The dream of University of Nigeria to host a UNESCO category II Centre in biotechnology became a reality on Monday following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Federal Government of Nigeria and UNESCO. At a colourful ceremony held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on Monday, October 13th, 2012, the Director General of UNESCO, Mrs Irina Bokova, signed the MoU on behalf of UNESCO,while the Honourable Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, for the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The centre is intended to conduct advanced training, education and research in biotechnology with emphasis on food security, bio-resource conservation and tropical diseases. In addition, the centre will host international conferences, and collaborate with other institutions in Nigeria and the rest of Africa to advance biotechnology education in the sub-region.
In a short address during ceremony, Mrs Bokova described biotechnology as a catalyst for economic development and wealth creation and reiterated the commitment of UNESCO “to promote networking for the development of science, education and knowledge exchange and tobuilding national capacity”. In her post-signing address, Professor Ahmed Rufa’i revealed that the government of Nigeria had placed a premium on the establishment of the centre and expressed her optimism that the centre will soon become a reference institution that would contribute to national and international capacity building, research and development.
In his reaction, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Professor Bartholomew Okolo, who was in Paris for the ceremony, explained that the centre was the only one of its kind in Africa and has the mandate to address the problems of food security and tropical diseases in Africa. He further gave an assurance that the centre would live up to these mandates and wouldhave the desired impact not only on the lives of Nigerians, but on the lives of all Africans.
In a chat with journalists, an obviously elated Vice-Chancellor, who is also a biotechnologist, explained that the signing ceremony was the climax of a long and rigorous process that began six years ago. He went ahead to enumerate the list of persons and organisations who played important roles in making the dream a reality. First and foremost, he than
ked the Federal Government of Nigeria, the President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the Minister of Education, Professor Ahmed Rufa’i, whom he said made it possible for UNN to achieve the feat. He was also grateful to the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie, and the Education Trust Fund, for providing the funds for the sustenance of the centre on behalf of the federal government.
On the side of UNESCO, he thanked the Director General of UNESCO, Mrs Irina Bokova, the Assistant Director General for Natural Sciences, Professor Gretchen Kalonji, the Director of Division of Basic Engineering Science, Professor Malecj Nalecz, the programme Specialist in the Natural Sciences Sector, Dr Lucy Hoareau, and their “wonderful staff”, for “their incredible support over the years”.
Finally, he acknowledged the support and hospitality of the ambassador /permanent delegate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to UNESCO, Her Excellency, Mrs Mariam Katagun, and her staff.
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