On the 31st of March, 2020, Dr Hilary Ijeoma Owamah bowed out honourably as Head, Department of Civil Engineering, Delta State University, Abraka after a 3 year meritorious service. Owamah was appointed Head on the 1st of March, 2017, by the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of Delta State University, Prof. Victor. F. Peretomonde barely one year of joining the University. By this appointment, he became the first tenure staff of the Department to lead it as Acting Head of Department (HoD). Hitherto, others had been Coordinators.
Dr. Owamah, aware of the enormous responsibility this appointment placed on him, hit the ground running. He swiftly went about reorganizing the Department, entrenching quality assurance in the examination of students; played a pivotal role in the accreditation of the Department by the National Universities Commission (NUC) which accreditation was lost in 2012, and also in the accreditation by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) which the Department never had since inception. This is unarguably one of the most outstanding and enduring achievements of his time.
He engineered the revising of our laboratory manuals and put them in printed form, drafted and printed the first and only available student handbooks in the Department and caused the Department to be known within and outside the University Community.
Talking about making the Department popular within his three years as HoD, Dr Owamah got recognized by many professional bodies and was appointed Secretary, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Asaba Chapter; Secretary, Owa-Alero Community Development Union; Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Environmental Engineers, Asaba Chapter; National Secretary, Oil and Solid Mineral Producing Area Landlords’ Association of Nigeria (OMPALAN) etc. He was also appointed within the period as external PhD assessor to Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State and external examiner for the promotion of Lecturers to Principal and Chief Lecturers at the Federal Polytechnic, Okoh, Anambra State and the Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro, Delta State. He also founded in 2017, the Academic Research and Entrepreneurship Development (A-RED) Initiative. Through A-RED Initiative, Dr Owamah has done series of research trainings for the academic staff of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE); Delta State University, Abraka; Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro and many more.
He was principally instrumental in the creation of the Students Work Experience Programme (SWEP) in the Faculty of Engineering, establishment of the Faculty Workshop Committee and creation of the Office of a Workshop Manager. The SWEP has been equipping students with better appreciation of engineering practice as exemplified in the landscaping and interlocking of the open space in front of the Administration Block of the Faculty of Engineering which has helped to beautify the Faculty premises. The Faculty Workshop Committee under the Chairmanship of Engr. Dr. Hilary Owamah, facilitated the drafting and printing of the first comprehensive Faculty Workshop Manuals and Workbooks; opening for the first time, Faculty Workshop Account with Unity Bank Plc for transparent and judicious utilization of Workshop Funds. His predilection for transparency and accountability also motivated him to open a Departmental Account for the transparent management of departmental finances which was a marked departure from what obtained hitherto.
He instituted for the first time, staff/students meeting, where the department periodically meets with the students to interact, exchange ideas on how to move the department forward; and where general issues of concern to students were freely tabled and resolved thus nipping in the bud any issue likely to cause disaffection between the department and students. Dr. Owamah, in the words of the legendary Chinua Achebe can be described as a man whose proverbial bread was buttered by a benevolent spirit given his meteoric rise in career and in life. He became the Head of Department of Civil Engineering, Delta State University (Delsu), Abraka at a young age of 34. On October 1, 2019, at the age of 37, he became the first Associate Professor of Civil Engineering in Delsu, Abraka. He has also been a member of the University Senate since March 2017 till date. Thus in recognition of these outstanding qualities and manifest competence, he was appointed to Chairman of many campus based committees by the Provost in charge of Oleh Campus. In the same vein, he was appointed into many high-profile University based committees and recently, Deputy Director, Directorate of Intensive and Part-time Studies by the current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Egwuyenga A. O.
Dr. Owamah was instrumental in securing promotion for about 30% academic and 100% non- academic staff of the Department. He secured approval through diligent hardwork for the commencement of Post-graduate programme in the Department. He catalyzed academic vibrancy in the Faculty of Engineering through delivery of several high-impact academic lectures and direct mentorship. This in no small measure, motivated lots of his colleagues to be more research minded being himself a foremost researcher who has contributed several papers in reputable scientific journals indexed in Scopus and Thomson Reuters.
With this litany of achievements and commendable efforts at moving the Department of Civil Engineering forward, one would have expected that every member of the Department, both students and lecturers would be on the same page with him in his relentless drive to take the Department to greater heights, but unfortunately, some colleagues in conjunction with their few deviant students had other ideas. Presumably envious and displeased with his meteoric rise and influence within a short time of joining the University, caused petitions upon petitions to be written to the University Management against Dr Owamah.
The first came in May 2017, just two months after Dr Owamah assumed office as HoD and he was accused of monumental corruption, intimidation, victimization, high-handedness and the likes. This led to uproar in the Department. The question on every lip, was, who could’ve done this? But since the anonymously signed petition was written in the name ‘final year students of the Department’, the student leaders of the Department led by my humble self and Engr Chris Alumona, called a meeting of the final year students to discuss the new development. At the meeting, everyone was surprised that such a blatant falsehood and unfounded allegation could be levelled by anyone against our new HoD inspite of all his efforts at repositioning the Department and entrenching the culture of academic excellence.
The students unanimously resolved to write a rejoinder to the University authority, dissociating themselves from the petition purportedly written in their name by yet to be identified final year students of the Department of Civil Engineering and repudiating all the claims made in the petition as fallacious, baseless, unfounded and a figment of the warped imagination of the writers of the petition. Needless to say that the counter-petition signed by many of the students of the Department took the sail out of the wind of the petition. Not only that, the students physically appeared before the panel set up by the University to investigate the allegations, to give oral evidence debunking the allegations contained in the petition in its entirety and as expected, the panel could not establish any of the allegations and therefore dismissed the petition as baseless, unsubstantiated, malicious and without any grounding in facts. Indeed, the God Dr Owamah serves is a living God and He continually makes his enemies his footstool.
Notwithstanding these monumental achievements of Dr.Owamah, I believe there is still a lot of grounds to be covered in the Department in the areas of staffing, both academic and non-academic, especially senior lecturers in structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, and highway and transportation engineering, technologists, adequate equipping of existing laboratories and establishing of new ones, and maintaining of the positive NUC and COREN accreditation statuses of the Department.
At this juncture, I will most humbly appeal to the new HoD, Engr. Dr. Atikpo Eguase, a capable and seasoned academic, an accomplished administrator, who incidentally was my project supervisor, to build on the sound foundation of his predecessor and take the Department to the next level of excellence.
I thank the Student Union Government (SUG) of Oleh and Abraka Campuses of 2017 session, and the many final year students of Civil Engineering Department 2016/2017 session, who refused to be co-opted into a grand design to rubbish and tarnish a promising and illustrious career.
Many thanks also to the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of Delta State University, Abraka, Prof. Victor. F. Peretomonde, who discovered Engr. Dr. Hilary Owamah and employed him, made him the HoD (Civil Engineering) and renewed the appointment twice despite the spirited efforts of some dark forces to malign and smear Dr Owamah’s hard earned reputation.
My deep appreciation also goes to the present Vice-Chancellor, Prof. A. O. Egwuyenga, for believing in my mentor and boss, and appointing him into many high-profile University based committees and capping it with the latest appointment as Deputy Director, Directorate of Intensive and Part-time Studies.
I wish Engr. Dr. Hilary Ijeoma Owamah, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, erudite scholar and researcher, most sought after public speaker, success in his new post. I expect that he will keep the flag of excellence flying; bring the same tradition of uncompromising dedication to duty and rigid adherence to the tenets of probity, accountability and excellence for which he is known, to bear in his new post and replicate the standard of excellence and success that hallmarked his tenure as HoD (Civil Engineering).
Sir, I strongly wish you well in all your future endeavors!
John. P. Nnanyelu Omeonu.
Structural Engineer and Budding Researcher,
2016/2017 Set, Department of Civil Engineering, Delsu
Wrote from Warri, Delta State