The founding of AkwaIbom State University can be traced back historically to October 2000, when the Committee for the Establishment of Akwa Ibom State University of Technology was inaugurated. The Committee which was to advise on the feasibility of establishing a University of Technology in the State consisted of academics, technical experts and professionals.
The Committee, after embarking on appraisal visits to selected institutions in Britain, Poland, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, Venezuela, United States of America and Canada, submitted an Interim Report to the then State Governor, Arc. Obong Victor Attah, in April, 2001. A final report was submitted in September of the same year. Following the acceptance of the report by the University Establishment Committee, the state government set up the AkwaIbom State University of Technology Implementation Committee in December 2001. The Committee had the mandate to carry out the necessary basic functions, including the drafting of the enabling law towards the take-off of the University.
The Bill establishing the AkwaIbom State University of Technology (AKUTECH) was passed by Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and signed into Law by the then Executive Governor of the State Arc. (Obong) Victor Attah on 16th of April 2003. The mandate of the State university was to rapidly facilitate the transformation of AkwaIbom into an industrial society and a technologically- driven economy, from the status quo of AkwaIbom being a “civil service state,” in which government employed over 90% of labour. The creation of the University also became expedient in view of the fact that the people of AkwaIbom State had been pioneer champions, of higher education in the country since the 1930s and had served as Vice-Chancellors of Federal Universities. Politically the, AkwaIbom State people were the earliest advocates of states creation in Nigeria, together with the people of what today are Bayelsa and Rivers States.
The philosophy for a modern State University in AkwaIbom was that of a technically-biased one. Hence the State had the vision of establishing AkwaIbom State University of Technology to meet its zeal for a technologically-driven economy, to turn the social and economic ethos of the state to an industrial base.
The University could not, however, physically start on the ground in what had then been designated as a new “University Town” along the central part of AkwaIbom coastline; nor could academic activities commence. The university was domiciled in two rented family-size storey buildings in Ewet State Housing in Uyo, the State capital. These were the misfortunes and false start of AKUTECH when His Excellency, Chief (Dr) GodswillObotAkpabio (CON), the Executive Governor of AkwaIbom State assumed office in May 2007. On November 21, 2007, Professor Sunday W. Petters, FAS, was appointed the Acting Vice-Chancellor to actualize the new university vision.
Given the socio-economic realities in the State, and in order to meet the yearnings and aspirations of the totality of AkwaIbom people, major changes in the concept and scope of the university had become imperative. Although the yearnings for a technically-biased university persisted, the policy thrust of Government became the establishment of a conventional, multi-campus institution, to be known as AkwaIbom State University. Thus, the name of the University was changed from AkwaIbom State University of Technology (AKUTECH), to AkwaIbom State University (AKSU).
AkwaIbom State is faced with a daunting University admissions crisis that threatens to truncate the future of the teeming population of youths. The State ranks among the largest source of candidates for the national Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. Yet, in terms of actual placement in Universities, the State traditionally ranks much lower, meaning that most AkwaIbom applicants are not admitted into universities. This dismal picture of university admission demands and deficits in AkwaIbom State is not new, and has, over the years, heightened the demand for a conventional State University.
The avalanche of AkwaIbom State applicants for university admissions is bound to increase with the recent free education policy of the present Administration in the State. Primary education is free and compulsory, with free education extended to secondary level. AkwaIbom State University, therefore, should open its doors to students in all manner of academic disciplines, in addition to the fields of science, engineering and technology. This has informed the establishment of a conventional, multi-campus University by the GodswillAkpabio administration.
In May 2008, the AkwaIbom State Executive Council approved the establishment of a conventional multi-campus State University, with the main campus at IkotAkpaden, MkpatEnin and the second campus at Obioakpa, OrukAnam and Ukanfun Local Government Areas. The Model Science Secondary School, IkotAkpaden, which was under construction, was approved as the take-off location for the main campus, while the former College of Agriculture, ObioAkpa, became the second campus of the University.
The bills establishing AkwaIbom State University of Technology and AkwaIbom State College of Agriculture were repealed by the State House of Assembly on September 10, 2009. The House of Assembly passed the bill establishing AkwaIbom State University on September 15,2009 but with effect from June 2009 .The bill, was thereafter, signed into law by the State Executive Governor, His Excellency Chief (Dr) Godswill O. Akpabio (CON) .
The host communities of AkwaIbom State University, notably, MkpatEnin, OrukAnam and Ukanafun Local Government Areas were highly elated over the birth of the University. The IkotAkpaden site was swampy and overgrown with shrubs, thus rendering the abandoned buildings quite inaccessible. The State University will always accord credit to the host communities who, on being intimated of this need, jumped at the work and cleared the site preparatory for completion of the construction work. The gesture was repeated at ObioAkpa campus when the host communities defied the New Year 2010 celebrations to clear weeds on campus. This paved the way for the renovation of structures on the ObioAkpa campus.
It is noteworthy to recall that the defunct State College of Agriculture, ObioAkpa, was first established as a Government farm settlement in 1948 alongside the present National Root Crop Research Institute at Umudike which is currently the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike. The former AkwaIbom State College of Agriculture, ObioAkpa trained middle level officers in agriculture in such areas as animal production, crop and fisheries; and was initially affiliated to the Polytechnic in Calabar. After the creation of AkwaIbom State in 1987, ObioAkpa College became an affiliate of the AkwaIbom State Polytechnic in IkotOsurua. In 2001, the College was granted an autonomous status by the then State Governor and was approved to operate as a College of Agriculture with the full mandate to develop manpower to cater for the needs of agricultural development in the State. Thus, most of the structures inherited from the College had existed on the campus since 1948.
By the end of 2009 the Draft Master Plan for both campuses had been prepared. AkwaIbom State University continued to be administered from the two duplex buildings at Uyo, at 29C UbiumSteet, Ewet Housing Estate, as inherited from AkwaIbom State University of Technology, until 15-17 September, 2008. The movement from Uyo office to the main campus brought great excitement and joy to staff of the university who for many years, had longed for a fulfilment of their dream to work and develop their career in the institution. However the excitement was not without challenges as most staff had to commute from Uyo to IkotAkpaden, a journey that took up to an hour. In order to surmount this initial transportation challenges, the Vice Chancellor sought the benevolence of University of Calabar to release its campus shuttle buses on hire to convey AKSU staff. This request was obliged by UNICAL. AkwaIbom State Government has since donated vehicles to the University, to replace the UNICAL buses.
Similarly, in 2009 – 2010, the administrative building, academic block, laboratories, medical centre, assembly hall, cafeteria and other blocks at ObioAkpa was reconstructed in preparation for commencement of lectures on that campus. Administrative staff also relocated to the campus to put relevant machinery in place for the commencement. This was before the absorption into the University of the staff of the former College of Agriculture, ObioAkpa, was completed by the State Government.
AkwaIbom State University has enjoyed remarkable goodwill from sister Universities. It is on record that reputable academics responded from the Universities of Calabar, Uyo and Port Harcourt to brainstorm and exchange ideas that led to the production of the University Academic Brief that met NUC minimum standards. More than this, these Universities have assisted AKSU enormously to lay a solid foundation for its take-off, by releasing their senior academic, administrative and technical staff to strengthen the University workforce.
Activities towards the commencement of academic program in the university gathered momentum up to October 5, 2010, when the National Universities Commission (NUC) granted the University license. Thus, AkwaIbom State University became the 34th State University in Nigeria. The first Governing Council of AkwaIbom State University was inaugurated on September 23, 2010 with Dr OkonEminue as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman. It is particularly noteworthy to recall for posterity that, as a demonstration of his love for the education of the AkwaIbom child; the Governor, His Excellency Chief (Dr) GodswilObotAkpabio (CON) personally visited the NUC headquarters in Abuja on October 5, 2010, to collect the University license in what was a most memorable ceremony. Thus, October 5, 2010 is the AkwaIbom State University Founders’ Day.
At the end of the university license collection in Abuja, the State Governor presented to the NUC the University Draft Master Plan, the University Law and the Academic Brief. The dreams and visions of the founding fathers of AkwaIbom State University were fulfilled when on October 28, 2010, the gates of the university were opened on the two campuses to admit the pioneer students of the institution and on November 1, 2010 academic activities commenced in the university.
The University acknowledges with profound gratitude the support from the State Governor Chief (Dr) GodswillObotAkpabio and his commitment to establishing a world-class technological but conventional multi-campus university on the Gulf of Guinea that will meet the yearnings of AkwaIbom youths that he loves so much and has granted free and compulsory education.
The university also provides the platform for the development of the maritime industry in Nigeria, and the exploitation of aquatic and ocean resources. Our offshore oil industry and petroleum exploration need offshore engineers and technologists to put structures and undertake repairs under water; while the Ibaka Deep Seaport which is underway needs to be managed by AkwaIbom people. The faculty of ocean science and technology is therefore being accorded priority attention by the university management to ensure that the faculty receives all the legal backing from the Federal Government and facilities it needs to train divers and offshore technologists and engineers. In addition, this university should explore the mineral and petroleum resources, which are embedded in the deep-sea; and exploit them for economic opportunities
AkwaIbom State University is in its second academic year and in line with our vision of a conventional university, the National Universities Commission has approved the addition of faculties of arts, education and social and management sciences to the existing four faculties – agriculture, engineering, natural and applied Sciences, ocean science and technology – in the university; thus bringing the total number of faculties to seven with thirty-five departments and thirty-eight programmes. It is our belief that in no distant future the full package of nine faculties which Akwa Ibom State University has in its kitty will be rolled out for the benefit of our teeming youths.