Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
The Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, is presently enmeshed in another round of crisis following the demand by a faction of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the College, asking the Acting Provost, Dr. Dan Anyanwu, to step down over allegation that he is scheming to become the substantive Provost.
The group, led by Dr. Benjamin Nwokedi, handed down the demand, at the weekend, in defying an earlier directive by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, on the procedure for the appointment of a substantive Provost for the College.
In a bid to ensure that the acting Provost vacates the seat, the faction went on rampage disrupting the ongoing examination of the College, while also allegedly threatening to ground academic and other activities in the College if their demand was not met.
Earlier, Minister of Education had, in a letter dated 9th February 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 exclude 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 of Education”.
It would be recalled that the Nwokedi-led JAC played an active role in the removal of the immediate past Provost of the College, 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, “moreover, 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, the Assistant Secretary of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Comrade Dr Johnson U. Ofoegbu has dismissed the demand of JAC, describing it as selfish, just as urged the JAC to concentrate on “Staff welfare and not the politics of who becomes the Provost of the College.”
Ofoegbu in a statement made available to newsmen added that, “as one of the principal members of the union and having followed the recent happenings in our college, the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, 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 further stated that, “The letter of appointment given to the Acting Provost and 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 was quoting. 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.
According to him, it has been the tradition in the College that Acting Provosts aspiring to become substantive Provosts must step down and hand over to the most senior lecturer to allow for a level playing ground for all aspirants, adding that, “this practice is peculiar to us in Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education because what is good for us may not be good for others.”
He also acknowledged the letter written by the minister and his directives. “we are aware of a letter purportedly written by the Minister of Education but we are yet to authenticate it”. Nwokedi said.