The Executive Secretary National Universities Commission, Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, MFR, mni, FNAL, on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), has reiterated the importance of the FGN/World Bank supervisory missions for the Centres of Excellence and their Implementing Agencies, under the Sustainable Procurement, Environmental, and Social Standards Enhancement (SPESSE) Project.
Declaring the one week event open, holding from 11th to 18th October, 2022, at the new NUC Boardroom, Prof. Rasheed who welcomed all stakeholders to the event, refreshed them on the objective of these type of missions which he said is usually tailored toward achieving specific goals.
According to him, the last mission of 11th to 14th April, 2022, was to ascertain the progress of the Centres and Implementing Agencies in the achievement of their Disbursement-Linked Indicators (DLIs) while the current one is aimed primarily at providing support and guidance for project implementation as well as verifying the output of the maiden Independent Verification Report (IVR).
Other objectives include: assessing the status of implementation on actions which were agreed upon during the last implementation support mission; while there will also be reviews on positive lessons learnt from the SPESSE Project; deciding on necessary corrective actions, and addressing any delay(s) by the Implementing Agencies in launching the project’s certification portals.
He stated that since the last mission, several activities have taken place and quite a few achievements have been recorded, but unfortunately, the project has been affected by instability in the public universities in the country. Three years ago, it was expected that at least 60 – 70% of the project would have been covered by this time, postgraduate diploma, undergraduate and MSc students would have been preparing to graduate and a collaboration of NUC with one or two universities to encourage the introduction of PhD programmes that will be supported outside the mission should have started.
Prof. Rasheed explained that the double tragedy of COVID-Pandemic and the ASUU strike in 2020 had impacted negatively on the Project which dashed any gains that would have been recorded that year, noting that the on-going strike by ASUU has forced stakeholders to start finding alternatives to achieving the desired goals of the project irrespective of the situation in the land.
He added that the project ought to have recorded achievements such as resource verification exercise by the Independent Third-Party Verifiers (ITPV), the launch of Track A courses, and the various capacity-building programmes organised for staff of the SPESSCEs as well as the PIUs of the various implementing agencies.
He also said that arrangements for the deployment of the Learning Management Service (LMS) and network devices have also reached an advanced stage and are anticipated that they will be deployed soon.
The NUC Scribe revealed that an approval had been given for the payment of a stipend/performance allowance to faculty in the universities (to be paid from the DLIs) and prayed that it gets to deserving members of the team to help cushion the economic strain that had been heightened by the industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
He decried the unending strike action by ASUU, but expressed optimism that it will come to an end within the week as discussions are ongoing on various fronts, and an understanding is hopefully going to be reached so that the stand-off is resolved, and academic activities can resume.
He said even though ACE Impact and SPESSE Projects are not the prime targets of the strike, the situation had cost the projects to lose grounds that might never be recovered even if an extension is approved by the World Bank. He urged the Centres to continue working hard towards ensuring that project objectives are met within the project cycle, bearing in mind the time-bound nature of this Project, pending the discontinuation of the strike.
He recounted that the maiden meeting of the Project Performance Review Committee (PPRC) was planned to hold in September which could not happen, but hopes that a joint PPRC and NPPRC meeting will hold sometime in late October or early November, 2022. During the meeting, the 2023 Work plans of the Centres and PIUs would be reviewed and cleared for submission to the World Bank.
The Executive Secretary therefore, enjoined the Centres to fine-tune their work plans, stressing that the NUC planned to conduct resource verification visits to the SPESSCEs as it was long overdue, but was stalled by the ASUU strike. He said the verification exercise must be fast-tracked in order to remain on course with the commencement of Track E-courses.
The NUC scribe commended the World Bank’s Task-Team Lead on the SPESSE Project, Chief Bayo Awosemusi, who with the co-TTLS has demonstrated an admirable commitment to the success of the project, including the Vice-Chancellors of the Centres.
He urged them not to relent in their dedication to the actualisation of the project in their institutions and commended the Centre Leaders and their staff for their unquantifiable sacrifices; the contributions of the PIUs and all those working behind the scenes to ensure the success of the project, the heads of the various MDAs that are participating in this project.
He similarly applauded the Ministers and Permanent Secretaries of the Ministries of Finance, Environment and Women Affairs as well as the DG of BPP who have shown tremendous support, the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) for their support and enjoins all Centres and PIUs to continue to work as a team to ensure the achievement of the project objectives.
The Project Coordinator, Dr. Joshua Attah underscored the importance of the mission since a series of important information would be brought to the attention of the members.
The team, according to him, has reached a major milestone in the implementation of the project by the presentation of the first independent property verification report, which will allow the World Bank take stock of what has been done and make any major changes to restructure the project in a way its objectives will be better achieved.
He said it was his belief that the week will be a very interesting one and charged everyone present to utilise the opportunity to make it a very successful meeting.
At the meeting were representative of the World Bank Task team leader and Senior Procurement Specialist (SPS), Dr. Daniel Rikichi Kajang; Vice-Chancellors of the six SPESSE Centres (Ahmadu Bello University, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, University of Lagos, University of Benin, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University), Centre Leaders, representatives from the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mr. Daloba Paul Edward; Environment, Mrs. Rofikat A. Odetoro and Women Affairs, Director General, Bureau of Public Procurement, Mamman Ahmadu represented by Mr. Aliyu Edogi Aliyu and Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF).