Award of Honour To PROFESSOR NIMI D. BRIGGS. OON, JP In appreciation of his outstanding achievements as THE 5th VICE-CHANCELLOR UNIVERSITY OF PORT HARCOURT 2000-2005. Presented by
THE GOVERNING COUNCIL, STAFF AND STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PORT HARCOURT. I dare say you have reason to be proud of your accomplishments at the helm of the University. One might say that the University was born again under your Dynamic leadership, and my hope and prayer is that the momentum which has been generated will be maintained.
L. AYO BANJO, Hon. D. Litt (Port Harcourt) Emeritus Professor of English (UI), Formerly, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan and Pro-chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt.
I am delighted that the warmth, enthusiasm and goodwill that greeted your maiden speech as substantive Vice-Chancellor at Senate in July 2000 reverberated at your valedictory address in July 2005, a clear indication of a very successful tenure.
SAMUEL N. OKIWELU, Professor of Zoology, Former Dean of Faculty of Science, UniPort.
01 July 2005
In appreciation of the totality of his services to the university, especially those during the periods he acted and served as Vice-chancellor, the university has named the Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences and the Students’ Hostel block at the Institute of Petroleum Studies, which are both under construction after Professor Nimi Briggs. He was also appointed Professor Emeritus after his retirement. With his appointment, the college now has two (Kelsey Harrison and Nimi Briggs) of the six professors emeriti that are currently in the university.
Furthermore, many college staff have served as members of Governing Council – the highest policy- making body of the institution at various times. Professors John Ikimalo, representing Senate and Owunari Georgewill, Congregation, are college staff in the present Governing Council of the university. In a similar vein, there is a long list of staff of the college that are currently taking charge of important units in the university. They include Professors Alice Nte -Centre for the Management of Research Publications, Nwadiuto Akani – Institute for Maternal and Child Health, Ifeoma Anochie – MacArthur’s Skills Laboratory, Omotayo Ebong – Centre for Malaria Research and Phytomedicine, – Samuel Uzoigwe – Centre for Research and Training and James Odia – Research Ethics Committee.
3.3.3. Order and Discipline
Since its inception, the College of Health Sciences has maintained distinctive academic and professional ethos as well as sense of urgency which has defined the way its staff and students carry out their activities in the university. Students of the college are usually cultivated and are seldom involved in malfeasances, their admission is strictly streamlined, lectures are delivered as and when due in most cases and examination results usually released within 48 hours of the last paper. Such results are often seen as reflective of students’ performances and are hardly contested. On the whole, the level of order and discipline in the college is to some extent peculiar and has earned the college, university wide respect and commendation. On occasions, some chief executives of the university have had cause to point to the orderly ways the college operates as being worthy of emulation by other sections of the institution.
3.3.4. Laurels and Recognition to the University
Staff of the College of Health Sciences have contributed to the good name of the University of Port Harcourt and enhanced its visibility by being worthy ambassadors that have been recognised and have brought laurels and recognition to the University of Port Harcourt.
188.8.131.52. Nigeria Centenary Awards
In celebration of its one hundred years of existence as a nation (1914-2014) the Federal Government of Nigeria, on Friday 28 February, 2014, conferred centenary awards on 100 Nigerians. Two persons from the University of Port Harcourt won the awards in the category of Distinguished Academics– Professor Claude Ake (posthumously) of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Professor Emeritus Kelsey Harrison of the College of Health Sciences.
184.108.40.206. Nigerian National Order of Merit
This award which is predicated on the sustained promotion of merit based on excellence, has been conferred on many Nigerians of whom three have come from the University of Port Harcourt: Professors Claude Ake (now late), Social Sciences; Ebiegberi Alagoa, Humanities and Kelsey Harrison, College of Health Sciences.
220.127.116.11. Nigerian National Honours
These orders and decorations are conferred yearly on Nigerians and friends of the country who are regarded as having rendered services that have been of benefit to the nation. So far, three persons have been so honoured from the University of Port Harcourt. They are Professors Sylvanus JS Cookey (OFR), Humanities; Ebiegberi Alagoa (OON), Humanities and Nimi Briggs (OON), College of Health Sciences.
18.104.22.168 Nigerian Universities Distinguished Professors Award (NUDPA)
This award was established in 2011 by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to honour university professors for outstanding excellence and contributions to the education sector. So far, three persons, of whom two are from the College of Health Sciences, have been so honoured from the University of Port Harcourt. They are Professor Emeritus Otonti Nduka of the Faculty of Education and Professor Abiye Obuoforibo (now late) as well as Professor Emeritus Kelsey Harrison, both of the College of Health Sciences.
22.214.171.124. Naming of Structures
Two persons from the College of Health Sciences have had important structures named after them by the Rivers State Government. They are Professors Emeriti Kelsey Harrison – the Kelsey Harrison Hospital at Mile One Diobu, Port Harcourt and Nimi Briggs – the Nimi Briggs Hospital at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Nkpolu, Port Harcourt.
126.96.36.199. International Recognitions
Professor Emeritus Kelsey Harrison has had so many of them that we can only reserve this issue for another day.
Challenges trailed the college virtually from its inception. From issues regarding what its proper name should be, to the difficulty the university was encountering with the school system which was felt to be stifling growth and enhancement of study units that ought to be departments and faculties, to rumblings about the intercalated MB.BS. programmeas being too time consuming, to even the mature student programme, which critics felt was a waste of time. This was outside the more obvious ones of inadequate infrastructure – students’ hostels, laboratories, staff offices, power and water supply and of course the inadequacy of the temporary teaching hospital at Emuoha and what should be done about it.
Finding solutions to some of these problems were at best difficult and at times quite acrimonious and divisive as people held very strong views on what they considered right. Fortunately, with time most of the issues were resolved enabling the college to continue on its path of progress. The Senate of the university scrapped the school system and opted for faculties and departments and so approved that the college be known as College of Health Sciences. Thus, the college acquired its proper name and its two faculties of Basic Medical Sciences and Clinical Sciences with their respective departments at the time. Furthermore, the college also scraped both the intercalated degree and the mature students’ programmes. Students admitted to read medicine were no longer to branch off compulsorily to obtain a bachelor’s degree in the basic medical sciences.
One other important challenge deserves a mention – the college’s brush with the Medical and Dental Council ofNigeria (MDCN – the body charged with the statutory responsibility of superintending the training, registration and conduct, including professional practice of medical doctors) on two occasions. The first was in 1989 when the MDCN withdrew the accreditation it had earlier granted the college because of some issues and compelled the university to send students it had graduated as doctors to sit for yet another examination at Enugu. So distraught were all the staff of the college, that at the behest of the then Provost, Professor Christian Anah, Drs. Raphael Oruamabo and Nimi Briggs, as they then were, followed the students, or shall I say doctors, to Enugu, and sat with them throughout the period of the examinations. Needless to say that they all passed; the university scored 100% and that ensured that the recognition which council had withdrawn, was returned to the university forthwith. The second such episode was in 2010, when on account of the admission of students in excess of what the MDCN had approved for the university based on its carrying capacity, accreditation was withdrawn and the university barred from admitting medical students for a year. Accreditation was restored in 2011and it is hoped that the university learnt the proper lesson.
5. THE FUTURE
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl,
but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Dr. Martin Luther king (1929 -1968)
The future of the college lies in moving forward. First, physical and administrative issues and on this, one observes that the structure of the College of Health Sciences that was eventually approved by the relevant authorities was one that was to be made up of six units, which at the time, were called schools. While the university is to be congratulated for establishing the basic medical sciences, clinical sciences, pharmaceutical sciences, dentistry and nursing, it still falls short of public health and professions allied to medicine. There is a need to speed up the ongoing efforts aimed at getting these on board. Furthermore, nursing should be academically strengthened and pulled out of the faculty of clinical sciences and made a faculty of its own to enable it have the space for accelerated development. A purpose-built administrative block for the college is still not in place; the completion of its construction has to be seen as a priority. So also are the relevant physical structures that would house and service the various faculties – their laboratories and workshops. The adequacy of students’ accommodation has to be assured to give them an appropriate atmosphere for learning. As for the college’s teaching hospital, where the bulk of the clinical teachers of the college spend their time teaching and researching, its aesthetics need to be improved to make it more patient friendly. Furthermore, it should take urgent steps to ensure that aspects of modern medicine, such as endoscopic surgeries and assisted reproductive techniques are available in the hospital.
However, aside from these issues of infrastructure and administration are the equally relevant ones of staff commitment, quality of services rendered and the relevance of the college to contemporary Nigeria and the world at large. Moving forward entails applying the elements that determine quality – proficiency, elegance, excellence, value and distinction to all that the college does. For, if indeed no university anywhere in the world is worthy of its calling unless quality in all aspects of its operations is of its essence, more so is it of a College of Health Sciences. The College thanks its former provosts, including Professors Nimi Briggs, Difini Datubo Brown, James Odia and Blessing Didia for their services. It extends special gratitude to its immediate past one, Professor Chris Akani and bids him farewell. In the same vein, it welcomes the incoming one, Professor Christie Mato, the first female in the college to scale this lofty height, and urges her to replicate her passion, devotion, commitment, depth, tenacity and dexterity for her parent discipline of Anaesthesia, on her new responsibility of headship of the college, making quality of service her watchword.
And in this respect, let me observe that 2015, the year in which she is coming into office as provost is significant in the quest by nations, ours inclusive, to eradicate poverty, fight disease, and aim for an enhanced healthy life expectancy for all. It is the year in which the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will terminate and a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be put in place to drive human progress. In these new set of goals, as contained in The Future We Want, the target is to achieve health and wellbeing for all at all ages through universal health coverage, the bedrock of which is Primary Health Care. Therein, Madam Provost, is the college’s work cut out for it if it is to be relevant in this 21st century.
We are looking forward toward the next 40 years with renewed confidence in our capacity to advance the frontiers of knowledge.
UniPort 40th Anniversary (1975 – 2015)
Universities are established as institutions in perpetuity; many, like Bologna and Oxford have made centuries. Against such background, the University of Port Harcourt at mere 40 could be considered youthful. But then, four decades are probably ample for an institution to have laid the foundation and generated sufficient momentum that would propel it and determine the course of its impact on its community, contribution to national development and competitiveness in a globalised world. The knowledge generation and creativity which the University of Port Harcourt seeks for enlightenment and self-reliance must transcend theory and translate into one that is effectively processed and harvested to transform into services and products that are competitive and enhance the quality of life of all mankind. Thus, this university must seek knowledge, including indigenous knowledge, not just for its sake, but also as an entrepreneurial capital to which value can be added for a better understanding of the world and improvement of the quality of life on earth. The forward match, with renewed confidence in its capacity to advance the frontiers of knowledge, to which all components of the university are committing themselves at this 40th anniversary, should be anchored on this precept. That way, the university will be constantly renewed, even as it seeks after the universal truth, as the cornerstone of its existence.
On its part, the College of Health Sciences being an integral component of this wholesome venture must at all times utilise its peculiar specialization on issues that border on the health and well-being of the human race, to advance the good cause of the university through programmes that impact on the community – childhood immunizations, neonatal, infant and under five mortalities, maternal deaths, fertility regulation, nutrition, infective disorders, malignancies and much more.
Let me now end on a personal note by thanking the university, the college, the Faculty of Clinical Sciences and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology for the many courtesies I have received over the years and also for granting me the opportunity and privilege of not only delivering this lecture but also of being part of such a fascinating story, the core of which is simple. Through commitment and hard work the founding fathers and mothers of the college have built an institution that is sufficiently resilient to have stood the test of time. At 70 and beyond, most of them are handing over the batons and the younger ones must rise to the occasion of sustaining and nurturing the college in its forward match to advance the frontiers of knowledge especially in the health sector. So that when this lecture is delivered again 40 years from now, the comparison will be as different as chalk and cheese.
I hereby acknowledge and thank the large number of persons I had to consult in the process of putting this historical account together.
Where do we go from here? A public lecture delivered in commemoration of the retirement of Professor Christian O Anah from the services of the University of Port Harcourt by Nimi Briggs. Friday 3 August, 2007.
Turning The Tide. Nimi D. Briggs. 2006. Spectrum Books.
College of Health Sciences. University of Port Harcourt. Prospectus. 2012 -2015.