Published May 30, 2019.
• ‘There’s recommendation for Ekemezie’s sacking’
The Chairman, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Governing Council, Azeez Bello, has said the council will meet in June to take action on the allegations of forgery and plagiarism against a senior lecturer of the institution, Dr Peter Ekemezie.
He faulted some members of the institution’s Senate, whom he said had “messed up” themselves, and assured our correspondent that the right thing would be done.
Ekemezie had been in the centre of controversy after it emerged that he did not obtain a BSc certificate he allegedly claimed to have obtained from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
He was also accused of plagiarising works, which he used to obtain promotion and several favours from the university.
The university’s outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Ahaneku, had been accused of shielding the lecturer.
Ahaneku, who became the VC in 2015, however, said the matter predated him and the Senate committee planned to use anti-plagiarism software on Ekemezie’s works.
The university council chairman and pro-chancellor, Bello, while responding to enquiries from our correspondent, said the matter got to the council three weeks ago.
He stated, “I immediately passed it to the admin and petitions committee, which is handling it. By the next council meeting, action will be taken. Some of these disciplinary things we are talking about are handled by the Senate; but the members have messed up themselves; they know themselves.
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“When that decision now fails, the person (petitioner) can appeal to the council. The council will then refer it to the committee, which will make recommendation. When that recommendation is made, action is taken.”
He said the council wanted to follow due process, adding that some lecturers had been sacked in the past and the university paid damages because due process was not followed.
Bello noted that he also got a report from the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department on Ekemezie, which he minuted on, noting that the university had not been negligent.
He added, “In fact, the question of plagiarism does not arise when somebody does not have the basic BSc. And just as they said, it had been recommended before we came in that they should let him (Ekemezie) go; but the procedure must have been a bit cumbersome.
“However, those who wrote the petitions were in the same department (with him). They knew what had been going on for years. Before someone can become a senior lecturer, it may take up to eight years, but nothing was said. But because they are now competing for something, they see this as an opportunity to take their pound of flesh.”
When our correspondent asked if someone could be employed as a lecturer in the school without a BSc, Bello said it was not possible.
He gave an assurance that the incoming vice-chancellor would sanitise the system.
The Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, UNIZIK chapter, Dr Steven Ufoaroh, said the institution was dragging itself in the mud by delaying action on the matter.
He stated, “The university should have handled it earlier before it got outside the school. Several committees had met on that matter, but the outcomes of the committees were not allowed to see the light of the day.
“The university should have acted swiftly than allow it to linger for this long; we have a mechanism for dealing with this kind of matter. We have had similar cases that were handled before and actions were taken. If I have a case against you, you are suspended and investigation will be done. If you are not found guilty, you are reinstated and if guilty, disciplinary actions will be taken against you according to the university’s regulations.
“But in this case, proper actions were not taken. People had written petitions; the union had also written to the university stating why action should be escalated. But for reasons best known to the university administration, nothing was done. Now, it’s spreading like wild fire and damaging the image of the university.”
The immediate past Chairman of ASUU in the institution, Prof. Denis Aribodo, blamed a former Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Boniface Egboka, for not acting on an earlier report from UNIPORT.
Aribodo, who was a member of the senior staff committee whose report indicted Ekemezie, said he met and left the case as ASUU chairman.
He was ASUU chairman from July 2014 to July 2018.
Aribodo explained, “As the chairman of ASUU at that time, I served on the senior staff disciplinary committee that looked into the petition from Mrs Uche Egolum. What we investigated was obtaining by false pretences, so we recommended that the committee should take up the issue of certificate Forgery.
“The (2015) report was made available to the VC, but you know when he gets such a report, he cannot sack. It is the council that sacks. His duty is to lay such a report before the council. As a union, we encouraged him to present it before the council. But you know that the council meets once in three months. So, maybe the council decided that there would be a joint committee of the council and the Senate on it. Maybe now that the council has elected a new VC, it will take a disposal action on that matter.
“The former VC under whose charge the lecturer was employed, during his tenure, verification was done and UNIPORT said they did not issue it (the BSc certificate). So, I expected the former VC to have acted on that report. But he did not do that. The present VC inherited it and may have wanted to study it before taking action. The truth, however, is that the matter has been delayed, which is not good for the system.”
The former VC, Egboka, could not be reached on his telephone line, as he was reported to have travelled outside the country.
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