Ritman University: Coasting On A Pedestal Of Academic Excellence



Every great breakthrough and fortunes result from vision, passion, sacrifice and commitment. This is exactly the ingredient that gave birth to Ritman University. Conspicuously located in the famous Raffia City of Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State, Ritman University birthed after an approval by the Federal Government of Nigeria on February 25, 2015 and the National Universities Commission (NUC) granting of Provisional License number 58 on March 5, 2015 to operate as a private university.

Today, like a mustard seed, the university has grown into a great tree and is successfully coasting on a pedestal of academic excellence, ready for her first convocation of her pioneer batch of graduates. The convocation is coming on the heels of a cheering news. The Vice Chancellor, Prof Celestine Ntuen, says that the entire programmes that the NUC approved for the university have been granted accreditation. “We have been operating with temporary license but today, we have a full license which we got January this year which is another milestone,” he enthused.


Historical Evolution Of Ritman University
Akai Nkuku and the Fruition of a Dream
Conceived as far back as 1962 by a six-year-old Emmanuel Ibok Essien, the land on which it is sited was a thick forest in those days. Akai Nkuku is what the forest was called. Each time Emmanuel passed through Akai Nkuku on his way to farm, he would dream of the forest transforming into a school. This was before the Nigerian Civil War 1967. After the war, Nto Akpan Edu/Nto Akpabio families that owned the forest decided to clear it for farming, while Emmanuel went to secondary school, wondering what would become of his dream.

In 1978, a technical school was established in his village, Ikot Abia Idem, and he wished Akai Nkuku to be the place, but the community had chosen another site. About the same period, government took over all schools in Akwa Ibom State and it seemed the dream would not come true. After graduation from university, Emmanuel acquired the forest, measuring 2.1 hectares, from its original owners in 1977. He also bought adjoining plots for additional space. In 1987, Mr. Emmanuel Ibok Essien struck a partnership deal with Engr. Sunday Inyang Umoh and his wife, Rita Umoh and together, they formed Ritman Nigeria Limited which would give birth to other companies, sited at Akai Nkuku.

The master plan for the first set of structures began to be prepared in 1989 and studies went on over the years for actualization of that dream. A town planner was contracted to design a layout of the acquired land with the concept of a school, farm, industries and residential estates in mind. Engr. I. I. Inwang (now deceased) who was former Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) was commissioned in 1994 to do a study for establishment of a polytechnic on that land. Essien’s wife – Dr. (Mrs.) Grace Emmanuel Essien – preferred Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools. By 1995, buildings had sprung up on that land and gone was Akai Nkuku

Ritman Schools Win Over The Polytechnic

When NBTE officials came for preliminary inspection, they praised the facilities and remarked that approval and accreditation would not be a problem for the proposed polytechnic. However, one Mr. Towe, a member of Essien’s team, suggested that the project should start with highbrow primary and secondary schools and eventually get capped up with a university. His reasoning was that parents would rather pay for university education than a private polytechnic because of the disparity in employment between Higher National Diploma and Bachelor’s degree graduates. That changed Essien’s original concept in favour of his wife’s idea and thus was born the Ritman Schools – Nursery/Primary and the secondary school called Ritman College – which began with fourteen (14) pupils and fourteen students on September 16, 2003.

Planning and Implementation

The successes of Ritman Schools fanned embers of the university dream which gathered steam on May 7, 2005 at the Conference Room of Ritman College when a Planning and Implementation Committee (PIC) for establishment of a university was inaugurated by Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien with the following members:
* Prof (Amb.) Okon Edet Uya – Chairman
* Prof. Joseph J. Andy – Member
* Prof. Joseph G. Ottong – Member
* Prof. Edet R. Iwok – Member
* Prof. Charles Uko – Member
* Prof. Udo J. Ibok – Member
* Prof. Charles M. Ogbodo – Member
* Dr. S. N. Udo – Member
* Prof. Enefiok E. Essien – Member
* Prof. Bassey O. Asuquo – Member
* Bishop Prof. Ahaziah Umanah – Member
* Obong Emmanuel J. Akpan, JP – Member/coordinator

Two of the PIC members did not live to see the dream come true: Prof Okon Edet Uya and Obong Emmanuel J. Akpan passed on before the university came into being. The PIC submitted its final report to the Proprietor on 8 October 2005 with Drafts of Academic Brief, Master Plan and University Law.

University project was put on hold for adequate preparations to be made, including purchase of more land to meet NUC requirements and construction of facilities for relocation of Ritman Schools. In 2010, the Draft Academic Brief was updated and made ready for submission to the National Universities Commission (NUC). The Draft University Law was also updated and a master plan for the institution was prepared to accompany an application to the NUC for establishment of Ritman University. Filling of the application form together with the accompanying documents took place on 10 May 2011 at the NUC Secretariat in Abuja.

Two verification visits were made by the NUC Standing Committee on Private Universities (SCOPU) to verify all claims contained in the application and recommend as appropriate. The two verification visits were conducted from 23-25 October 2011 and from 15-18 September 2013, respectively. SCOPU adjudged the university’s facilities – buildings, medical centre, computer laboratories etc – as excellent. Apart from recommending RU for approval, SCOPU members remarked that our university was a good model for proposed universities.

The SCOPU team that saw the project through to approval and licensing was made up of the following members:
Prof Akaneren I. Essien – Chairman
Dr O. E Adesina – Member
Mrs. Hadiza Abdulrahman – Member
Mrs. Lauretta Achor – Member
Mr. John A. Aba – Member
Mr. Mustapha Rasheed – Member
Engr. Abraham Chundusu – Member
Mallam Adam I. Muhammad – Member
Mallam Ahmed A. Ingawa – Member
Barr Paschal Eruaga – Member/Secretary


The Federal Executive Council of Nigeria under the leadership of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, having been satisfied with the NUC’s recommendation on RU, approved Ritman University on 25 February 2015. The National Universities Commission on March 5, 2015 followed up by granting RU the Provisional License number 58 to operate as a private university for courses in the following disciplines:
* Faculty of Agriculture
* Faculty of Education
* Faculty of Engineering
* Faculty of Environmental Studies
* Faculty of Humanities
* Faculty of Law
* Faculty of Social and Management Sciences
* Faculty of Medical Sciences
* Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences
Apart from Ritman University, there were eight other private universities approved by the Federal Government on the same day. They were:
o Augustine University, Ilara, Lagos
o Chrisland University, Owode, Ogun State
o Christopher University, Mowe, Ogun State
o Hallmark University, Ijebu-Itele, Ogun State
o King’s University, Ode-Omu, Osun State
o Michael and Cecilia Ibru University, Owhrode, Delta State
o Mountain Top University, Makogi/Oba, Ogun State
• Summit University, Offa, Kwara State.


Coordinating Team Gets Cracking
To facilitate starting-up of the university, a Coordinating Team for proposed Ritman University was set up, composed of the following people:
Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, FNSE – Chairman, Board of Trustees
Prof Ahaziah Umanah – Coordinator, University Operations
Deacon Nse Effiong Akpan, FCA – Bursar
Mr Nyeneime E. Essien – ICT Director
Engr Ekanem E. Essien – Director, Marketing
Mr Godwin I. Okpon – Staff Officer, Coordinator’s Office
Mrs Enoabasi Daniel Emah – ICT Administrator
Miss Emaediong John Eshiet – Computer Operator, Coordinator’s Office
Prof Ahaziah Umanah, who was appointed in March 2015, Coordinated the proposed RU until commencement of the university when he handed over to the first Vice Chancellor.

BOT Lays the Groundwork

The Board of Trustees is the highest governing body of RU in specified areas of administration and is charged with the overall policy direction and financing of the university. The Ritman University Board of Trustees (BOT) came into existence and had its first meeting on Friday, April 24, 2015 with the following members:

Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien; His Eminence Dr Sunday Mbang, CON; Ambassador Etim Okpoyo; Prof Joseph J. Andy; Senator (Mrs) Helen Esuene; Prof Edet R. Iwok; Surv. David Ekanem Essien, FNIQS; Prof Isa Baba Mohammed and Prof Ahaziah Umanah. Prof Ahaziah Umanah was appointed BOT Secretary during that maiden meeting. Senator Effiong Bob and Engr. Etido Inyang were appointed into the Board later on.

On Thursday, March 23, 2017, BOT decided that the Proprietors should meet for appointment of a new Chairman to replace the pioneer Chair, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien. Thus, Senator Effiong Bob – hitherto a Council Member – became the Chairman of BOT.

Senator Helen Esuene demonstrated commitment to growing the nascent institution by contributing her resources. She announced during the BOT meeting of Saturday June 25, 2016 her intention to make a donation of 15 desktop computers, 15 scanners, 15 printers, and 15 UPS. She redeemed the promise two days later.

In May, 2015, the BOT approved the premier Governing Council. The premier Vice Chancellor was introduced to the Board for the first time on Saturday, June 2016. The Board lost one of its members about a year later in the person of Prof Edet Iwok on September 27, 2016.

Godswill Akpabio Becomes First Chancellor

A thanksgiving service and public presentation of the Provisional License to operate as a private university was held on Sunday May10, 2015 at New Apostolic Church, Ikot Abia Idem, Ikot Ekpene and RU Sports Ground. The then Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, was announced as first Chancellor – highest principal officer – of Ritman University on that day. He was formally installed on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, Senator Effiong Bob, performed the installation, and assisted by the National Universities Commission (NUC) Executive Secretary, Prof. Adamu Abubakar Rasheed.

Prof Rasheed, who was represented by the commission’s Director of Inspection and Monitoring, Mrs Essien Otu Usendia, said that Ritman University had since its inception in 2015 adhered to all extant policies of the NUC in line with best practices, and has not been involved in any governance or administrative mess. He disclosed that Ritman is the 137th university to be approved, and one of Nigeria’s 162 universities – 41 federal, 47 state, and 74 private.

According to Prof Nsongurua Udombana, chancellors, apart from being ceremonial or titular heads are political representatives of universities to the wider world and by the university’s law, a chancellor has to be a highly respected and prominent member of society who has interest in promoting academic excellence. He said Akpabio fits this description after waging an aggressive war on illiteracy during his tenure as Governor of Akwa Ibom State.

The Foundation Governing Council

Keeping to established order of running institutions of this nature, RU has her Council, which is the governing body charged with general management of the institution, particularly the control of university property and expenditure. The RU Governing Council had its inaugural meeting on 9 May 2015.

Prof Nsongurua Udombana, a Professor of International Law at Babcock University, emerged the first Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council. Other members of the founding Governing Council: Prof Akaneren Essien – Representing National Universities Commission; Prof Mrs Comfort M. Ekpo – University of Uyo; Prof Charles M. Ogbodo – University of Uyo; Prof Udo John Ibok – Akwa Ibom State University; Prof Imelda Udoh – University of Uyo; Prof Enomfon Akpan – University of Uyo; Prof Chidi Odinkalu; Dr Sunday N. Udo – Representing host community; Sir Emem Akpabio; Dr Salisu Ahmed Ingawa; Mr Andrew Chukwudi Ojei; Senator Effiong Bob

Senator Bob was appointed into the Board of Trustees (BOT) and became BOT Chairman in 2017. Senator Anietie Okon, Engr S. Umoh and Prof Ini Uko were later appointed into the Council. One of Council’s first major tasks was the appointment of the first Vice Chancellor on July 25, 2015. Pioneer staff recruited had their appointments approved by Council with effect from November1, 2015, except that of the premier Registrar which took effect from October 2, 2015.

During her 4th meeting on April 23, 2016, Council approved the first RU Conditions of Service and reduced tuition fees. Tuition fees went down from N400,000 to N250,000 (two hundred and fifty thousand Naira). Incidental fees were reduced N100,000. Council also approved the election of Senate representatives to Council and its committees. When the Council met on March 24, 2017, it approved 60 per cent as benchmark for appointments and promotions. Staff seeking promotion, regularization or ratification of their appointment would not be recommended to Council if they scored less than that.

Prof Celestine Ntuen Takes The Reins

Distinguished Professor Celestine Ntuen was appointed the first Vice Chancellor on 25 July 2015 by the University Governing Council and assumed duties on September 1, 2015. A Distinguished University Professor of Industrial Engineering, he 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.

He 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 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).

Prof Ntuen has served in many technical boards, including an appointment by the Governor to North Carolina State Legislative Assembly on Information Technology; Member, North Carolina University System Council of Research Officers; Advisory Board Member, US Army Technology Planning; and Board Member, Gateway University Research Park, Inc. He has 410 reviewed technical publications, an edited book and research funding of $11,709,500 (from USA Department of Defence) to his credit. He holds Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral Degrees from West Virginia University and many continuous education certifications, including Complex Systems and Flight Simulation course from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has presented workshops and keynote addresses in over 12 countries.

While on the job at Ritman University, Prof Celestine Ntuen was appointed a Visiting Professional Fellow (Research Scholar) by the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna, and won a Lifetime Service Award of Excellence of the Faculty of Engineering, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

First Students, First Faculties

Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien – then the RU Board of Trustees Chairman – had written to the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) on May 19, 2015, requesting authority to admit students for 2015/2016 academic year. JAMB, through its Registrar/CEO, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, on May 21, 2015, granted approval for RU to commence admission that year. It was remarkable that the university admitted students and began academic work within the same year of its licensing.

On September 29, 2015, the university administered her first UTME (Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination) for 34 candidates: History and International Studies, 5; Languages and Literary Studies, 1; Biology, 6; Mathematics and Computer Science, 3; Accounting and Finance, 8; Economics, 1; Management, 4; Political Science, 5; Sociology 1. Thirty-two of the candidates were admitted, but one of them got expelled for gross misconduct.

The first set of students enrolled on October 3, 2015. Pioneer students arrived Ritman University campus in Ikot Ekpene on Friday, November 13, 2015 and were taken on a city tour the next day. A welcome reception was held for them on the 19th. The six pioneer students were: Pearl Success Abasita, Queeneth Asari, Precious Bunmi, Utibe Mark, Idongesit Aloysius and Victoria Ihekweaba. Pearl Abasita was the first to enrol as a student in RU.

A welcome ceremony and orientation lectures for pioneer staff were held on 20 November 2015, with Moses Abang, University of Calabar Registrar, lecturing the non-teaching staff.


On November 23, 2015, the premier undergraduate students started classes in RU. The starting faculties were:
1. Faculty of Humanities
2. Department of History and International Studies
3. Department of Languages & Literary Studies
4. Faculty of Natural & Applied Sciences
5. Department of Biological Sciences
6. Department of Chemical Sciences
7. Department of Mathematics & Computer Science
8. Department of Physics
9. Faculty of Social & Management Sciences
10. Department of Accounting and Finance
11. Department of Administration
12. Department of Management
13. Department of Economics
14. Department of Political Science
15. Department of Sociology
16. Directorate of General Studies and Entrepreneurship
First Lecture
The first lecture in RU was on the course, GST 111: Use of English 1, by Dr Joseph Udondata in Room 108, Godswill Akpabio Block. And with that, the academic journey kick-started, leading to fruitful attainments.

RU’s Additional Accomplishments

NUC has added Cyber Security, Biochemistry, Pure Chemistry, Micro Biology, Software Engineering and Mass Communication to the lists of programmes approved for Ritman University. The Vice Chancellor, Prof Celestine Ntuen says the development is a big plus. “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 the graduating students, 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.”

Truly, Ritman University is a dream come true and a gateway for the fulfilment of academic dream.


Infrastructure and Facilities

1. An efficient e-library: Our expert consultants designed standard electronic learning systems in our e-library. We now have an e-library with very efficient internet connectivity, good intranet services and access to millions of databases.

2. A well-stocked main library:

Our conventional library is continuously being stocked with current books, journals, periodicals and other reading materials for all disciplines. Books for Africa, an international NGO, donated 22 tons of books to us in 2016. Another 10 tons of books were donated by the Vice Chancellor and his family.

3. Science Laboratories:

We constructed four new laboratories for Natural Sciences. These, together with already existing labs and accompanying infrastructure such as preparatory rooms, dark rooms, instrument rooms,

workrooms and stores were fitted with all required equipment and appurtenances for each discipline as attested to by the NUC accreditation team.

4. Language Laboratory:

We set up a technology-enabled language laboratory, with computers, audio and visual equipment as well as needed software for learning in the Humanities.
5. Accounting Laboratory: We now have an Accounting Laboratory with several computers that use a wide range of accounting software. The Accounting Lab also has a large number of reading materials, many of which were donated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
6. Museum: We began the first phase of developing the Raffia City Museum of Cultural History and equipped it with some artifacts.
7. Rabbitry: A rabbitry was constructed for the Biological Sciences faculty and rabbits are being reared there for learning.
8. Botanical Garden: Our botanical garden has been cultivated and is in the process of expansion.

Academic Advancement
1. Accreditation: All courses offered in Ritman University were accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC) in January 2019, courtesy of our painstaking efforts at providing the requisite infrastructure and manpower as well as best practices compliance in line with the Benchmark Minimum Academic Standards of the NUC.
2. Full Licensing: on 1 April 2019, we progressed from the provisional license we started with and won a full license to operate as a private university having met NUC requirements.
3. Introduction of new courses: We succeeded in getting approval for introduction of new courses, aside from the initial courses we started with. The new courses, which will begin in this academic session, include: Cyber Security, Software Engineering, Mass Communication, Biochemistry, Industrial Chemistry and Microbiology.
4. Academic Partnerships: Our students and staff now have a leeway to spend part of their study years learning abroad under the academic exchange partnership we signed with two American tertiary institutions – Guilford College and Greensboro College in North Carolina, USA.
5. The National Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers made Ritman University the pilot institution for its project aimed at solving electricity problems of Akwa Ibom State.
6. Google Digital Skills Training: Trainers under the auspices of Google Digital Skills for Africa initiative taught Ritman University students opportunities available on the internet for learning, staying safe online, getting employed and starting businesses.

We have won the following awards within our first four years:
* Best Private Educational Institution of the Year, by West African Youth Parliament
* Most Outstanding Private University in Nigeria, by Arewa Consultative Youth Assembly
* Institutional Merit Award, by The Investigator Nigeria
* Winner of the Debate at Women Supporting Women National Conference

* Award of Excellence by Nigeria Television Authority (NTA)

* Second Prize, inter-university quiz of History students at the University of Uyo.

Entrepreneurial Development
1. We commenced entrepreneurial skills training for students. Undergraduates were trained on how to produce cleaning agents such as liquid soap, car washer, hand sanitizer, antiseptic and disinfectant.
2. We encourage our students to create business ideas. One of the initiatives to motivate our students towards business start-up is an offer of N50,000 capital for any student with sellable business ideas.
3. We established the Ritman University Centre for Entrepreneurship and an Entrepreneurial Club. The centre and club inculcate business skills in students and create opportunities for developing and sharing entrepreneurial ideas. An accomplished entrepreneur and friend of the university, Engr Samuel Edward Inyang, taught our students skills for business start-up and invited them to his Aqwacoco cocoa nursery. The Entrepreneurial Club took a field trip to that farm and returned inspired to engage in agricultural business.

Providing Resources for Advancement of Knowledge
As a community university and marketplace of ideas, we have thrown open our doors, making our resources and facilities available to outsiders for the advancement of knowledge as follows:
1. We sponsored and hosted the national finals of the Nigeria Spelling Bee 2019 which produced spelling champions that competed and won prizes at the African Spelling Bee finals in Uganda.
2. We hosted the State Conference and IT training of National Association of Computer Science Students in June 2019.
3. We host monthly meetings of the Nigeria Society of Engineers
4. We served as host institution for the National Communications Commission Consumer Conversation in November 2017.
5. Ikot Ekpene Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (NIEEE) was inaugurated in Ritman University in June 2019.

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