NEW DIRECTOR, CENTRE FOR CLIMATE AND DEVELOPMENT, RESUMES IN AE-FUNAI.
A handover ceremony was held recently at the Accountancy Block, Zone A, to mark the official resumption of Professor Chukwumerije Okereke, an international climate change expert, political scientist and formerly of the University of Reading, United Kingdom, as Director, Centre for Climate Change and Development, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi state, Nigeria.
The new Director started his speech by welcoming the Deans, Directors, Heads of Departments/Unit and other university officers, who were present at the event, and thanked them for honouring him with their timely presence.
In his opening remarks, Prof. Icha-Ituma stated that he was delighted to have helped in facilitating the return of Professor Okereke to Nigeria and AEFUNAI. He thanked the erudite professor for accepting to come back home to join in building the young university. He reminded Professor Okereke that there is so much to be done to take the university, the state and nation to greater heights and assured him of the co-operation and support of the university management and colleagues. Prof. Icha-Ituma thanked Dr. Robert Onyeneke, former Acting Director of the centre for laying the foundation and holding on till the arrival of a new Director.
Presenting his handover notes, Dr. Robert Onyeneke recalled way back in 2011 when he had first met Prof. Okereke in an international conference and there understood the stuff he is made of. He thanked the incoming Director for accepting to join AE-FUNAI. Dr. Onyeneke pointed that the foundation for the centre was laid when Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba asked him to present a concept paper for the establishment of a centre for Climate Change and Development, and that following the creation of the Centre in January 21, 2019, the Vice-Chancellor appointed him pioneer Acting Director for the centre.
Dr. Onyeneke went ahead to chronicle achievements of the Centre, from inception, which included the successful hosting of a well-attended Round-table workshop on Katowice Climate Change Conference in March, 2019 which was organised in collaboration with the Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment and United Nations Development Programme, mentoring young academics from AEFUNAI to participate in the Innovation and Research in Adapting to Climate Change Programme in Nigeria organised by the French Government, participating in the Green Economy Capacity Assessment Workshop in Abuja hosted by Prof Okereke, and active participation in the Southeast Regional Climate Change Knowledge Deepening Workshop organized by the Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment in Enugu in May, 2019, among other achievements.
The Director, Prof. Chukwumerije Okereke appreciated the efforts of Vice-chancellor, Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba and Dean Faculty of Management and Social Sciences, Prof. Afam Icha Ituma, in bringing him to the university. He thanked Dr. Onyeneke for laying the foundation and holding forth till he arrived. Prof. Okereke said he has come back to join hands in rebuilding our nation. He noted that the problem with our country is that ‘’most people want to reap without sowing, and many tend to despise the days of the small beginning. He shared some of the experiences he gathered from working for national and international organizations and governments on climate change related projects over the years, affirming that he was determined to bring the experiences home for the benefit of our people.
He eulogized Prof. Nwajiuba for providing visionary leadership, commitment and passion to drive the university to world class, pointing out that the Centre for Climate Change and Development will play a leading role in advancing the world class vision of the Vice-Chancellor. He said that the long-term objective of the Centre for Climate is to establish AEFUANI as an African leader in both the generation of a high-quality research on climate change and sustainable development and the application of research to address real life challenges at local, national and the global scale. He said he was delighted that already the Centre under his leadership have obtained a grant from the Department of International Development (DFID) UK to procure and distribute LGP cylinders to women in two communities in the South East which he believes will help to reduce the health and environmental impact of open fire cooking in these two communities. He said this is a good example of the kind of impact he believes the Centre will have in the lives of communities in Nigeria.
Professor Okereke stressed that his emphasis will be to and attract research grants, and work closely with key stakeholders nationally and internationally to shape policy and practice in Africa. He emphasized that we need to educate people at all levels on the dangers and opportunities implicated in climate change. “It is wrong and naïve”, he says “to see climate change merely as an environmental problem because it has huge implication for our economy, education, health, food security, politics, industrial growth, etc.” He said he is keen to promote interdisciplinary research across the university using the Centre, and called on deans and directors present to join in the effort. He made bold to state that AE-FUNAI is already at the forefront of climate sensitive development and setting pace with the 24 hours uninterrupted clean power supply and the Campus Green Initiative which positions the university favourably for international collaboration.
The Deans and Directors, who took their turns to speak at the occasion including Prof.O.N Omaka, Dean, Faculty of Science, Prof. Rosemary Igbo, Dean, Faculty of Education, Prof. Johnny Ogunji, Director, Centre for Educational Services, Dr. Mrs Chinyere Nwajiuba, Ag, Director, Centre for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, Dr. Okechukwu Ibiam, former Head, Department of Political Science, Dr. Christiana Igberi, Ag. Director General Studies and Dr. Okorie, Head Department of Political Science, expressed delight that the university has added a renowned scholar in the person of Prof. Okereke, to drive the Centre for Climate and Development in the university and promised to give him all necessary support for the speedy growth and success of the centre and university. While putting across suggestions on way forward for the centre, the officers agreed with the new Director, that inter-disciplinary approach is required in making the difference.