Some of the allegations centered on insecurity, favouritism, 20 percent slash of workers’ salaries, over-employment, among others.
Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
The Vice Chancellor of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (AE-FUNAI) in Ebonyi State, Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba, walked into the Senate Chambers of the institution for a pre-convocation media chat with journalists in the state.
His excitement was justifiable. He had come to announce that the young university, one of the nine new federal universities established by former President Goodluck Jonathan in February 26, 2011 would be holding its third convocation ceremony.
That’s not all. He seemed particularly excited that he would be churning out 355 graduates drawn from four faculties. Out of the figure, 15 bagged First Class Honours; 188 made Second Class Upper; 145 made Second Class Lower and seven came out with Third Class.
These graduates, according to him, were drawn from four faculties, namely: Humanities (44); Basic Medical Science (62); Science (101); Management and Social Sciences (148).
He was also elated that the institution has commenced running Postgraduate courses and with that status, would be conferring its first honorary doctorate degrees to two deserving Nigerians.
First on the list was the Chancellor of the university who doubles as the Paramount ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, the Alake of Egbaland. On Tuesday, December 18, he would be conferred with honorary doctorate degree in management.
Another distinguished Nigerian to be honoured is the second republic Minister of Education, Prof Ihechukwu Madubuike, who would be honoured with Doctor of Letters. Nwajiuba, who said that the former minister laid solid foundation for the growth of education in Nigeria, believes that he is the oldest living Minister of Education in the country.
However, the excitement with which the VC walked into the Senate Chambers appeared to have faded when journalists engaged him with questions on series of piled up allegations from the university community.
The media briefing provided the opportunity for clarifications on series of allegations and complaints from some members of staff of the university as well as some of its students.
Some of the allegations centered on insecurity, favouritism, 20 percent slash of workers’ salaries, over-employment, alleged sack of workers engaged by his predecessor, among others.
The first set of graduates of the university, who made First Class were promised automatic employment but information available has it that many of them have not been given the jobs. What would you make of this allegation?
For over three months now, all those we offered automatic scholarship to appreciate them for coming here at the inception, who made First Class, have all resumed. Anyone who has not resumed has not taken up the offer and that has lapsed. And let’s be very clear about it. They didn’t ask to be employed. We made the offer to appreciate the fact that they came. It is not a right. It’s a privilege. But that’s a settled matter. It’s all gone. And anyone we offered employment, there is a maximum period by which they have to take up the employment. Once you are not available, that has gone. It is not something that is a right; that every year when you make a First Class the university should employ you. We are not in the business of training people who we employ. We are training people for the world. It is a global thing. So, we made that offer to the first set to appreciate the fact that they came here then. And those who made First Class were offered employment and those who were interested have taken up the employment and that matter is closed. If anyone of them has not shown up, it is not a debt that we owe and we are not making that offer this year so that it doesn’t become a culture; that what you need to do is come to AE-FUNAI, make First Class and the university will employ you. That’s not the right thing to do and we shall not do that.
The institution has been undergoing personnel audit. We would like to know the number of persons that came in through the back door and how many have been relieved of their duties for not possessing requisite qualifications.
Looking at credentials and qualifications is an exercise that regularly happens. It will always happen and anytime we spot deficiencies, people will be made to face the rules of the university. And if you are not supposed to be in the university, we would ask you to leave. It is not something that happens at the end. It is something that will always go on; looking at people’s qualifications from time to time. It also happens with students. I am sure when you were students; from time to time the school that you studied looked at your qualifications; right up to the point of graduation. And at any point in time if it is found that there was deficiency; of course, the rules will have to be applied.
There was this allegation of mass influx of people from your home state, Imo State, into the university. That they are the people who you employed since you came on board. The allegation also has it that many of the people engaged by your predecessor have been sacked. What would you make of this?
Well, the statistics are there and what you are saying is not true. There is something that you are not going to stop. You are not going to stop people from discussing without facts. But what you have just said is not true. It is not factual. It is not backed by evidence.
Members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are on strike. Is AE-FUNAI part of ASUU? If it is, does it have the permission to go on with its convocation?
Yes, AE-FUNAI is part of ASUU and our lecturers are on strike. But that is not stopping us from the convocation. ASUU has withdrawn its services and within this period, as you might have noticed, UNN (University of Nigeria Nsukka) has had convocation; UNIBEN (University of Benin) has had convocation; UI (University of Ibadan) has had convocation; the AAU has had convocation. University convocations have been going on and we intend to go on with our convocation. There is no problem with that; but for the students that have been sent home in respect of ASUU; the lecturers have withdrawn their services but other unions and other staff who are not part of ASUU are working. They are not on strike and the convocation would hold like other universities have had theirs. We are going to hold ours on December 18, 2018.
We learnt that you are so magnanimous that you over-employed such that the salaries of your workers cut down by 20 percent. Why is it so?
Well, it is good to be magnanimous. Isn’t it? AE-FUNAI, like most other universities have had challenges of shortfall in salaries. It has nothing to do with the number of persons we employed. That’s not factual. As at today we don’t have that problem. Some universities may still have. So, 20 percent is over; there is nothing like that. There is nothing like 20 percent shortfall.
We interact with some students often and they complain of growing level of insecurity. We want to know the security situation on campus and the mechanism you have put in place to ensure adequate security of staff and students?
We do the much we can to strengthen the security office; fencing the university; and trying to have proper identity for the students. But it is the reflection of the situation of things in the country. Insecurity is a problem but the school has to go on, and as much as we can do to ensure safety and security, we will continue to do our best. The fencing, we hope, will still go on.