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TheCable

FACT CHECK: Did FG shut UNN’s chemical engineering department because of role during civil war?

FACT CHECK: Did FG shut UNN’s chemical engineering department because of role during civil war?
August 03
12:55 2021

A viral article being circulated on social media platforms and news sites claims the federal government shut the chemical engineering department at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) because of its role during the civil war.

The publication, which has been circulating for a long time, can be read here, here and here.

One of the articles, authored by one Kamso Nweke, is titled “Why Nigerian Government Shut Chemical Engineering Department Of UNN.”

The article alleged that the Nigerian government shut the department because it initiated several inventions such as bombs and other arms used by Biafran soldiers during the civil war which happened from 1967 to 1970.

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The war was said to have resulted in the deaths of over two million people and left many displaced.

“Have you ever wondered why the University of Nigeria Nsukka doesn’t offer chemical engineering as a course? Here is the reason,” the article partly read.

“This university now known as UNN, had it’s chemical engineering department permanently closed down after the war because of the level of research, developments, and inventions it churned out for the Biafran soldiers.

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“If you had wondered why UNN doesn’t offer chemical engineering as a course, know that the federal government of Nigeria closed down the department for fear of the devasting knowledge base of the Igbo man.”

Although the author of the article did not provide any verifiable fact to substantiate his claim, the publication has continued to enjoy huge engagement online as it is often cited by social media users when commenting on the matter.

“I came across this, and it said that’s why Chemical Engineering is not studied in UNN. I’m gutted! Imagine the advancement that could have happened!” a Twitter user, who shared the article, wrote.

Another Twitter, who also shared the article, wrote: “Reason why chemical engineering is not studied in UNN. This people did us bad by not promoting our history in school.”

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BUT HOW TRUE IS THIS CLAIM?

Findings by TheCable showed there is no evidence indicating that the federal government shut the department for allegedly producing bombs and other ammunition for soldiers during the war as claimed by the publication.

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The faculty of engineering in UNN currently has six departments namely — agricultural and bioresources engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, electronic engineering, mechanical engineering as well as metallurgical and materials engineering.

Given no varsity can operate effectively during a war, activities were suspended at UNN while the civil war lasted, forcing many departments to close down. For instance mechanical engineering was shut during the period.

When contacted by TheCable, Emeka Simon Obe, the dean, faculty of engineering, dismissed the claim. He described such narrative as a myth that has been misconstrued as fact over the years.

Obe said the faculty indeed had chemical engineering department in the past but it ceased to exist in the 1980s because its “main players” left Nigeria in search of greener pastures.

The development, he said, made it impossible for the institution to sustain the programme at the time. The dean, however, said efforts are currently ongoing to start the programme again.

“It’s not true. We don’t have department of chemical engineering for now but we’re trying to put up one. We used to have before but the chemical engineering department collapsed in the 1980s — not even during the war — because the main players in the faculty then left,” the dean said.

“At the point, the country was very hard so those running it left Nigeria for greener pastures abroad and so it was no longer possible to run the programme.

“People have that myth it was because UNN was used during the Nigerian civil war that they closed the department but it’s not true. There’s no record to show that. Anyone saying that should provide a record to proof such.”

Also speaking, Okwun Omeaku, the varsity’s public relations officer (PRO), described such claim as a “social media report”.

“I don’t know if there’s fact anywhere. I don’t know if federal government shut anywhere or not. I don’t know where you got such information from,” he told TheCable.

“I’m not aware of that. I don’t react to social media reports. I don’t take question and answers about social media publications.”

VERDICT: The claim that the government shut UNN’s chemical engineering department is misleading as there is no evidence to support such. The narrative can best be described as false.



This story is published in partnership with Report for the World, a global service program that supports local public interest journalism.

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