Professor Lale spoke when he led a team of the university’s officials to pay a courtesy visit to the NDDC Acting Managing Director, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, at the Commission’s headquarters in Port Harcourt.
Already, the Commission has handed over seven of the completed prototype hostels to the University of Benin; Imo State University; Federal University of Science and Technology, Owerri; Delta State University, Abraka; University of Uyo Teaching Hospital; University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt and the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture in Umudike, Abia State.
The Vice-Chancellor said the hostel would help in addressing urgent accommodation challenges in the university, some of which, he said, were raised by the students in a recent protest. He said that in addition to the complaints about fees in the university, the students also complained about inadequate accommodation.
Professor Lale stated: “If we can get 800 students who are currently living off campus to live in the hostel, it will do us a lot of good. We, therefore, appeal to the NDDC to complete and hand over the hostel to us as soon as possible.”
The VC noted that UNIPORT had over the years had some degree of partnership with the NDDC, even though the partnership tilted towards a flow from the NDDC to the university. He reminded the NDDC Acting MD that the Commission had earlier promised to build staff houses and internal roads for the university. He equally asked for assistance in providing the university with a convocation building and a standard bookshop.
Mrs. Semenitari promised to expedite work on the project, observing that the contractor still had to correct some defects pointed out in the course of inspections. She regretted that the contractor did not live up to the expectations of the NDDC.
She said: “The hostel at UNIPORT was one of the first places I visited when I assumed office at NDDC. It was a very sad visit for me. It was actually a shock therapy for me. Perhaps, I needed to get that shock to see the extent of the problems that exists in the Commission.”
According to the NDDC boss, “the UNIPORT hostel is one of the fairly good stories. I was at Ambrose Ali University in Ekpoma and what I saw there as a hostel project was very disheartening. Besides the grass and a few pillars, there was nothing more to show for a project that has lasted for 12 years. Apparently the contractors who took this job had no conscience, they did not care.”
Mrs. Semenitari said that the UNIPORT hostel did not meet the standard of the NDDC, adding that as a mother, she found it incredulous to go ahead and allow the contractor to hand over the site to the Commission.
The NDDC boss further said: “The Senate Committee on the Niger Delta visited the site last month and they asked the contractor to do some remedial works. We have also asked our project monitoring unit to confirm the integrity of the structures. We request the university to independently inspect the project. So if we get a report from the university on the status of the hostel, especially on its integrity, we can go ahead to hand over. I hear that the furniture for the hostel is ready.”
Mrs. Semenitari promised to look at the other requests from the Vice Chancellor, assuring that one of them could quickly be added to the 2016 budget. She pointed out that the Commission was already walking a tight rope, as its funds for this year was short by N10 billion.