Our Vision Is To Grow Ritman University Into Excellent Citadel Of Learning And Entrepreneurship


Celestine Ntuen is a distinguished university professor of industrial engineering whose name resonates across the globe. Prof Ntuen, Vice Chancellor of Ritman University in Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State had held academic as well as administrative positions at the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NCA&T), USA for 31 years, rising to the position of Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development.

The Akwa Ibom State born academic developed the ACAD Software to improve military training and simulation and that earned him the USA Vice President Al Gore Research Citation Award for Government Productivity. He twice won the Commander’s Letter of Excellence for developing a computer software to automate human sense making for complex battlefield information processing.

Prof Ntuen was founder and director, Centre for Human-Machine Studies and Director of the United States Army-funded Centre of Human-Centric Command and Control Decision-Making. Among his many awards are the First Distinguished University Professor Award (2005); National Science Foundation Mentorship Award; College of Engineering Teaching Excellence Award. He is a Fellow, Institute of Industrial Engineers; and Faculty Fellow, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, USA) amongst others.

Prof Ntuen in this chat with Crystal Express on Monday, November, 27, 2019, speaks on his efforts at repositioning and turning around the fortunes of the University since his assumption of office as vice chancellor in 2015.

The University is having her first convocation since inception; may we know the story so far?

The story as I will tell you is from September 2015 when I arrived here to assume duties as the vice chancellor. We started class in November same year with 34 students. Ever since then, we have been growing but not as expected. We have a capacity for 400 students but yet to make that capacity. We are determined to achieve all our vision. The entire programmes that the National University Commission (NUC) approved to us have been granted accreditation which is a plus for us. We have been operating with temporary license but today we have a full license which we got January this year which is another milestone. NUC also deemed it fit to increase our programmes adding cyber security, Biochemistry, Pure Chemistry, Micro Biology, Software Engineering and Mass Communication which I think is a big plus for us. So we are growing our programmes and also hope to grow our students. We are very proud that at this level our first batch of students will be graduating. When you start something new, you don’t count in billions, but in dozens so we have 23 students graduating which fell short of two dozen. Out of those persons, two persons made first class which is very impressive and very comparative with one thousand students graduating from other institutions, the same percentage ratio, we are very proud of that. We are also happy that we successfully inaugurated our first Chancellor of the University in the name of Senator Godswill Akpabio, the Minister for Niger Delta Affairs. We believe through the roles he plays, things will change and he has been very supportive of what we do. We have a very strategic governing council made up of seasoned and cerebral people. The governing council is led by Prof Nsongurua Udombana, former Dean faculty of Law University of Uyo, now Professor of Law Babcook University, Prof. Comfort Ekpo, former Vice Chancellor University of Uyo, Prof. Akeneren Essien, former Vice Chancellor, University of Uyo, Prof Udo John Ibok a seasoned Academic currently the Director of academic planning Akwa Ibom state university, Prof. Udo John Ibok, Director of Linguistic Lab, University of Uyo and others who are vast in Education development. They are also very experienced in University administration. We have some of the best facilities and they are well and fantastically equipped.

Our laboratories, libraries, physics lab, biology lab, chemistry lab which are all double are fully equipped. We are now working to develop Cyber Security Lab, Bio Chemistry Lab, industrial chemistry lab and mass communication lab. Our studio is well planned for those who want to do the electronic journalism. We are very proud of our achievements. We have two standard football fields with one at the university and another at the college premises. We have students who have won trophies for the institution because of their dedication to also achieve glory through sports.


On security matters, we are very serious about it. In fact, here it is security first then education second, the reason is that if one don’t feel secured, he will not be stable in reading. We work in synergy with security agencies especially with the area commander Ikot Ekpene. We have also gotten approval to open up a police post in the institution. So we take issues of securing the environment very serious.

We have stringent disciplinary rules here for students, if we catch any student smoking, doing drugs or carrying weapon, then it’s over for him/her in this institution. Parents know about our strict disciplinary measures and other penalties for defaulters. These are in our student’s handbook and they are clearly spelt out. In fact, among other restrictions include bedtime, when to go out and return among other regulatory activities clearly spelt out. And any violation of these attracts penalty and parents will be informed. So our system here operates like family and parents are involved. Parents come here regularly to check on their kids and know how they are faring. We don’t even allow unkempt hair here. The success we have achieved is very collaborative because we appreciate the enormous contributions of our lecturers who are also very committed to the success we are recording here. We have also instituted programmes that allow our lecturers who have masters’ degree to go for PhD in various institutions and even abroad, presently we have one in Mexico and another in Sweden, so we want to expand the horizon of our staff through training at any level so we support our lecturers. We support our lecturers who attend conferences financially because they will bring benefits back to the institution.

We are small but growing daily. We are aspiring to get to the level of private universities like Afe Babalola University, Babcook and covenant universities. They are very successful institutions and we have to benchmark such institutions, understudy them and improve on what they are doing. So hopefully by the time we reach their present age of existence, something drastic will happen here. We have been authorized to offer courses in Medical sciences, Agriculture, Environmental sciences, Engineering, but we are still running on the earlier three faculties approved for us for now. We do not have a post graduate school yet, the NUC guidelines stipulates that you have to graduate at least two sets of students before you apply for post graduate schools. And the way we do our things in accelerated mode we may even apply for it next year, so that we can service the population of Akwa Ibom people who need higher education. We are also exploring opportunities of running weekend programmes on Saturdays for the benefit of those who will need it. Ritman University is proud to be where it is and we hope to achieve more success in the near future. Governor Udom Emmanuel has been very supportive of this institution he was handy and very helpful when we were struggling for accreditation of our courses.

No doubt your school has good facilities, management and lofty ideas to grow, however, what accounts for low population of students, stringent intake guidelines or high fees?

The first issue which I have been very vocal on is that there is no systematic schedule of admitting students in the Nigerian universities, parents who don’t have much money prefer sending their children to public schools like federal and state universities and these institutions don’t finish admission of students in time, it is very competitive there because the tuition fees are very cheap. The state university here charges N52,000 and that is very cheap. So parents who cannot afford even N52,000 will not likely afford N350,000. Ritman university is the cheapest university in Nigeria, when I came here, the tuition was supposed to be N650,000 but I discouraged it as a businessman because I charge per reputation.

As my reputation grows, I charge more. So as we grow our reputation, grow our facilities and grow the university in excellence, we charge perhaps more in the mode of Covenant University or Babcook University. That is the reason we don’t have the crowd of students yet. Majority from the Akwa Ibom angle are this public school dependent. I am not saying that they don’t have money but they seem to be more inclined to those federal and state institutions. Secondly is the issue of professional courses here like Medicine, Law, Engineering and so on, when we have those faculties, things will change.

What is delaying the establishment of these professional faculties, do you have facilities for them yet?

We have, but the visitor of the university will like to push things with caution owing to his vision for qualitative education. If you talk of establishing Engineering Faculty, as an engineer, I will tell you that it is very expensive unless you want to put students through test tube and road side engineering which is very outdated. Talking of medicine or law which is also possible but requires so much money to achieve and make it better. So we are approaching it with caution and I believe they will soon materialize.

Do you collaborate in any way with universities in Nigeria or abroad?

None in Nigeria yet but outside Nigeria we have two Universities in North Carolina where I was and those ones are strictly for exchange programmes. Right now we are seriously looking forward to have some collaboration with other universities in terms of programmes in degree awarding and that also takes time because a lot of very strategic memorandum of understanding will be in place. On the business side, we are also looking at possible investors. If you see all those expensive American, British or Japanese schools, investors put money not just one person. My experience from outside Nigeria and within has shown that our people are not collaborative like those in the outside world. I have approached lots of people here with money to invest in the university but they simply referred to it as senator Ibok Essien’s thing and I am taken aback when I heard such words but in western Nigeria, they are more collaborative and collectively invest in projects like this as a group of investors.

You have talked about your security measures here but have you recorded offenders or those who run afoul of the rules?

Are there societies without people who go against rules? We have offenders even in the Bible, Judas that was close to Christ was an offender. Once in a while, we have students who violate the rules and we send them away not withstanding what they pay or who their parents are, we don’t take nonsense here. We have offenders but in a very small fraction.

As a business minded Vice Chancellor is the school doing anything to improve her resources through other businesses?

Yes we have the Ritman Consultancy Services which have been inaugurated and will soon take off. If you look at our curriculum you will see that we have entrepreneurship across everywhere, we have also established carpentry shop, tailoring shop, poultry and all these things are available for students, we have people who regularly come to teach them.

We are exposing our students to entrepreneurship and we have been discussing with our visitor to promote this entrepreneurship venture and also encourage those who have shown exceptional commitment with N50,000 to start nurturing their business. If you proved to be useful we can further help secure funds and fund the person to grow. That is also what we are doing here. In fact in this university, we are training our students to be job creators and not job seekers.

Do you seek assistance from government and other agencies to improve further the standard you have here?

I have planned to embark on N700million two years campaign to raise funds and build very massive skills based center in the University. So we will be inviting everybody in Akwa Ibom and beyond to come forward and support. We will invite all lovers of Education, everybody to invest in this project.

Will people be encouraged to come forward and institute professorial chairs and others?

That will be part of the campaign and the campaign will be wide and the target is N700million to help us realize our objectives. The university is open to investors and we have the instruments of M.O.U, handy.

Having worked abroad for several years and today working here in Nigeria what do you think we should do to grow education and facilities in Nigerian universities?

I always say there are many opinions but unfortunately it may never grow in my life time. There is too much endemic corruption with too insensitive people leading the nation. We have too much individualistic and selfish people here, if you want to lead, do so with fear of God and selflessness not to go for personal aggrandizement. In advanced countries people go into politics for service and to contribute for public good. Here we have just very few people committed to the ideals of nation’s development. When we have more committed people, Nigeria will get better, otherwise every day, we will keep reading in the media the amount of billions daily siphoned from here to other developed Economies. So why will those countries keep giving us aids and other forms of grants when we go cap in hand. It is shameful that most of the money made from oil disappears into personal coffers of leaders and I at times feel ashamed to be a Nigerian.

I used to get funding for my military lab in USA for about 27years and then we started writing proposal to national science laboratories association in America, they vowed not to fund anything from Nigeria again that Nigeria has enough money. I, Prof. Barth Nnaji former power minister and Prof. Deji put together the conference to bring back technology to Africa and it was funded by them during the IBB era and we did it twice. Nigerians were not supporting rather they were ferrying monies abroad while America was funding us. Look at an issue like Electricity, can any nation develop without power, there are things you can’t have in machines and power goes off without destroying the entire efforts. We know where we are and never wanted growth because of the selfishness of few.

Finally we want to know what the lecturer students’ relationship looks like here?

Very cordial like a big family, my students have called me uncle. I don’t even want them to call me Vice Chancellor. So I tell the lecturers to be open to our students. One of our tenet of education here is to have students who engage in critical thinking.

We tell our students to interact rather than believe everything the lecturers say because what they are taught here are no religious beliefs or faith. We challenge our students to engage teachers on their lectures through positive arguments. In the public universities, if you do that you are black listed but here we encourage critical thinking and openness. That is the foundation we are building and we have cordial relationship with students.

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