The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU), Awka, has invited Governor Peter Obiano of Anambra State to intervene in the crisis brewing in the institution over the soon-to-be vacant position of the Vice Chancellor.
In a letter to the governor, who is the Visitor to the university, the local ASUU branch ascribed the impending crisis to the incumbent Vice Chancellor, Professor Fidelis Uzochukwu Okafor, whose single five-year tenure expires on 4 September.
Jointly signed by Emeka Nwabunia and Dr. Mbanefo Odum, Branch Chairperson and Secretary respectively, the letter said the improper composition of the internal membership of the university’s Governing Council is at the root of the matter.
ASUU argued stated that the Governing Council is improperly constituted and has been non-functioning almost one year after the inauguration of its external members by the governor. This development, said ASUU, was orchestrated by the incumbent Vice Chancellor and has prevented the Council from effectively carrying out the various duties assigned to it by the university’s statutes.
“Amongst these roles, Ordinance II of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Law 2014 empowers the Governing Council to: i) announce a vacancy in the post of the Vice-Chancellor; ii) prepare with the Senate, briefs on the state of the university such as would guide the selection and appointment of suitable candidate as Vice-Chancellor, as well as indicate to the appointed person the direction in which he should lead and guide the University; iii) constitute a nomination or search committee whose primary purpose shall be to suggest or nominate candidates for the office of Vice-Chancellor; iv) jointly review and consider all nominations with the Senate; v) consider the list of candidates and arrange the names in its own order of merit; vi) recommend the candidates who place first, second and third to the Visitor, justifying its order of merit,” the letter stated.
ASUU explained that it had to highlight the roles of the Council because Okafor’s tenure expires in September, having been appointed for a single term of five years on 5 September 2011.
The union argued that on account of the approaching end of tenure, a vacancy exists for the post of the Vice-Chancellor. However, the continued absence of properly constituted Council and Senate, as allegedly created by Okafor, has the potential to spark a disharmony between the union and the Vice Chancellor.
This, said ASUU, is because the Council and the Senate are the two bodies empowered by university’s law to facilitate the appointment of a new substantive Vice-Chancellor.
The union said its congress had deliberated over the issues, as expected, and came to the conclusion that the governor needs to intervene.
“Accordingly, our Congress has deliberated over these issues as is the union’s rule. After due consideration of the consequences of not having properly constituted and functional Governing Council and Senate, as well as enthroning an illegitimate substantive Vice-Chancellor as a successor to the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, we earnestly request that you use your good offices to remove all obstacles preventing the proper constitution of the Governing Council and Senate before the 4th day of September, 2016, when the tenure of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor, Professor Fidelis Uzochukwu Okafor will expire,” ASUU wrote in the letter copied to HRM Major-General Felix Mujaperuo, Chancellor, and Architect I.G Chendo, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the university.
To find an enduring solution to the logjam, ASUU requested the governor to use his power as the Visitor and on the recommendation of the Governing Council to appoint an acting Vice-Chancellor for the university for a minimum of three weeks before Okafor’s exit.
This, reckons ASUU, will ensure a smooth transition in the leadership of the institution. The acting Vice-Chancellor, it added, should be in office for not more than six months in accordance with Chapter 5 of 2009 agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government. ASUU also recommended that the acting Vice Chancellor should not be eligible for consideration for the substantive position, but should focus on creating a clement working environment for the Governing Council, Senate and the substantive Vice-Chancellor to be appointed.
The union accused the incumbent Vice Chancellor as having a penchant for administrative impunity and indifference to the university law, which saw him working for two years in a self-appointed role as “sole administrator without the supervision of a functional Governing Council or a virile Senate”.
On account of this, ASUU asked the governor to ensure that Vice-Chancellor to be appointed is one that protects and enhances the sanctity of the university by respecting due process, fair procedure, accountability and the law.
“This is to avoid another round of needless industrial disharmony between the Vice-Chancellor and the union, with its attendant effects on teaching, learning and research as experienced under Professor Fidelis Uzochukwu Okafor, the out-going Vice-Chancellor,” said ASUU.
The union further reiterated the need for a properly constituted and functional Governing Council before Okafor’s exit and the assumption of office by an acting Vice-Chancellor. This, it explained, is important because the Governing Council needs to scrutinise unsupervised financial transactions and other activities of Okafor and his management team over the past five and a half years as reflected in the May 2015 Whitepaper on Visitation Panel Report.
The suspicions of financial misdemeanor under Okafor, said ASSU, are strengthened by the fact that he and some members of his management team are currently being investigated by the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters for alleged financial and administrative misconduct.
“It is instructive to note that the emergency meeting of the Governing Council of 5th May, 2015 was called off because the Vice-Chancellor, the Ag. Registrar, the Ag. Bursar, Mr. Chike Osegbue (Coordinator, Part-time/Weekend Programme), Prof. Ellis Idemobi (Director of Academic Planning), Prof. Walter C. Nwafia (former Director of Academic Planning) and Dr. Sylvia I. Okonkwo (former Dean of Student Affairs) travelled on invitation to Force Headquarters Abuja,” claimed ASUU.