Gyang Bere, Jos
The interactive session between the management of the University of Jos and members of the House of Representatives Committee on Federal Character has triggered controversies among residents of Plateau State.
Many residents described the interaction, which went viral on the social media, as a calculated attempt to demean the university and publicly embarrass the management for no just cause.
Chairman of the House Committee on Federal Character, Abubakar Yahaya Kusada, had, along with other members, alleged imbalances in the distribution of staff of the university to the advantage of the North Central Zone and Plateau State in particular.
But concerned members of the academic community at the University of Jos, including professors from different parts of the country, have described the action of the committee as a calculated attempt to single out the institution for public ridicule.
Prof. Jeol Wannang, spokesperson for the group, expressed displeasure over the manner in which the committee let out the video clip that has dominated the social media space.
Wannang did not question the grounds upon which the committee drilled the university management, but noted that depriving members of the academic community the opportunity to defend themselves agaist the allegations was quite suspicious.
He said: “Our attention has been drawn to the recent video trending on the social media on the interactive session between the House Committee on Federal Character and the management of the University of Jos.
“Having diligently watched the video clip, we observed that the committee from, its opening remarks, had already presumed the university guilty of violating federal character principles.”
The group said it believed the committee had a premeditated motive for inviting the University of Jos or referring to the institution as the “Federal University of Plateau State.”
It noted that the encounter, which was supposed to be an interaction, was rather an interrogation of the university management, who were badgered with questions but not given the chance to adequately respond, thus denying them fair hearing.
“We noted that while the university management was willing to provide documentary evidence in support of their case, they were denied the opportunity. We noted, and sadly too, that the committee of supposedly honourable lawmakers descended to the level of issuing threats of prosecution on the university management, a mandate they clearly lack,” he said.
Wannang stated that an academic institution such as the university was an ivory tower of learning, hosting a crop of intellectuals and scholars of international repute who trained critical human capital, the bedrock of national development, as well as engage in researches that culminate in inventions and innovations for scientific advancement, societal development and human security.
“This was meant to be a committee hearing on an investigation that is still on-going. We are at a loss how the video clip found its way out of the custody of the National Assembly into the social media and became viral.”
The group noted that the governing council of the institution was the appropriate organ responsible for appointments, employment and promotion of staff, adding that appointments, with regard to principal officers of the university, were usually well advertised and candidates given equal opportunities by the council.
It explained that the council executes the functions on behalf of the visitor, who is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“It is worthy to note that since inception of the university, 45 years ago, only six Plateau State indigenes have been appointed vice chancellors, and out of 24 deputy vice chancellors, none had ever been from Plateau State.
“In the 45-year history of the university, no Plateau indigene has ever been appointed librarian; and only two were appointed bursars. It is, therefore, absurd for the committee to reduce the appointment of the university management under the council to a ‘Plateau affair’.”
The group said it was not against the House Committee carrying out its oversight functions. “But singling out the University of Jos in the manner they did suggests a premeditated intention. This we reject in its entirety.
“For such an exercise to be valid and objective, it should cut across all federal universities in Nigeria. Indeed we are aware that the Federal University, Dutsinma in Katsina State (coincidentally, where the Chairman of the House Committee on Federal Character comes from), has the vice chancellor, registrar and librarian all from Katsina State.
“Similarly, in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State (incidentally, where Honourable Samaila Suleiman comes from), the vice chancellor who has just gone on terminal leave, the DVC Admin, the bursar and the librarian are all from Kano State. In the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State (where the deputy chairman of the committee comes from), all principal officers are from the South-West zone of the country.
“These three classic examples typify what is obtainable in most Federal Universities across the country, unlike the balanced appointments practised at the University of Jos. We therefore wonder why the committee overlooked these obvious infractions in their backyards and singled out the University of Jos for national ridicule.
“We urge the committee, in the interest of justice, to retrace their steps and investigate all federal universities and make their findings public.”
Meanwhile, chairman Plateau Youth Council, Dr. Fabong Jemchang Yildam, said the interactive meeting between the House of Representatives Committee and management of the University of Jos did not meet the minimum acceptable standard.
Yildam said, having watched the interactive session several times and making a critical analysis of the discourse, it was obvious that the committee was out for a witch-hunt.
The youth group also lamented that from the start to the finish, Professor Sabastian Seddi Maimako was not given the space and opportunity to defend himself. He noted that the committee members came prepared with a mindset to embarrass, ridicule and intimidate the vice chancellor.
“From the comments of the vice chancellor, which the House Committee members paid little attention to, it is obvious that approvals were acquired and certificates of compliance have been obtained from the Federal Character Commission for these appointments,” Yildam said.
He added that there was no doubt that given the opportunity, the vice chancellor and the registrar would have given adequate explanations to these enquiries on the procedures on the employments carried for the period under review. He said the discourteous manner in which the vice chancellor was addressed by the committee was unprecedented.
The group urged the committee not to use the Office of the Vice Chancellor and that of the registrar alone to make conclusions on the issue, noting that of the six high-ranking officers at the University of Jos, four are not from Plateau State.
The group insisted that the spread of principal officers at the University of Jos is one of the best in the country, as the deputy vice chancellors, bursar and librarian are not from Plateau State. The group said the prearranged ambush on the person of the vice chancellor was a cheap blackmail, which should be condemned by all.
The group told the House Committee members that Prof. Sabastian Seddi Maimako had performed exceedingly well in infrastructural development and should be given the accolades that he deserves rather than dwelling on mundane issues that could distract him.
Another professor, Thomas Oyelamo, of the Faculty of Law, said he joined the service of the University of Jos in 1974 on grade level one and he has never come across what the House of Representatives Committee accused the institution of.
Prof. Thomas, who hails from Oyo State, said if there has been discrimination at the institution, he would never have become a professor.
“I have been to other universities and we know what is happening. When the Council of Education came sometime back for accreditation and saw Prof. Orji, Prof. Aduda and many others from the South East and Prof. Oyelamo from the South West with many people from Benue, Kogi and others at the Faculty of Law, with the current Dean from Bauchi, the council concluded that the University of Jos was a universal institution.
“We don’t have problem in our faculty and other faculties. Where the committee got this from, we don’t know. They committee is pre-empting what is coming out, and I don’t think that is proper. Let them do their job and we will examine and subject it to legal analysis by critical minded people,” he said.
Prof. Iheanacho Ezuka John of the Faculty of Education was in agreement. He posited that the exercise by the House of Representatives Committee was aimed at finding a scapegoat.
Prof. John, who has worked at the University of Jos for 37 years, said he believed that there were some underlying motives behind what transpired between the House Committee and the university management.