A five-member committee established by the Vice Chancellor of Delta State University, Andy Egwunyenga, has recommended the promotion of lecturers, who failed the school’s integrity committee plagiarism test, SaharaReporters has learnt.

One of the two lecturers involved, Lazarus Etemike, was found by the committee to have self-plagiarised two of his papers by 92 per cent.

The school found that the lecturers self-plagiarised in order to garner additional points from the faculty assessors, who determine if they have enough publications to merit promotion.

Another lecturer, Festus Arunaye, was found by the same committee to have replicated the content in three of his academic publications in three others.

Prof Egwunyenga had two months after his tenure started to set up an investigative committee to look into the promotion claims of eight lecturers.

Two of those eight, Etemike and Arunaye, were accused of ‘academic dishonesty’ by the integrity committee and queried by the school management preceding Egwunyenga.

According to a source close to the development, both Etemike and Arunaye failed to attend an appeal before the university’s Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee.

Instead, they chose to wait until the management had changed before launching their requests.

On Etemike’s petition, the VC’s Ad-hoc Committee ruled that the two papers Etemike was accused of plagiarising had a 10 per cent plagiarism score and not 92 per cent as the integrity committee claimed.

According to the committee, which comprises three professors, Etemike also did a plagiarism test on the said papers and came up with a score of 11 per cent.

SaharaReporters gathered that the university’s plagiarism threshold is 30 to 35 per cent.

It was also found that Etemike was formally queried for self-plagiarism but never appealed the decision of the committee, saying he was already about to retire.

“He neither wrote to inform the integrity committee about his claimed 11 per cent plagiarism or appeared before the appropriate disciplinary committee to defend himself against the allegations made against him. Having a pending case and refusing to or unable to clear himself, and having retired, his case died a natural death. It is strange to know that about 5 years after retirement and failure to clear himself, this staff found a saviour,” the source said.

The committee’s report contrasts with the claims of the source, however.

According to its report, a document in Etemike’s file with the school’s establishment division showed that the governing council had written a letter directing him not to appear before the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee since he had retired from service.

The report goes on to say Etemike was never informed of this directive.

Nonetheless, the senior lecturer, who retired from the school’s Political Science Department did not show up before the SSDC.

The report went on to say that “a physical look at the two papers in question does not evidently reveal a possible plagiarism.”

It also claimed that Etemike’s retirement benefits had not been processed despite the fact that he had completed his clearance.

The committee went on to recommend that the school management clears Etemike of plagiarism, send out three of his papers to external professors for review and process his retirement as an associate professor from 2013, if two of the responses from the three assessors on his publications are positive.

While Etemike’s self-plagiarism was discovered when he was processing his promotion from senior lecturer to associate professor, Arunaye’s ‘academic dishonesty’ was noticed during his transition from associate professor to professor.

According to the VC’s appeal panel, the integrity committee revealed on August 11, 2017 that Arunaye plagiarised Article 4 of 2007 and article 27 of 2008 by 75 per cent.

He copied articles 6 and 7 of 2008 by 90 per cent and replicated 95 per cent of article 13 of 2010 in article 20 of 2012.

Following this finding, the school’s establishment division queried Arunaye on December 6 2017.

The committee said Arunaye replied to the query and asked that he be given an opportunity to review the plagiarism tests.

The panel went on to note that Arunaye was not given the plagiarism report and his response to the query was found unsatisfactory by the school management.

SaharaReporters learnt that Arunaye was subsequently asked to appear before the SSDC.

He however made an alternate move, which did not appear in the panel’s findings.

“He – Arunaye was queried and thereafter directed to appear before the Senior Staff Academic Disciplinary Committee but he refused. Instead, he dragged the university to the court of law and so he was put on suspension until he appears before the SSDC Academic to clear himself of the allegations against him,” the source said.

The source said that Arunaye withdrew the case in December 2019 when Egwunyenga became VC and his suspension was lifted without him appearing before the SSDC as directed earlier.

The investigating committee’s report, however, states that the Associate professor of Mathematics was immediately placed on half salary and suspended when his response to the query was deemed unsatisfactory.

In its recommendation, the VC’s investigative panel concluded that since Arunaye had been promoted to associate professor in 2015 – with effect from 2013, reportedly using the same publications that he used to apply for professorship, he be given ‘the benefit of doubt’ and his papers sent out for assessment by external supervisors.

They described the integrity committee’s decision to accuse Arunaye of plagiarism a year after deeming the same papers credible as ‘witch hunting.’

SaharaReporters reached out to the Registrar of the institution, Dan Urhibo, to find out if indeed Etemike’s retirement benefit was not processed and if he was asked by the governing council not to appear before the SSDC.

Urhibo declined to comment on the issue.

The new site also reached out to John Igweh, one of the three professors in the ad-hoc investigative committee, to ask if the integrity committee was consulted to know why there was a discrepancy in Etemike’s plagiarism test.

The online news medium lso tried to find out if the claim that Arunaye took the school to court over his request to appear before SSDC was false and if true, why it was not reflected in their findings.

Igweh, however, refused to entertain any question, describing it as an internal university issue.

The recommendations of the panel have been reportedly made to the Appointment and Promotion Committee/Academics and an approval is expected before the end of November.

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