■ Provost’s vacant position tears Alvan Ikoku College staff unions apart
George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
The crisis rocking the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, has taken a new twist as a faction of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) allegedly engaged students to attack the opposing camp.
The two factions of JAC made up of the four unions in the premier college of education are sharply divided over the propriety of the acting Provost, Dr. Dan Anyanwu remaining in office and at the same time vying for the vacant post of provost.
The sharp disagreement between the two factions took a turn for the worse recently when members of the faction led by Mr. Benjamin Nwokedi who had earlier declared an industrial action were allegedly manhandled by aggrieved students when the factional members of the JAC tried to disrupt the ongoing first semester examinations.
The factional JAC members led by Dr. Nwokedi had insisted that Dr. Anyanwu must resign from office if he must contest for the post of the provost.
They had argued that he will manipulate the selection process if he remained in office while contesting for the post.
However, the other faction countered the arguments of their colleagues, stating that there was no known law which stipulates that the Dr. Anyanwu must resign his position before vying for the post. They revealed that the Minister of Education had written to the Governing Council advising that the acting provost can remain in office while he sought to become the substantive provost.
To ensure that no examination took place until the industrial action declared by the Nwokedi-led faction was over, they set up a committee to enforce compliance.
Elvis Opara, a member of the strike enforcement committee was allegedly manhandled by some irate students while trying to stop their colleagues from writing their exams.
Opara told The Education Report that it was while he and other committee members were ensuring that no examination was conducted that hoodlums allegedly imported by those opposed to the JAC ’ s position on the crisis attacked them. He said while he was severely injured, his colleague’s head was broken by the hoodlums, who were about 15 in number.
“They used bottles, stones and other sharp objects to attack us. Blood gushed out; our colleagues, who scampered to safety later, rushed us to a hospital. I was discharged the next day, but Steven Duru spent three days in the hospital,” he added.
Opara, who is the chairman, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) said he spent 24 hours at the hospital, while his colleague, who had a deeper cut, spent three days in the hospital. He regretted that the security men on the campus could not save them from their attackers.
A lecturer, Emeka Obi, who is not in support of the strike, said no hoodlums attacked the lecturers. According to Obi, students who were angry with his colleagues for coming into the examination halls to tear their scripts attacked the lecturers.
Speaking further, Mr. Nwokedi disclosed that on February 26th, 2018 they met in Abuja at the National Council on Colleges of Education (NCCE) with the Committee of Council Chairmen of Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria. That meeting was convened on the instance of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education Owerri.
His words:”When our former provost, Dr. Ijioma Blessing retired, there was need for an acting provost. The then deputy provost, Dr. Anyanwu was appointed by council to act pending the appointment of substantive provost. In the course of this, an advert was placed for interested persons to apply for the position.
“Incidentally, the acting provost applied alongside others. Those who applied within raised eyebrows that there is no how Dr. Anyanwu would be the chairman of appointment and promotion and a member of council and that he would unduly influence the decision of council in the appointment of substantive provost and so should be made to step aside”.
Nwokedi stated that the union followed it up by writing to the council which turned it down.
“We also wrote to the education ministry in Abuja, the NCCE invited us and upheld our stand in line with principle of justice, equity and fairplay and to create a level playing ground for everybody.
“They recommended that the acting provost should step aside, and a neutral person such as the college Librarian or most senior chief lecturer, who did not apply but qualified, should be appointed to select the substantive provost, but the governing council chairman, Pastor Alex Hart refused to obey the recommendation”, he noted.
The union leader noted that the acting provost’s six months tenure expired on March 16th, 2018 and that the union wrote the council chairman asking that he should use that opportunity to get somebody else in, but again he refused.
However, as it stands now only the supervising Ministry of Education could resolve the matter as the institution has closed after the first semester examination.