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Dismissal, suspension of lecturers causes uproar in Nigerian University
14. March 2019 at 09:00
The disciplinary action resorted to by the management of the Federal University of Oye, Ekiti state against allegedly ‘erring’ staffers has generated an uproar among members of the university community in recent times.

Two of the university lecturers; Dr. Oluwagbemiga Adeyemi of Demography and Statistics department and Dr. Niyi Akingbe of English department were dismissed in November 2018 over alleged misappropriation of a Tertiary Education Fund (TETFUND) research grant.


Also, Akinyemi Gabriel Omonijo, a lecturer and the branch chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the university was served a letter of suspension by the governing council on February 14 over a petition he allegedly wrote to the ministry of education decrying the ‘poor state’ of the school in 2018.


This reporter gathered that Mr. Akingbe, a former Acting Dean, Faculty of Arts frequently criticized the Administration on account of some irregular appointments, promotions while Mr. Adeyemi, the former Acting Dean, Students’ Affairs was the Convener of the Ad-[hoc Committee constituted to prepare the report titled “State of FUOYE”, a document that revealed some of the impunities allegedly committed by the University Administration.


Meanwhile the union of lecturers in Akure Zone of ASUU, had accused the management of the institution of victimizing her active members after a report on the abysmal condition of the school in 2018.


In a statement signed by the chairpersons of ASUU branches in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ekiti state University, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) and FUOYE, on March 6, the union called on the attention of stakeholders in the education sector to the happenings in the school.


“The union calls on the Honourable Minister of Education, Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, relevant agencies of the government, Civil Society organizations and general public to call the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Kayode Soremekun to order, and stop the victimization of our members in general. We also use this opportunity to reiterate our earlier call on the Government of Nigeria to send a visitation panel to the Federal University Oye-Ekiti with dispatch.”




The background

According to documents obtained and interviews granted this newspaper, the Congress of ASUU-FUOYE held at the Oye campus of the University on 11th May, 2018 through a majority vote, constituted an Adhoc Committee on Staff and Students’ Welfare to carry out an investigation in to several reports bordering around staff and students’ welfare and get back to the union.


Messrs Adeyemi and Akingbe were members of the five-man committee saddled with the responsibility of preparing the documents of their findings.


Meanwhile, in a copy of the committee’s report titled ‘State of FUOYE: Matters Arising’ obtained, lack of infrastructure in the midst of growing students' population, staff welfare, violation of the university's laws on recruitment and appointment, promotion and appointment of principal officers, non- remittance of pension deductions to staff, were the concerns raised.


"A worrisome concern in FUOYE is inadequate infrastructure. FUOYE has grown to have eight faculties without corresponding buildings. Plans are underway to add more at the beginning of next session."


"There have been cases of illegal recruitment of both academic and non-academic staff without corresponding advertisement. This is a subversion of the university's condition of service regarding appointment and promotion regulation, whereby lecturers have been appointed without going through prima facie stages of Departmental and faculty's assessment,” The report stated



 

Meanwhile, in an interview with this paper, the Zonal secretary, Olu Olufayo, disclosed that the document was sent to the Chairman governing council of the school and the national President of ASUU.

“The President of ASUU, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, sent a copy to the Honourable minister of Education. He also sent the same from the national secretariat of ASUU to the Chairman, Pro- Chancellor of the university’s governing council.”

“When the committee met, they sent the report to the vice- chancellor for action. The VC did not take any action so they came to us at the secretariat pleading that we should engage the VC. We engaged the VC quite alright and first time second time and he refused to do anything.”


He furthered that the President gave a directive that the Zonal coordinator to address a press conference on the state of FUOYE. The press conference was addressed on the 4th of October 2018, which was followed by a death threat was issued out by one Mr. Banji Olaleye on October 5.


The death threat was confirmed by an officer of the Department of State Security (SSS) in Ekiti state, Gbenga Popoola. He told this correspondent that the case is under investigation.


“When nothing was done and we reported to the minister, we had to address a press conference. Ever since we’ve addressed a press conference, he has been attacking even the members of the congress that were nominated to write that report,” Mr. Olufayo continued.


“He (Mr, Soremekun) also succeeded in dividing members of the Excos through appointments and some of the members now started working for Mr. Vice- Chancellor. Some of them pretended to be working for the union but we know their antecedents. We invited them for a meeting again and they disrupted our meeting,” He said.


He targeted Adeyemi for disciplinary action, he targeted Akingbe for disciplinary action. Adeyemi never collected TETFUND money, Akigbe was a member of the team that got the TETFUND thing. But the man that got it and was the lead researcher, they left him alone and they are now dealing with members. We saw all these things. All he wanted was the chairman to be dismissed and silent the union afterwards.


Meanwhile, the Vice- Chancellor, Kayode Soremekun, while responding to allegations of the Union said that Mr. Omonijo has been suspended as the ASUU Chairman.

"He has in fact been suspended by his colleagues in ASUU. He his no longer their Chairman. He was suspended by the ASUU rank and file. Right now, there's an Acting Chairman of ASUU," He said but all efforts to get Mr. Soremekun substantiate his claims proved futile.

Speaking on the recent suspension, he stated that "He (Omonijo) wrote a petition to the governing council, of which I'm not a member. And on the basis of the findings of that panel, the council decided to suspend him."


"The other two colleagues, Dr. Akingbe was dismissed from the University because he plagiarised. He was accused of plagiarism and mismanaging TETFUND research fund. The other former colleague, Dr. Adeyemi, on his own part, was accused of mismanaging TETFUND research fund."


He refused further probe on the issue as the case is a subjudice in the National Industrial court, Akure. However, he discredited the credibility of the reports of the committee set up in May 2018.

"They wrote a report, speaking to be state of the campus. They went as far as saying the facilities are grossly inadequate and they can't be used by even primary school students."


"So, we decided to do an independent audit of the facilities and discovered that they were trying to malign the name of the university. Because when they spoke of our engineering facilities, in the same week, one of our students in engineering won a competition organised by deans of faculties across the country."



Management being economical with the truth


Against the stance of the management that the reports never represented the true state of the university, investigation by this reporter proved that the school was being economical with the truth and pretend that all is well.


It was gathered by this correspondent that while all the claims were valid as at the time the committee filed the report, some of the issues raised are yet to be attended to.

In an internal memo of August 6, 2018, obtained by this newspaper, the school acknowledged the deduction of workers salary without remitting to their respective Pension Fund Administrators (PFAs) and directed the immediate remittance of accrued deductions.


Also, students who spoke with this paper on grounds of anonymity for the fear of being victimized corroborated the union’s reports on student’s welfare. They decried the poor state of the hostels and non-availability of equipment and enough facilities at the citadel of learning.

“As at last year, we had cases of dilapidated buildings and bushes all over the place. Even some parts of the VC office were bushy. They have renovated parts of the hostels towards the end of the year, but we still have some issues. Minimal though,” said a 200-level female student


 “We don’t have enough facilities in the faculty of Arts, we have four departments using a building for the whole students. Now they have added social sciences departments to us. No lecture theatres except for the small classrooms,” Another student added.


A 500level engineering student in Ikole campus disclosed that although the school had commenced the building of a new laboratory this year, the old laboratory in use is too small in size for the students and that students have to use the facility in small groups.


The conspiracy

With the dismissal of Messrs Adeyemi and Akingbe from the university on the grounds of misappropriation of research grants, the case can not be disconnected from the lecturer who led the research team, Mr. Abrifor.


According to The Guardian, the panel alleged that the duo of Akingbe and Adeyemi not only failed to carry out the research; the topic was not in the research interest areas of the lead researcher.

 

The committee also found it ‘curious that Abrifor, a lecturer I who was barely six months old in the university at the time could be made the lead researcher in a research team.


“After a thorough review of the report of the investigation panel and interactions with parties involved, the committee concluded that a case of misconduct had been established against Abrifor, Akingbe and Adeyemi in accordance with section 14, 27 of the regulations governing the condition of senior staff of FUOYE.”

Meanwhile, this reporter confirmed that Mr. Abrifor was a member of the panel set up to investigate the misappropriation, which eventually recommended the dismissal of the two lecturers and exonerated the research team lead.


“It was also observed that until the investigation panel wrote to them, there was no concrete evidence that the research had commenced despite having received the full amount of the grant. Two days after the grant was released, Dr Abrifor informed the committee that in accordance with the understanding reached among the team, he took for himself the sum of N400, 000 and allegedly transferred the remaining sum of N1.2m to the account of Dr Akingbe.”


The Vice- chancellor, while defending the panel’s exoneration of Mr. Abrifor, said: "In law, you are allowed to turn an accused in to a witness for the prosecution. He was the one who even blew the alarm on the two of them." He did not explain further.


Reacting to this, the defense counsel to Mr. Adeyemi, Falana Chambers, said that the school insisted no research work has been carried out and that a sum was shared amongst the team members.


“As a member of the research team, our client maintains that if there’s a provision of the requirement of a status update to be given periodically on the research, it is ordinarily the function of the lead researcher and not the work of our client,” Adeola Ademuwagun, a legal practitioner who spoke on behalf of Mr. Adeyemi’s legal team, stated.

“Our client position in that matter is to analyse data and that was his role. We’ve clarified that our client is not privy to any money shared whatsoever. He did not take part in anything of such.”


Meanwhile, Mr. Akingbe, who responded to this paper on Tuesday via text, described the allegation of plagiarism as baseless because the excerpt used were from his own intellectual property earlier published.


“The issue of plagiarism is blatantly baseless. My papers were sent out for a Professorial Assessment. The First Assessor rated me very highly, recommended me for a Promotion to the rank of Full-Professor, without any comments on the issue of plagiarism. The 2nd also commended me highly, for my very prodigious publication. But, mentioned that my MA project and Ph.D thesis have been published as books, and some chapters have also been published as independent papers in some journals- Which he erroneously described as self-plagiarism,” He narrated.


 “Such description is as absurd as it is reckless. Publishing papers from one's MA and Ph.D thesis is a common practice globally in the academic, and cannot be described as self-plagiarism, unless there is an overt pursuit of tendency.”


While speaking on the mismanagement of funds, he told this paper that “the issue of Tetfund is nothing but a veritable gambit of persecution”.


 “Since I joined Fuoye in 2013, I have only led a Research Team with a working title "Reawakening Oral Narrative, for moral Regeneration of the Nigerian Youths", and the report has since been submitted to the Tetfund Fuoye on May, 2018."


“It bears remarking, that Dr. Gbenga Adeyemi, Dr. Gabriel Omonijo and me, are being presently persecuted because of the roles we have so far played as ASUU front line activists; who have boldly documented the frightening, despicable, humongous infractions accrued by and supervised by Professor Kayode Soremekun, in his devious destruction of academic standards at Fuoye.”


ASUU Zonal secretary, Mr. Olufayo, who lamented the refusal of the school to take anti-management actions against Mr. Abrifor, said; “Adeyemi never collected TETFUND money, Akingbe was a member of the team that got the TETFUND thing. But the man that got it and was the lead researcher, they left him alone and they are now dealing with members.”


“How is it possible to be a judge in your own case? We saw all these things. All he wanted was the chairman to be dismissed and silent the union afterwards,” He concluded.


It should be noted that both cases are pending in the National Industrial Court and the next hearing is on March 27.


Illegality of “suspension without pay”


As stated in Mr. Omonijo’s suspension letter, the governing council of the university resolved that his appointment should be suspended without pay pending the determination of the punishment to be mete for misconduct.


“Arising from the Panel's findings and in line with the University Regulations Governing the Conditions of Service of Senior Staff, the Vice-Chancellor, in connotation with the Chairman of Council and on behalf of the Governing Council has directed that your appointment in the University be suspended without pay with immediate effect, pending the final determination of the cane by appropriate organs of the University,” The letter read.


Mr. Omonijo, however denied writing any petition against the university management at any point in time. He alleged the managemnent of trying to frustrate him because of ASUU.

“I did not write petition. ASUU FUOYE wrote report on State of FUOYE. There is need to ask him (Mr. Soremekun) may be there is no difference between Omonijo and ASUU FUOYE,” He told this newspaper.

Nevertheless, the pronouncement of ‘suspension without pay’ by the management is contrary to the provisions of the law, which is in accordance to the laws of the country.


 According to fifth part of the Federal Univesity of Oye-Ekiti (Establishment) Act of 2015, which is subjected to the Nigerian laws of 1999, any staff suspended under subsection for misconduct by the council shall be on half pay.


 “The Council shall, before the expiration of a period of three months from the date of such suspension, consider the case against that person and come to a decision as to whether to – (a)   continue such person's suspension and if so on what terms (including the proportion of his emoluments to be paid to him); (b)   reinstate such person in which case the Council shall restore his full emoluments with effect from the date of suspension;” the law read further.


Meanwhile, the Acting Registrar, Olayinka Adeniran-Ajayi, who doubles as the secretary to the governing council, directed this paper to the Vice- Chancellor when contacted for clarifications on the petition allegedly written by Mr. Omonijo and the steps taken by the council to investigate the issue on Sunday.


Likewise, Mr. Soremekun, after noting that deliberation is ongoing as regards the case, re-directed the reporter to the spokeperson of the institution, Godfrey Bakjy, who when probed, claimed not to be privy to the details of the suspension.


“Whatever Mr. Omonijo wrote about the state of FUOYE is not the truth. He (Omonijo) is using his office to be mischievous against the management. As far as I am concerned, he has polarized ASUU in FUOYE,” Mr. Bakji said without clarifying if the alleged petition is the same with the controversial ‘state of FUOYE’ report.


Speaking on the illegal moves of the institution management, an Osun-based lawyer, Yemi Abiona, in an interview with this correspondent, explained that the non-payment of the salary is tantamount to judging the worker in question which is against the principle of equity and fairness.


“I’m aware the provision of the university Act gives the power to the council to suspend workers and students alleged of misconduct, but it should not be without pay. Certain percentage should be paid to the suspended worker and particularly in a case like this where the deadline for deliberation is not known,” He posited.




Cite This Article As: Alfred Olufemi. "Dismissal, suspension of lecturers causes uproar in Nigerian University." International Youth Journal, 14. March 2019.

Link To Article: https://youth-journal.org/dismissal-suspension-of-lecturers-causes-uproar-in-nigerian





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