Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri is presently enmeshed in another round of crisis following a demand by a faction of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the college, asking the Acting Provost, Dr. Dan Anyanwu, to step down.
The school’s JAC accused him of scheming to become the substantive provost.
The group, led by Dr. Benjamin Nwokedi, handed down the demand at the weekend, in defiance of an earlier directive by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, on the procedure for the appointment of a substantive provost.
In a bid to ensure that the acting provost leaves the seat, the faction went on rampage, disrupted an ongoing examination and also, threatened to ground academic and other activities in the college, if their demand is not met.
Earlier, the minister of Education had, in a February 9 letter, with reference number SAF.36/5.465/VII/21 and signed by the Director of Tertiary Education, J.S. Ojo, stated that “neither the Act establishing Federal Colleges of Education nor the conditions of service for Colleges of Education excludes an acting provost or any interested and qualified candidate from aspiring for the office of the provost.”
The minister’s letter further stated that the directive only excluded the acting provost from “attending any meeting of the Governing Council/Joint Selection Board where a decision on the appointment of a substantive provost is being taken.”
However, the management of the institution also argued that the reason why the acting provost is not stepping down was in line with the position of the Federal Ministry of Education, as earlier communicated to the Council, in a letter from the minister.
It would be recalled that the Nwokedi-led JAC played an active role in the removal of the immediate past provost, Prof. Blessing Ijeoma, over allegations of over-age and tenure expiration.
The management further condemned the action of the group, as contained in a statement it issued and made available to newsmen in Owerri .
It stated that “the college is currently in the middle of her first semester examinations and, as such, any call for strike is a calculated attempt to disrupt the academic calendar and punish the students for selfish reasons.”
The statement also added that “a union must only go on strike for reasons affecting the welfare of staff and not for reasons obviously not within the purview of the group or persons under the mask of the unions.”
Also, Assistant Secretary of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Dr. Johnson U. Ofoegbu, has dismissed JAC’s demand.
He described it as selfish, and urged the JAC to concentrate on “staff welfare and not the politics of who becomes the provost.
“As one of the principal members of the union and having followed the recent happenings in our college, we have told Dr. Nwokedi (factional JAC Chairman), severally, that there is no public service rules that say that an acting provost should step down because he applied to become substantive provost.
“Neither did the National Commission for Colleges of Education stipulate that an acting provost vacates office because he or she applied to become substantive provost.
“The letter of appointment given to the acting provost, which was read to all staff at the college pavilion last year, after the removal of Dr. Ijioma, the former provost, reads that the acting provost should act until the substantive provost is appointed.
“The letter didn’t say anything about the duration of the acting capacity. I don’t know where Nwokedi got the letter of six months acting capacity he quoted. He has parochial and tribal interest and he is using COEASU and other unions to pursue that.”
However, when contacted, Dr. Nwokedi stated that their intervention was necessitated by the complaints of the applicants for the post of the substantive provost that the process was compromised.