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Imo State University, Claretian University scientists address climate change, hunger through phytobiotechnology

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Group of experts led by Professor Kenneth Anchang Yangadi FCAS, fellow of the African Institute for Public Health has described phytobiotechology as the cheapest and safest means of mitigating global climate change, food insecurity and mental health challenges.

Speaking at at a 3-day First International Conference and Workshop on “Phytobiotechology Applications in Climate Change Mitigation,” the Chairman of the International Society for Phytobiotechnology and Public Health said, “Phytobiotechnology involves using green materials from the environment without modifying them through genetic engineering.”

He noted that the goal is to understand plants better, unlock their potential, and package them in a way that is effective without interfering with their natural existence.

“Today’s event is exploiting phytobiotechnology to address climate change impact, climate change problems globally. To a layman, this is a technology where you exploit available green materials from your environment. You understand these green materials, you understand the uses of these green materials, you bring them together without changing the nature of the plants at all.

“You are not modifying anything like what is opposed to genetic engineering. You are not changing any compound or transforming it in a way that is not agreeable with nature or with its natural existence. That is phytobiotechology,” he said.

Professor Kenneth emphasised that everyone depends on plants for food, medicine, clothing and Nigeria has an abundance of medicinal plants that are not being maximised.

He believes that scientists need to properly understand and package plant medicine so it meets global standards without isolating compounds like synthetic medicine does.

“I’m sure there’s no one on earth who doesn’t use plants either as food, either as medicine, clothes, or what have you. So we all depend on plants. And phyto, the word phyto, that prefix means what? Plants, right? So the benefit of this technology now is that we now have knowledge of how to package this plant, how to pick out, bring out the potential hidden in the plant that we are not seeing, and how to put it in such a way that it can give us the best result.

“To do this, we need to bring in science to understand these plants better, proof that they are efficacious, and at the same time, see not just end at that level of saying they are efficacious, but how do we package them together?

“That’s the dichotomy. That’s where scientists are cut off. They don’t understand how to package plants in a way that is effective and at the same time not interfering with its natural existence.

“Nigeria has more than 300,000 medicinal plants, for instance. And there are also plants that may not be medicinal, which I don’t agree with, because every plant has either a nutritional compound, which could be indirectly medicinal as well.

“So Nigeria is not maximising it, because when you mention plants generally in Nigeria, people would think that the connotation and the impression and the perception is something lower, something that is primitive, but then that’s wrong.

“When people say, I don’t want plant medicine, I want medicine that is synthesised from Europe, which is chemicals. Yeah. Orthodox. What they mean by that is that they underrate the plant. They are not confident that plant medicine is effective.

“The message of today’s gathering is that you use plants the way they are, you package it the way they are, but you guarantee that they are effective, they are efficacious and at the same time without interfering with its natural existence. That is a wonderful thing. If we do that, then we can solve most of our problems,” the Imo State University Don explained.

To promote this concept beyond academia, Professor Kenneth aims to involve relevant stakeholders such as farmers who can practice this technology themselves.

He believes in educating and empowering communities by showing them practical results rather than relying on imported products or western-centric perceptions.

In terms of sustainability, the focus is currently on training farmers directly so they can implement these practices themselves.

He also spoke on involving more end-users in order to make this approach sustainable.

“This particular conference is not just academic. That’s why we say we have a conference, but we have a workshop. The workshop is to train people with some skills on how to go back and do it. We want a simple do it yourself approach. And that’s why even in our conference, we have farmers here.

“Farmers representing farmers association in the South-East are here. And they are all here because they want to take something back and do it. So they are already the relevant stakeholders as far as I’m concerned, they are representing more than 2000 farmers. So you can imagine that 2,000 farmers begin to practice this technology. That is wonderful for us.

“My concern is reaching out to all of us. Let’s practice it. You’re a farmer, you can do backyard farming to grow some vegetables behind your house, behind your home. And that is what we want here. If everybody can grow ten to 20 percent of their food that cuts down how much you depend on the market as well.

“That also cuts down carbon emissions when you are growing, especially growing food organically and all that stuff. Now, on the aspect of academic paper, that’s why I also emphasise at the beginning in my preamble and prelude, I said, no, this is not an ordinary academic paper.

“If it were purely academic, you would have seen so much data, but all the things I’m presenting there, you can see that I have my farm. I’m showing you what I did on my farm. So you see my classroom, but you also see my farm. So I’m showing you my experiences.

“My poultry, I feed my poultry with bitter leaf, formulated seeds and all that. I feed my poultry with mushrooms from lettuce, seeds that I grew and all that. And I had only one mortality, but the other next door farm uses antibiotics and they have more than one mortality and all that.

“So I’m trying to say that we should transcend these academics by doing it. How many academics are producing biopesticides from plants and it’s being used in Nigeria? Have you come across a biopesticide that is being marketed in Nigeria, produced by Nigerians? It’s available. All the pesticides that we have, all the insecticides that we have, they are all imported.”

Other stakeholders at the event include, the state chairman of the Farmers Association of Nigeria, Enugu State, Mr Romanus Anayo who expressed gratitude to the organizers and said it serves as an eye-opener on using modern technologies in agriculture.

He noted that farmers have neglected natural resources available to them and emphasised the importance of utilising plants and vegetables to improve agricultural practices. He also suggested that the use of harmful chemicals contributes to climate change and negatively impacts human health.

He therefore urged the government to allocate funds towards innovative farming methods and encouraged support for farmers at the grassroots level.

“By the grace of God this seminar is an eye opener. A lot of things were being passed through as farmers in Nigeria while looking up to using modern technologies to do this thing. While some of the natural things God gave us are around our corner by our backside which can help us improve agriculture in different ways and we abandoned it.

“And today by this very program, this conference, at least this introduction part of it that is done now is an eye opener. Those things our forefathers were doing and they lived longer, very strong.

“So I thank God for this program that is taking us back to the roots where we can use all these natural things God gave us plants, vegetables that we can use to preserve our produce and make better earnings than ever before.

“I’m only begging the federal government let all this quantum money each year, the dollar for farming in papers and in figures, if one 10th of it can be used through this very innovation now, and it will help farmers in a long way and step it down so that those things we are looking for is around us, you just have to discover it and make use of it and will make a good ending life.

“So I thank God for this program and I wish the government should encourage farmers so that this will translate them to the grassroots for farmers to benefit.” Anayo said.

On his part, Prof I.D Choji said, “There is a need for us to revert to and include nature study in our school curricula from primary school. We need to  propagate our indigenous food which are healthier and encourage consumption of indigenous food through advocacy and Publicity.”

Professor Choji added that the government should as a matter of urgency introduce phytobiotechology into university curricula.

Present at the conference were local and international delegates, researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders who discussed “Phytobiotechnology Applications in Climate Change Mitigation,” they are united in the shared goal of exploring and advancing innovative strategies to combat climate change through the application of plant-based biotechnologies

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Education

ASUU, ATBU bicker over violation of VC appointment process

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Rauf Oyewole, Bauchi

The Academic Staff Union Of Universities (ASUU), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Branch, Bauchi has faulted the University management for violating the varsity’s law guiding the appointment of a new vice chancellor and “illegally” allowing some principal officers stay in office on acting capacity beyond six months.

The ASUU-ATBU Chairperson, Dr. Ibrahim Inuwa, while speaking during a press conference at the Union’s Secretariat on Monday said that the Acting Registrar who is the custodian of the University law has engaged in “illegality” by advertising the position of VC while he (registrar) is illegally occupying office.

He said, “The advertisement of the vacancy for the post of Vice Chancellor in ATBU Bauchi (Internal and External Advertisement) published on Sunday January 13th, 2024 has got tongues wagging within and outside the University Community due to the absence of the University Council. The Union rejects this illegality because it runs counter to any relevant law governing the University.

“The Union is worried with the misapplication of the provisions of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1993 as amended. The provisions of the Act never vested the powers of the advertisement of vacancy for the post of Vice Chancellor with the Hon. Minister of Education nor with the Registrar of the University.”

According to Inuwa, “There are no circumstances whatsoever in neither the spirit nor the letters of all the University Laws where anybody else rather than the Council, is given the powers to appoint a substantive Vice Chancellor. However, in an abnormal situation, the Law allows the University Senate to appoint an acting Vice Chancellor to hold the office for a maximum period of six months. This position is clearly spelt out in Chapter 16 Subsection A (b) xi-xii of the ATBU Conditions of Service.”

He said that ASUU ATBU found the move disturbing and unbecoming of the Management of the University using the absence of the Council to “perpetuate illegality even in the face of unambiguous provisions of the Laws.”

“This attitude of abusing the University Laws by the University Management has gradually become a norm. For example, the University Management in disregard to all extant Laws and the University Council’s directives that all Principal Officers’ who are in acting capacity should not exceed six months in that capacity and should be replaced by the next most senior officer in the unit if the vacancy is not yet properly filled.

“Nonetheless, the University Management violated this directive by allowing the current acting Registrar and other officers to be holding office for more than one year and counting. The Registrar, who is the supposed Custodian of the University Laws is unfortunately accommodating illegality,” he said.

The Union called on the Minister of Education and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who are the supervisory Minister and the Visitor to the University respectively to earnestly and accordingly use their noble offices to protect what remains of the sanctity of Public Universities in Nigeria by immediately halting the illegally started process of appointment of a Vice Chancellor for the University and ensure that Governing Councils of Universities are restored immediately to ensure that the Universities run according to the Laws of the land.

Meanwhile, the Public Relations Officer of the University, Zailani Bappa dismissed the lecturers’ claim that the management violated the laws. He said that the management has been following due process by advertising vacant positions.

He said that the law allows the management to advertise the post of the VC in the absence of the Varsity Council.

“We have not violated any law. On other principal officers, we have advertised them to. Also, the law also allows that acting capacity can be renewed after expiration of six months. So, I don’t know what the ASUU mean by what they have said.”

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JAMB, Police issue warning against fake websites for 2024 UTME candidates

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By Sodiq Adelakun

In a joint effort to safeguard the integrity of the 2024 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the police have issued a stern warning to candidates, cautioning them against engaging with fake websites.

During a joint news conference held in Abuja on Saturday, representatives from both JAMB and the police emphasized the prevalence of fraudulent websites designed to deceive unsuspecting candidates.

The Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, highlighted the existence of numerous fake platforms created by unscrupulous individuals with the sole aim of misleading hopeful candidates.

As the countdown to the UTME continues, authorities urge candidates to exercise vigilance and verify the authenticity of websites offering registration services or exam-related information. With the stakes high for thousands of aspiring students, the collaboration between JAMB and law is seen as a welcome development.

He called on candidates to be wary of their tactics, stressing that the fake web sites were designed to deceive innocent candidates into providing personal details such as registration numbers, email addresses, and phone numbers.

“Both JAMB and the Nigeria Police Force condemn these fraudulent activities and hereby reiterate the readiness to safeguard the interests of candidates and maintain the integrity of the examination process.

“We urge parents, guardians, and all stakeholders to ensure that candidates print their UTME Notification Slips only from the Board’s approved website: www.jamb.gov.ng,” he said.

Adejobi pointed out that the force was familiar with the tactics employed by fraudsters, especially during the annual assessment and admission exercises.

He, therefore, said that both organisations were actively sensitising candidates and the public about these deceptive practices.

“Any candidate who visits these fake sites will definitely have unreliable information and thereby miss out on the forthcoming exams.

“Any website other than www.jamb.gov.ng offering UTME slip printing services is fake and designed to defraud candidates,” he said.

On his part, the JAMB spokesperson, Dr Fabian Benjamin, assured of the Board’s commitment to continue playing its role.

He, therefore, urged candidates to ignore any unsolicited messages noting that they were from elements who aim at defrauding candidates.

Recall that the 2024 UTME is scheduled to commence on Friday, April 19, and end on April 29.

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TETFund commits to enhancing NOUN study centres with high-speed fibre optics — NOUN VC

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The Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) will upgrade all the study centres of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) with fibre optics to transmit information and data with the speed of light.

The Vice Chancellor of NOUN, Prof. Olufemi Peters, said this during a pre-convocation news conference on Monday, ahead of its 13th convocation slated for April 13, in Abuja.

Fibre optics, or optical fibre, refers to the technology that transmits information as light pulses along a glass or plastic fibre.

Mr Peters said the rate of technology advancement at NOUN attracted the offer from TETFund.

“Right now, our academics all over the faculties and departments have video components to assist our students and we deploy this with ease.

“And because of the manner we deploy technology, TETFund has offered to assist us with fibre optics in all our study centres across the country.

“It is a testimony to where we are in terms of technology,” Mr Peters said.

He said that a lot of Nigerians were yet to understand how the university operates in spite of its years of existence in the country.

Mr Peters noted that the institution had brought development to many towns and villages where the university had its study centres.

“The forthcoming convocation would be an opportunity to showcase what the institution can do with technology,” he said.

Mr Peters said that 22,175 students in various disciplines across the country would be graduating on April 13.

He said the graduating students would join the convocation via technology from its 120 study centres across the country.

“Of this number, 15,768 are undergraduate degrees, while 6,407 are for postgraduate degrees, with the Faculty of Social Sciences producing the highest number of graduates.

“Twenty-two of these students are first class, 2,362 are PGD graduates, while 41 are Masters and six are leaving the institution as PHD holders.

“This is an indication that the school is gradually moving towards establishing a more robust postgraduate school,” he said.

Mr Peters said the interesting part of the convocation would be the conferment of an investiture on the University’s new Chancellor, His Royal Majesty, Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, with a Doctorate Degree, and his installation as the Chancellor.

He said that the convocation lecture would be delivered by the Vice Chancellor of the Open University of Tanzania, Prof. Elifas Bisanda, with the topic: “Is Western education still relevant for Africa.”

The NOUN VC said the lecture would direct Nigeria and Africa in general to areas which would be useful to citizens.

He added that the lecture would be followed by the conferment of honorary Doctorate Degrees on Dr Innocent Chukwuma, the chief executive officer of Innoson Motors, and Hafsatu Abdulwaheed, the first female novelist in northern Nigeria and an eminent activist.

“Dr Chukwuma is a well-known Nigerian entrepreneur and founder of Innoson Motors, and his creativity and commitment to local content, is one of the reasons the university considered it fit to honour him.

“The second person, Hajia Hafsatu, has dedicated her works to promoting education, particularly for girls, and she believes in the transformative power of literacy to uplift communities and break the circle of poverty.

“These two awardees reflect the core values of NOUN which is entrepreneur ingenuity and knowledge-based content creativity,” Mr Peters said.

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