From Emmanuel Adeyemi, Lokoja
Friday, February 12, 2021, was a day of weird celebration at the Federal University, Lokoja (FUL), Kogi State. That day, the academic, non-academic staff and students of the nine-year-old institution bid a strange but comical farewell to their vice-chancellor, Prof. Angela Freeman Miri.
With mock obituary pictures and placards, the protesters, in a frenzy, danced and booed her in the glare of personalities who came to witness the exit of who many regard as “iron lady.” She helplessly watched her obituary pictures being displayed by the same people who had trembled at her mere presence.
It was a day the lioness cringed at her preys.
That Friday was actually meant to be a send-forth day for the second vice chancellor of the institution. But as early as 6am, Miri’s mocked obituary pictures were pasted all over the campus, including her office with a giant bill board erected at the main entrance of the university.
The mock obituary pictures read: “Obituary. Transition to hell!! With gratitude to God, we announce the successful passing into hell of the tyranny personified, whose happy end occurred on February 12, 2021.
She is survived by confused children and hate speech grandchildren.” “End of tyranny has come. Hallelujah, Alhamdulilahi.”
“Some of the placards carried read: “No more diversion of fund.” “Bye bye to corruption.” “Day of reckoning is here.” The workers also carried brooms and ostensibly swept away her footprints from the university. Sources said the send-forth party was put to an abrupt end as the now bewildered Miri had to be smuggled out of the campus to escape being attacked.
The staff alleged that the institution did not grow in the last five years when compared to other federal universities established the same time with FUL, saying it remained static for lack of ideas to move the institution forward by the immediate past VC.
Emmanuel Ekanem, lecturer, Department of Art Theatre, said the protest marked the end of five years of terrible maladministration. He lamented that workers were not promoted and those who supposed to attend seminars and workshops were denied. He said: “Her predecessor, Prof. Abdulmumuni Rafindadi, the first VC, was cerebrated when he completed his tenure because of his performance and concern for the welfare of the staff.”
Olagunju Tosin, Department of English, said the saddest moment of the university was when Miri suspended a professor of 15 year experience for over one year and refused to pay his entitlement even when a court ordered her to do so
“Staff welfare under Miri was zero. The VC applied divide and rule method to oppress those not loyal to her administration,” he said.
He urged the new VC to be courageous enough to unify the staff of the university and improve on students welfare among others.
Her travails started in February 2016 when she began to have problems with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the style of her administration. ASUU had accused the VC of lacking ideas to move the university forward, too domineering, high handedness and recalcitrant to new ideas.
Other allegations included, deliberately working against the union by withholding its check-off dues, sponsoring a splinter group under the name of Progressive Academic Staff Union (PASU) and appointing a Deputy Vice Chancellor without following due process.
The national president of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, on September 20, 2019, accused Miri of suppressing union activities.
Its chapter chairman, Kazeem Adedeji, pleaded that the union should not be dragged into the matter. He, however, admitted that some of his members participated based on their personal experiences with the VC.
He said the grievances of the chapter included non promotion of members when due, delay in payment of the promotion arrears, review of scheme of service, lack of training opportunities for members, refusal of management to grant study leave with pay to staff and usurping the headship of departments of non-teaching staff.
“For example, the head of the ICT of the institution should be a non-teaching staff, who is a professional on the field but an academic staff is heading the place,”
Although, the president of the Students Union, Kehinde Olorunmaye, kept dribbling our reporter for comments for three days, but he was able to gather some of the grievances. These included non-provision of adequate lecture rooms and furniture for students, excessive charges against students and refusal to remit to the students union levies collected from students running into millions of naira.
Other allegations were tasking students to pay for dusters, classroom writing boards and materials and charging the highest school fees within the northern zone among its peers.
The indigenes of Lokoja are annoyed with Miri for allegedly depriving them of employment opportunities in their own land. One of the youth leaders, Mohamed Yabagi, said: “Miri robbed us of what we are supposed to benefit as host community. Even clerical jobs, we have less than 1 per cent people within the community as academic staff.
“Our anger stemmed from the time she was appointed and assumed duty without due regard to the traditional institution in the area. She did not give due regard to the traditional ruler of the area, the Maigari, Alhaji Muhammad Kabir Maikarfi III.
“She was alleged to have contracted many university projects to her cronies from her home state of Plateau where she was a commissioner before she became the VC.
“Matters came to a head in 2019 during the institution’s massive recruitment. While several graduates and post graduate certificate holders applied for jobs, a member of the National Assembly from her Federal Constituency came on the social media to display about 15 employment letters which he claimed to have personally attracted to his constituents in FUL while qualified people of the community continued to hope for opportunity to no avail.
“That recruitment saga was one of the major crises faced by Miri in her tenure. Her tactics, as far as youths of Lokoja are concerned, is the divide-and-rule using politicians from the area. Miri disappointed us.”
Former VC reacts
However, Miri said she did all she could to move the university to its enviable height, saying those accusing her of wrong doing were those who tried to push her away but did not succeed.
She explained that as the VC of a federal institution, she could not have approved or done anything without approval from Federal Ministry of Education, National Universities Commission and TETFUND.
She said: “The report that we sold employment between N.5 million to one million was to malign my name. This is defamation of character, when did we sell employment letters?”
She said she was able to embark on massive infrastructural development, including the commencement of M.Sc and Ph.D programmes, with additional faculties created. She described those who staged the protest against her “as the disgruntled elements, who tried endlessly to push me away without success.”
She argued that the sweeping of the campus by some staff of the institution ostensibly to mock her was normal as the junior staff, who were supposed to sweep the campus were on strike. However, she said if the staff were sweeping her (Miri) out of the campus, they should also sweep the projects executed by her from the university.
She admitted that series of distraction affected her performance but said she was able to leave the university better than she met it. “I am leaving as a fulfilled VC,” she said.
Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Senator Chris Adighije, described Miri’s tenure as excellent. He said: “She was able to transform the permanent site of the university with projects that will add value to the institution.”