEET, there are eight departments which includes: Electrical and Electronics Engineering (EEE), Civil Engineering (CIE), Materials and Metallurgical Engineering (MME), Agricultural and Bio-resource Engineering (ABE), Petroleum Engineering (PET), Mechanical Engineering (MEE), Chemical Engineering (CHE), Polymer and Textile Engineering (PTE) and Food Science and Technology (FST). All this departments with the exception of CHE, MEE and PET used to stay at the old SEET Head located at the central hub of the institution close to the “FUTO roundabout” before the “Goodluck Ebere Engineering Complex” (Popularly known as SEET Complex) was built during Prof. Cyril C. Asiabaka’s regime and they were moved to the complex. In SMAT, there are five departments which include: Information and Management Technology (IMT), Financial Management Technology (FMT), Project Management Technology (PMT), Transport Management Technology (TMT), Maritime Management Technology (MMT). These departments stay at the newly built “SMAT complex” located few meters away from the Centre for Entrepreneurship Studies. Also in SOPS, there are seven schools which include: Industrial Physics (IPH), Statistics (STAT), Computer Science (CSC), Industrial Chemistry (ICH), Geosciences, Mathematics (MTH) and Geology (GLY) while in SOBS, we have five departments which include: Biological Sciences (BIO), Microbiology (MCB), Biochemistry (BCH), Biotechnology (BTC) and Science Laboratory Technology (SLT). The old SOSC building served as a headquarter for all these departments in SOBS and SOPS before more buildings were built like Physics building, Biological Sciences building, Computer Science building and the newly built “SOPS Lecture theatre”. Similarly, in SAAT we have seven departments namely: Agricultural Extension (AEX), Agricultural Economics (AEC), Soil Science Technology (SST), Animal Science Technology (AST), Crop Science Technology (CST), Fisheries and Aquaculture Technology (FAT), Forestry and Wildlife Technology (FWT). They are located at the SAAT Building and some other departmental buildings. In SOHT, there are five departments namely: Biomedical Technology (BMT), Public Health Sciences (PHS), Dental Technology (DNT), Prosthesis and Orthotics (P&O) and Optometry (OPT). DNT, OPT, PHS have their separate departmental building while BMT stays at SOHT building. P&O is at the old “SEET head”. Finally in SOET, we have five departments which include: Architecture (ARC), Building Technology (BDT), Environmental Technology (EVT), Quantity Surveying Technology (QST) and Surveying and Geoinformatics (SVG). SOET building serves as the headquarters for these departments. The School of Basic Medical Sciences is still underway (as at the time of publishing this essay). 
                                           (Photo2: Students in an exam hall)


In all, FUTO offers first, second and third degree in over 40 course of study. Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng), Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) and Doctor of Optometry (OD) are awarded after the completion of a first degree course which basically lasts for a minimum of five (5) years and six (6) years for Optometry. Over the years, FUTO is reputed to be one of the best schools that churns-out the best graduates due to the high standard of academic excellence obtainable in FUTO. The school also boasts of the best locally and internationally trained staff of which most of them are graduates and alumni’s of the institution. Apart from schools, there are other centers and units like Centre of Entrepreneurship Studies (CES), Centre for Continuing Education (CCE), Centre for Industrial Studies (CIS), Centre for Agricultural Research (CAR), University Computer Centre (UCC), Information and Communication Technology Centre (ICTC), Institute of Erosion Studies (IES), Centre for Nuclear Energy Studies and Training (CENEST), Centre for Women, Gender and Development Studies (CWGDS), Centre of Quality Assurance (CQA) etc. Each academic session is divided into two semesters which include: Harmattan (First) Semester and the Rain (Second) Semester.

                                 
                                           (Photo3: SEET Complex)

INFRASTRUCTURES
Just like any other tertiary institution in Nigeria, FUTO is blessed with so many infrastructures. Thanks to Prof. Onwuliri (of blessed memory) and Prof. Cyril Asiabaka (the Digital VC) for reviving, restructuring, redeveloping and building more infrastructures and buildings in FUTO while in office. There are over 100 buildings in FUTO of which most of them were sponsored by Education Trust Fund (ETF) and TETFUND. Popular buildings in FUTO are: the old SOSC building, SOSC extension, Old SEET Head, FUTO Medical Centre, Sunic Fast foods, Old registry, SEET Complex, SMAT Complex, Lecture hall 2, Hall of Excellence (1000 capacity hall), Hall of Mercy, New lecture theater (500cap), PMF building (750cap), workshop 2 &3 etc. Popular spots/area in FUTO include: Prayer Garden (a place for prayer but it has been turned to a ‘love garden’), Madam Quantity, Diamond Bank, FUTO Market (behind Hall D), Asiabaka Square, bukka 9(a popular restaurant around the hostel), Coca-cola spot, Delight Bukka, Maracana (a popular sports viewing center) etc.


LECTURE THEATERS/HALLS

In as much as departmental lectures are held at different departmental lecture halls, there are popular lecture halls/theaters that every FUTO student once used.  Some of these halls include: Hall of Mercy (For Engineering students in 200L and above), New Lecture hall (known as 500cap; for 100 & 200L students of MME, CIE, EVT, FST and some other departments), PMF building (known as 750Cap; for students in SMAT), SAAT Auditorium (for students in SAAT), SOSC extension (for students in SOSC), Workshop 3 (For students in SOHT, EEE, AGE, MEE), Lecture hall 2 (for students in CHE, PTE, PET), CIE building, Predgree lecture hall, Postgraduate Hall etc. and just like Oliver Twist in Charles Dickens novel, we still need more lecture theaters/halls on campus especially for CHE, EEE, AGE, SOHT, PTE students. Attending lectures in Lecture hall on a sunny day could be frustrating and discouraging. Also, the practical sessions are conducted in the laboratories and workshops but you could imagine over 20 students making use of one apparatus during practical and most practical session like ENG213 and ENG224 are conducted under a tree located at the automobile workshop. You wouldn’t believe it but that’s the truth.
                                               (Photo4: Postgraduate school)
TOURIST CENTRES
Interestingly, FUTO can also serve as a tourist center. The Otammiri River that is located in FUTO just few meters away from the Senate building can serve as a tourist center. The river has it origin in Egbu and it flows through Nekede, Ihiagwa, Eziobodo,Olokwu Umuisi, Mgbirichi, Umuagwo and finally to Ozuzu Etche town of Rivers State where it finally joins the Atlantic Ocean. There has always been a superstitious believe that the river usually drowns students who probably go there to catch fun and that has made students to avoid going close to the river. Also, a “FUTO ZOO” is still under construction and it will be a wonderful sight-seeing center when finally completed.
(Photo5: Students on Otammiri bridge


                                            (Photo6: Overview of futo environ)

SCHOOL HOSTELS/HALLS:
Due to high ratio of boys to girls in FUTO, the school has more boys’ hostels than girls’ hostel. On the last count, there were seven hostels/Halls of which three are for only boys, two for only girls and two for both sex. Hostels A, B, E are for boys, Hall C (Cute ladies) and Hall D (Dynamic ladies) are mainly for girls while Hall F (Postgraduate Hostel) and Hall G (NDDC hostel) are for both sex. Also, more hostels are under construction. At nights, Hall C and D tend to be crowded with love birds (boys &girls) gisting and entertaining one another up till around 10pm in the night. The Asiabaka square which is situated in between Hall B, E C and D serves as a stage for social gatherings like SUG award night, Bonfire night etc. Although the hygiene in the hostel is poor, it has improved tremendously unlike what we had years back. The Man O’War, FUTO Command and the FUTO Military men help to ensure and restore sanity around the hostel area and the school vicinity.

       v                   


                              
                                             (Photo7: Hostel E, one of the male hostel)

LIFE ON CAMPUS:
FUTO can be regarded as seminary/religious school to an extent when it comes to student’s pattern of life on campus. It can also be regarded as a boy’s school because there are over 70% of boys in FUTO. When compared to other tertiary institutions in Nigeria, the rate of societal vices like cultism, rape, stealing is at its minimal in FUTO. In fact, hardly will you hear of any cult clashing with a rival cult leading to destruction of life and properties. An average FUTO student is very conscious of his/her Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) to the extent that making an ‘F’ grade is one of the worst nightmares of a FUTO student. Another name for the acronym FUTO is ‘Frustration under Tension in Owerri’ which depicts the level of suffering encountered by an average FUTO student on the road to convocation. All works and no play they say, makes jack a dull boy. FUTO students are not left out when it comes to social activities. 
                          
                                 (Photo8: Hostel D, one of the female hostel)

There are social clubs like Kegite club. Fresher’s night, bon fire nights, welcome back and send forth parties are usually organized on several occasions. There are popular hotels/clubs where such events are organized like the Eismann Fries, De-mentos, Grand Royal hotels, City global hotel and some other hotels located along Owerri-Portharcourt Express way. Interestingly, the population of boys keeps dominating in such social gatherings even when there is no gate fee for the ladies. FUTO is also blessed with a lot of music artiste, comperes, and student activist and entrepreneurs namely: Ibe Franklin (F2), Iwuagwu Kelechi (PRagmatic), Ajah Excel Anayo (Admin, NUS), Muoneke Hemilion, Uwakwe Martin (Founder, INFOSCOPE), and a host of others. Apart from social activities, FUTO students also spend quality time with their books. No wonder, the management deemed it fit to erect a new library complex to accommodate the student’s quest for knowledge. Students usually burn midnight candles before, during and after examination period. The CCE building, CIE building, Lecture hall 2 and SEET complex serves as lecture halls for night study. A FUTO student can even read under a street light whenever there is power outage in the hostels. The Student Union Government is the highest student body on campus.

                                             
                                                       (Photo9: ICT Building)
OFF-CAMPUS
Just as every individual is entitled to his or her choice, many students don’t like living in the school hostels maybe due to the poor hygienic condition or because they want to enjoy some sorts of privacy. There are four popular communities where off-campus lodges are located and they include: Obinze, Eziobodo, Umuchima and Ihiagwa.

Obinze: This area is relatively far from school and students who live here stay in Umuanunu Community. Most of the lodges that are found in Obinze are mostly family houses (where the student is given a separate room) or a boy’s quarter. Students who live here are mostly final year or postgraduate students who love to live very far from school and they usually spend more money on transportation. Popular spots in Umuanunu community include: De galaxy motel, container (a popular joint), Gonless Motel, mammi market etc.

Eziobodo: This area accommodates over 60% of the student who live outside the school campus. It is quite populated and lively. Shops stay open and the roads are busy up to 11pm in the night. Students are usually seen patrolling along FUTO road even in the early hours of the day. It has one major entrance route which is the FUTO road through the Students Affairs unit/old registry building. The area boasts of top-notch security as there are rarely cases of theft or burglary, thanks to the community vigilante. It consists of FUTO road and Eziobodo Elu (the community headquarters).  One major problem in Eziobodo is the poor nature of the road. The roads are usually waterlogged whenever it rains that one can even think of using a canoe to cross the mini river. The roads lack proper drainage systems (as at the time of writing this essay). Popular spots/places in Eziobodo are: Eziobodo Market Square, Dombolo, Glo Lounge, 40-40, Okata. Some of the popular lodges includes: Parliament lodge, St. Joseph lodge, Glo lodge, City global, Dominion City, friendship lodge, Markjay lodge etc.
Umuchima: Unlike Eziobodo, Umuchima is densely populated. This is probably due to the poor security in the area. Umuchima is known as den of robbers and it records the highest number of criminal activities every semester. As a result of this, shops close as early as 7:30pm. One good thing about Umuchima is that the area is known for having one of the best apartments on campus and its serene environment. It’s often said that big boys/girls that have the mind to live with robbers usually stay in Umuchima. There are popular spots/places like: Lafarge Avenue, point 1, blue buka, Otamiri River, Ama-Hausa, jives (a popular brothel) etc. Popular lodges includes: Koko mansion, 2go lodge, playboy lodge, infinity lodge, Lafarge lodge etc.

Ihiagwa: This area is quite different from the aforementioned off-campus area because Ihiagwa is more or less like a residential area. Villagers (indigenes of the area) make up to 80% of the population and only fewer students live there. The area offers the best security system; unlike other areas since majority of its inhabitants are villagers. Popular spots/places include: Market square, Eisman fries, De-menthos, zone9 etc. Popular lodges include: De-swiss lodge, Diamond lodge, Coppers Lodge, Village gate etc.


                                                    RELIGIOUS LIFE
Welcome to FUTO where the number of Christian fellowships is more than the number of departments on campus. It is truism that God is the author of knowledge and dispenser of wisdom, and that’s why FUTO students don’t joke with their prayer life. There are three popular houses of prayer in FUTO which are: St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Chaplaincy (STACC), Anglican Chapel of Light (ACOL) and All Saints Chapel (ASC). Currently, there are about twenty-two officially recognized Christian fellowships on campus 
but the largest family is the Nigerian Federation of Catholic Students (NFCS), followed by Anglican Student Fellowship (ASF), Redeemed Christian Fellowship (RCF), Nigerian Federation of Evangelical Students (NIFES), Deeper life campus fellowship (DLCF), Christian Students Outreach (CASOR), Joint Christian Campus Fellowship (which houses about 17 fellowships), Seventh Day Adventist  (SDA), Dominion City Christian Fellowship, Mountain of Fire Christian Fellowship, Charismatic Student Fellowship, Scripture Union Campus Fellowship etc. All these fellowships usually convert lecture halls to a church on Sundays and other worship days and they are also involved in Hostel-to-Hostel Evangelism. One popular spots for prayer meetings is the Prayer/Love garden located close to the FUTO primary school.

ACHIEVEMENTS/CHALLENGES
Over the years, FUTO has been reputed and recognized internationally as one of the best tertiary institution in Nigeria. The assertion is true to an extent. Within its few year of existence, FUTO has churned-out worthy graduates who are contributing to the growth of the country, working in different firms and many of them are now Managing Directors, Consultants, CEO’s, Ministers, Commissioners, Engineers, etc. Recently, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Prof C.C. Asiabaka with his blueprint “Quest for Excellence”, was able to transform FUTO within a space of five years (2011-2016). He completed over 89 projects with 43 projects still on-going while in office, and today FUTO is rated the 9th best university according to 2016 webometrics ranking. Hopefully, with the blueprint of Prof. F. C. Eze,the current Vice-Chancellor, “Driving the Culture of Excellence”, we are hopeful of good things to come in FUTO in the next five years (2016-2021). Students now surf the internet at no cost since the massive installation of Wi-fi networks on campus especially around the ICT building, the digital Library complex and student hostels.

Being the premier Federal University of Technology, one would think that the challenges faced by the community will be in its minimal level but the reverse is the case. One major issue facing the university community is the issue of monopoly of banks and inadequate ATM galleries. Only one commercial bank is situated on campus. There are other challenges like inadequate lecture halls and practical laboratories, proper sanitation of the hostel area, improved and better means of campus shuttle, improving on the aesthetic look of the university community, inadequate banks/ATM galleries, an efficient student union body etc. Hopefully, these issues will be a thing of the past in the nearest future.

(Photo10: Prof. C.C. Asiabaka; 6th Substantive VC of FUTO)

(Photo: Prof. F. C. Eze; current VC of FUTO)

CONCLUSION:
In the end, FUTO is a very nice school and a home of peace, modesty and a home of academic excellence. Despite the challenges faced by an average Nigerian student, the benefits of studying in FUTO outweigh the disadvantages. For me, I have met so many wonderful people that have influenced my life positively and I believe more is still to come. One thing spectacular in FUTO is that, no matter the number of years you spend, you must be found worthy in ‘CHARACTER’ and ‘LEARNING’ before the institution bids you farewell. Many students met their life partners in FUTO, many found their life career in FUTO and many drank from the richness of academic excellence in FUTO and today, they are erudite scholars and professionals in their own field. You too can make it. Until then, let me go and read my book. See you some other time.
ALUTA CONTINUA! VICTORIA ACERTA!

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