I remain school’s bursar -Agi
By Stanley Uchegbu
Protest erupted at the University of Calabar, (UNICAL) recently over the purported suspension of the school bursar, Mr Peter Agi. Some staff and aggrieved contractors of the university, led by the Protocol Officer, Mr. Godwin Iyam, bared their fangs, as they accused the bursar of highhandedness.
Although the protest was initially peaceful, hell was let loose when the SUG President, Daniel Joseph, meddled in the conflict, as he led some students to the scene. Eyewitnesses said the aggrieved contractors and some staff told the SUG President to stay away from the arena, since the protest has nothing to do with the students or academic activities.
Despite the pleadings, it was learnt that the SUG President insisted on stopping the protesters, thereby fueling the crisis. Fierce confrontation ensued between the groups and the security agents in the school, leaving scores of people injured.
A 400 level student of Microbiology who didn’t want to be named in the report said some concerned students of Yala LGA, where the Bursar hails from, were the ones that disrupted the protest. “There has never been a time the SUG have attempted mediating for staff of the university. The SUG is for students and not for staff, so from all indication, the protest led by the SUG President was ill-conceived,” he said.
Campus Sun gathered that members of management staff often disagree with the school bursar on financial matters. A similar incident happened two years ago, between the bursar and the immediate past Vice Chancellor.
For meddling in the crisis, the SUG president was suspended, as others accused him of playing to the gallery. It was alleged that he was paid to disrupt the peaceful protest staged by the aggrieved staff, a claim he strongly denied.
The letter of suspension reads in part: “Following several advice by the Deputy Chief Security Officer of the university and other concerned staff that you should stay clear of the crisis involving some aggrieved staff and the bursar, you bluntly refused to adhere to the advice and went ahead to mobilize students and miscreants to disrupt the peaceful protest organized by the afore-mentioned staff. Your action resulted in a scuffle between your group and security personnel, some of whom sustained injuries and lost their personal possessions like wristwatches, wedding bands and cell phones. In the light of the above, you are hereby suspended from office with immediate effect pending further actions by the university management. You are by this letter advised to hand over all university property in your possession to the Deputy Chief Security officer of the university”.
When Campus Sun visited the SUG president in his lodge, he denied collecting any money from the bursar. He recalled that during his acceptance speech as the Union President, he promised that his administration would maintain peace and harmony with the management and staff members of the university.
“When I saw the aggrieved crowd at the administrative block, I rushed down with the Union SUV vehicle to intervene. On getting there, I was advised not to meddle in the affair, that it has nothing to do with the students or academic activities. The miscreants that disrupted the protest were never part of my entourage,” he said.
He also denied receiving any suspension letter from the university, removing him from the office of the SUG. But the Dean of Students Affairs, Prof. Akpan Felix, confirmed that he has received a copy of the suspension letter; and showed where the SUG President appended his signature on the letter. The Dean also said the executive members of the SUG has issued a disclaimer over the actions of the SUG president.
Following the development, an inquiry was immediately set up by the management of the university to look into issues that led to the protest. In a letter of suspension signed by the Registrar, Mr. Moses Abang, the management of the institution alleged that the bursar had been found guilty of impersonating the Vice-Chancellor on the e-payment platform of the Central Bank of Nigeria, among others.
The letter of suspension read in part: “In an emergency meeting held today, August 22, 2016, the management considered recent developments on campus, especially your arrest by the Nigeria Police vide letter no. AB:3621/ CRS/DFA/VOL.T/123 of August 17, 2016, on allegations of fraud, forgery and threat to life. It has become imperative that you step aside as Bursar and clear yourself of these allegations. And that you have been impersonating the Vice-Chancellor on the CBN e-payment platform by making final approvals and payments, a duty that is the responsibility of the Vice-Chancellor, who is the Chief Accounting Officer of the university.
“Again, you absented yourself from office without requesting any of your deputies to act for you, thus creating a vacuum in the administration of the Bursary. You deliberately refused to purchase an official car for the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration) eight months after he was appointed into office. You have ignored several council and management directives on this.
“You bluntly refused to pay TETFUND contractors who have successfully executed jobs and rendered services to the university, even when such contractors have been cleared for payments. The consequence of this is that while other universities are already making progress and accessing the 2015 allocation, the University of Calabar cannot exhaust the 2013 allocation to qualify for the next tranche.”
The letter further mandated Agi to hand over to Mrs. Atim Mensah, the most senior Deputy Bursar, while Mr. Joseph Odum should take over the previous duty of Mrs Mensah.
When the news filtered in that the Bursar has been suspended, the staff of the university danced for joy. Some enthusiastic staff publicly expressed relief at the news of his removal. They alleged that Mr. Agi had constituted himself into a cog in the wheel of smooth administration of the university. They accused him of refusing to pay staff legitimate entitlements, selective pay-rolling of newly recruited staff, refusal to remit deductions of Unical Staff Multipurpose Cooperative Society which has stalled the payment of dividends by the organization, refusal to release fellowship funds duly approved by TETFund for academic staff causing them to be repatriated from foreign universities prematurely, as well as frequently humiliating senior academic and admin staff in his office each time they make appeals for him to pay their entitlements, as some of his ‘sins’.
Meanwhile, the embattled bursar, in a swift reaction, said he was not aware of any suspension. “I have not been queried. I am aware of the guideline and rules on procedures in the appointment, suspension or otherwise of any principal officer of the university. I am currently on sick break and I wrote a letter to that effect copying all principal officers. So, for anybody to announce my suspension without the set rules, amounts to nothing. I am still the bursar,” he said.
Agi expressed surprise over the claim that he had been suspended, even when the university authority was yet to query or summon him to any panel. He dismissed his alleged suspension describing it as laughable. He urged the VC to act according to the rule, saying only the University Governing Council has the power to punish him if he was at fault and not the Vice Chancellor.
When Campus Sun went to the Registrar to verify the bursar’s claim of being on sick leave, he (Registrar) denied any knowledge that Mr. Agi was granted any sick leave. Investigation revealed that the bursar also frustrated efforts to serve him the letter of suspension, by instructing his domestic staff not to receive any mail from the university. Our source also confirmed that this was the reason why the query issued earlier to him could not be delivered.
Campus Sun learnt that the chairman of the University Governing Council, Chief Emmanuel Iwanyanwu and other principal officers, have been notified of the development, and the council would make final decision on the matter at its next sitting.