There is palpable fear among the management staff and engineering students of Federal Polytechnic, Idah, Kogi State over the recent ban by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) on the admission of fresh students into the institution’s School of Engineering.

NBTE is an arm of the Federal Ministry of Education regulating technical and vocational education outside the university system in the country. It aims, among others, to promote quality technical and vocational education and training for the sustainable development and leadership roles of Nigeria in African and global affairs.

However, the 34-year-old institution has remained in a state of panic since June 26, 2015 when the board imposed the ban in its letter with reference C/TEB.235/VOL.I A/235 and signed by its executive secretary. It will be recalled that some OND students who are studying engineering courses and are also on Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) programme had petitioned NBTE complaining of the institution’s inability to engage them in meaningful practical learning as its workshops and laboratories were permanently locked while its classrooms are always overcrowded during lectures.

Based on the petition, further learnt that the board carried out an undercover investigation and found out that both the allegations were true and consequently placed a ban on the institution from admitting new students into its engineering programmes.

It also instructed the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to comply with the ban until all the observed deficiencies are corrected.

This development however has thrown the school community, especially the rector, Dr. Mathew Akpata and the final year engineering students into confusion. While Akpata is worried that the development, if not well managed, could damage the school’s reputation, which he said was hard earned, the students are worried that they may overstay on campus while their certificates may not be recognised for further studies or in the labour market if they eventually graduate.

When our correspondent visited the institution during the week, most of the workshops and laboratories on the campus were opened with students and instructors engaging in practical learning.

Contrary to the reports, there were no visible signs that the workshops had been under lock and key for several months. For instance, the refrigerator/air conditioning, fluid power and electronic sections as well as mechanical and flitting/machine workshops were a bee hive of activities as students were seen engaging in different practical works. The students told grapevine that this had been the practice over time. Euchi John, an HND I Meteorological student who was just coming out of the exam hall denied that the workshops were always locked, saying the students often combine both theory and practical works together.

“Even our practical exam in my department will come up this afternoon!” he stressed, noting that the current situation had really affected them psychologically.

In his own reaction, the rector, Dr. Akpata who also countered the allegations and asserted that all the laboratories and workshops are not only well-equipped but also functional. He noted that the school and himself in particular received the news of the ban with shock, saying that apart from the fact that all the engineering courses offered by the polytechnic, except two, are fully accredited by NBTE, the 32 workshops and laboratories in the polytechnic are also operating optimally.

“As an institution, we had received many commendations in the past from different organisations including NBTE on our programmes and products,” he added. “And we are not in any way relaxed but always strive to ensure we build on our achievements.”

That is why, he argued further, it was doubtful if the board actually carried out any investigation before banning the school.

“While we are disturbed by the development, we are already doing the needful so that the ban can be lifted on time,” he added.

Speaking in the same vein, the Dean of School of Engineering, Engineer Ahon Martins also faulted the allegations, saying it did not represent the true opinion of the majority of students. He corroborated the rector’s earlier claim on the state of the engineering programmes, saying it is one of the best schools of engineering in the nation’s polytechnics in terms of facilities, personnel and graduates being produced.

But NBTE’s spokesman, Malam Suleiman Gwarzo while reconfirming the ban said the board does not just bark but responds to evidence. He told our correspondent that the board carried out secret investigations based on the petition received from the students of the institution.

“It is a common knowledge that if you inform somebody or an organisation that you are coming for a particular mission especially like investigation, such a person or organisation will quickly put his or its house in order most times as a window dressing. That is why we don’t inform institutions under us before we carry out any investigation on them and that is the same thing we did in the case of Federal Poly Idah,” he explained.

Gwarzo however pointed out that the ban was temporary pending when all the necessary facilities are in place and the expected practical engineering activities resume in the school.

“NABTE is out for standard and we will not relent in ensuring that our schools are following guidelines,” he stressed.

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