Uche Cecil Izuora
Six senior lecturers occupying academic chairs endowed in Nigerian universities by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), have reiterated their commitment to strategies that would enhance collaboration between the international oil company and the academia to meet Nigeria’s technological aspirations.
At a recent 2022 Joint Review with SPDC Joint Venture Professorial Chairs and Centres of Excellence held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the professors discussed their work plans covering research, industry work experience for students in their care and schedules to meet the technological aspirations in selected gap areas.
One of the professors, Difference Ogagarue, who is the Director for the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC)/Shell Joint Venture Centre of Excellence in Geosciences and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Benin said, “The collaboration is envisioned to be an industry-supported centre for the training of industry-ready graduates.”
Professor Ogagarue praised the achievements of the collaboration. He said the centre in University of Benin had graduated seven sets with master’s degrees awarded to a total of 101 students.
“Of the 101 graduates, 91 percent are gainfully employed; 44 precent are on tenured technical positions in major oil and gas companies in Nigeria; 23 percent are in the academia; some are already senior lecturers in universities; and 25 precent are either in government establishments or private practice. The aim is to position the centre in line with the global energy trend,” he said.
SPDC Director and Head Corporate Relations, Nigeria, Mr. Igo Weli, said, “The collaboration with Nigerian universities, along with other academic programmes like the annual sabbatical and research internship programmes, continues to form key aspects of SPDC’s effort to contribute to the development of higher education in Nigeria.”
Weli, who was represented by SPDC Social Performance and Social Investment Manager, Mr. Emmanuel Anyim, said, “The collaboration is a mutually beneficial relationship in which Shell obtains specialised services from the professorial chairs and centres of excellence, while they, in turn, acquire industry experience and exposure to new technologies, train industry-ready graduates and improve the university curriculum.”
Following a review of its decades-old support to education in Nigeria through scholarships and provision of industry experience to undergraduates, SPDC now sponsors two centres of excellence in Geosciences and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Benin – led by Ogagarue; and in Marine and Offshore Engineering at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt – led by Dr. Charles Orji.
The four professorial chairs are in Environmental Management and Control, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Professor Anene Moneke); in Petroleum Engineering, University of Port Harcourt (Professor Sunday Sunday Ikiensikimama); in Geophysics, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife (Professor Mary Olowokere) and in Mechanical Engineering, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (Professor Danjuma Yawas).
Meanwhile, a two-time occupant of the SPDC-Aret Adams in Petroleum Engineering, University of Port Harcourt, Professor Adewale Dosunmu, has encouraged other organisations to emulate the strategies of Shell Companies in Nigeria in promoting academia-industry collaborations.
Speaking recently in Port Harcourt on a live radio discussion programme, Canvas: the Niger Delta Roundtable, on Radio Nigeria FM and Nigeria Info FM, Professor Dosunmu said, “Shell’s collaborations on professorial chairs and centres of excellence in Nigerian universities deliver high impact research agenda, multi-investigator programmes and multi-disciplinary laboratories. They enable critical thinking in higher education, evidence-based criticism and debate for policy making and the development of capacity to train future generations of researchers.”