Jonah Onuoha, the head of political science at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), is apparently shielding three graduate students who physically assaulted a lecturer in the department, Ben Nwosu, several sources at the university have told SaharaReporters.
An investigation by SaharaReporters found that the three post-graduate students on October 13, 2015 beat up Mr. Nwosu at the instigation of the head of department (HOD) who thought that the lecturer had used a mobile phone to tape their conversation. The culprits in the severe assault, which took place just outside the HOD’s office, were identified as Emeka Nwanze, a PhD student being supervised by Mr. Onuoha, Boniface Nwankwo, and a third yet-to-be identified man who was described as an associate of Mr. Nwanze. One source said Mr. Nwanze works as a lecturer in the Social Sciences and Humanities Division of the Institute of Management and Technology in Enugu, Enugu State.
SaharaReporters obtained a copy of a complaint Mr. Nwosu wrote to UNN’s Vice Chancellor, Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba, urging action to discipline his assaulters as well as the HOD who masterminded the attack on him. Mr. Nwosu’s letter stated, “The matter is connected with an enquiry I went to make about my submission for promotion. I applied for promotion to the rank of a Senior Lecturer for the 2015 promotion appraisal and submitted it directly to the Head of Department, Prof. Jonah Onuoha more than three weeks ago. On Tuesday 13th October, I went to him to enquire after the status of my submission. He informed me that the Departmental Appointment and Promotion Committee had met and recommended that I should submit my promotion appraisal through the Institute for Development Studies in Enugu Campus, since I have applied for redeployment to the Institute and the Department of political science supported my application. I reminded him that I was still a staff of the Department since I was yet to receive an official communication of the Vice Chancellor’s approval of my request from the Personnel Department regarding the transfer. I also reminded him that the years of appraisal in question were wholly served in Political Science Department. Besides, I also expressed interest in retaining a parallel appointment in Political Science in the application for transfer. Prof. Jonah suggested that I should come later for further discussions on the matter and I obliged. On stepping out of his office to the general office, three men came behind me and demanded that I should hand over my phone to them alleging that I had recorded my conversation with the Head of Department. In that instant, they initiated a violent struggle to snatch the phone from me. While that was going on, they were slapping and hitting me until I released the phone to them which they handed over to Prof Jonah who came out of his office while the melee was on. Jonah not only took my phone, but was also accusing me of being a troublesome person whom he would severely deal with. This incident took place in the presence of Mrs. Dibia, the Departmental Secretary, and another newly posted non-academic staff in the Department.”
Speaking to SaharaReporters, three lecturers at UNN said they were shocked that, more than two weeks after the savage beating of their colleague, neither the VC nor the security department had taken any action to hold the three attackers as well as their instigator, Mr. Onuoha, to account.
Contacted by SaharaReporters, Mr. Nwosu, who studied at UNN and later earned a PhD from New Zealand, confirmed that he had written separate accounts of the assault against him to the VC and the university’s security department, adding that he had not received notice of any action by the university. He also stated that he reported the incident to the police in Nsukka, but he was not aware if they had taken action.
His three colleagues who spoke to a correspondent of SaharaReporters accused the university of shielding the three students out of deference to Mr. Onuoha, the head of department.
“The university security tried to arrest the three attackers, but Professor Jonah Onuoha interceded to release them,” one of the lecturers alleged.
A senior official of the university, who asked not to be named, admitted that the attack on Mr. Nwosu took place. He disclosed that the Dean of Faculty, Ignatius Madu, and Okey Ibeanu, a professor at the Institute for Development Studies at UNN’s Enugu campus, had tried to arrange an amicable settlement. “Professor [Jonah] Onuoha had agreed to apologize and make amends to Dr. Nwosu. Such an apology would then have resolved the matter, but I understand that the HOD reneged on his promise [to apologize].”
“This is absolutely shocking that a head of department would encourage his post-graduate students to punch and slap a lecturer,” said one lecturer in the Political Science Department. He added: “Any university that would allow this impunity to stand is digging its own grave as an institution that wants to be taken seriously. Does it mean that, in addition to acquiring degrees, lecturers and professors also have to take boxing, judo and karate lessons to be able to ward off attacks by students who are sent by other lecturers and professors?”
The three irate lecturers accused Mr. Onuoha of exploiting his closeness to a network of powerful decision makers in the university to protect the three students who assaulted Mr. Nwosu.