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A Polytechnic's Numerous Crises

Posted by By Mathias Oko on 2005/01/18 | Views: 494 |

A Polytechnic's Numerous Crises


The Federal Polytechnic, Idah has not known peace for years and it's unlikely that peace will return there soon

The Federal Polytechnic, Idah has not known peace for years and it's unlikely that peace will return there soon

The Federal Polytechnic Idah, Kogi State which has gone through series of crises in the past one year is unlikely to witness peace soon. The crises came to a head with the burning down, October 15, of the school's library and Cyber Cafe. That situation has been further aggravated with the recent arrest of six lecturers of the institution and a non-staff by a team of policemen from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, Lagos. Those arrested were taken to Lagos where they were detained. They include Abu Kareem, a deputy registrar, in charge of exams and records, Akowe Achimugu, Peace Usman, Stephen-Robert Makoji, Michael Aguda, Ahon J. Martins, all lecturers in the polytechnic, and Sule Amichi, an Idah based businessman.

They are being accused of robbery and arson at the polytechnic. Some of those arrested have had a running battle with the school's management and members of the Academic Staff Union of the Polytechnic, ASUP.

The crisis in the polytechnic dates back to 2003. But the latest in the series that led to the destruction of properties and eventual closure of the institution started, when students of the sciences and engineering departments, under the aegis of Students Industrial Works Experience Scheme, SIWES, staged a demonstration to press for the payment of their SIWES supervision allowance of N10,000 each.

Students had long expected the money totalling N11 million which they claimed had earlier been released to Joseph Egila, the institution's rector, from the Industrial Training Fund, ITF, zonal office in Lokoja. The students accused the rector of lodging the money in his personal account somewhere in Abuja so as to collect interest on it. Several efforts by Egila to convince them that the money was yet to be released from ITF in Lokoja fell on deaf ears.

They swooped on the school's properties, looting some and destroying others. The school's library and cyber cafe were torched. They allegedly broke into Unyogba Community Bank located in the school premises, vandalised the voult and made away with N500,000 belonging to the bank. At the end, property worth billions of naira were destroyed.

Egila concluded that the terror unleashed on the institution was the handiwork of some of the lecturers who had at one time or the other made threatened to destroy the institution.

The actual problem between the school's management and some of the lecturers, according to Egila started sometimes in June 2003, when J. Elaigwu was appointed registrar of the polytechnic after meeting necessary requirements for the job.

Egila also alleged that before his assumption as the school's rector, Kareem, a deputy registrar was a defacto registrar because of his closeness to his predecessor. He said he decided to change that pattern of operation for the purpose of official protocol because, he felt that the recognised registrar should not be sidelined. "Then I started dealing with Ogunlewe who was then the registrar. Abu Kareem felt slighted and since then a seed of discord was planted between management and Kareem, and I have never known peace since then," Egila said. He claimed that Kareem openly boasted that he would make the polytechnic ungovernable for him.

He also alleged that Amichi, a non staff and brother to Kareem also boasted that if his brother (kareem) was not made the registrar of the institution, he could burn down the Polytechnic. Egila said he promptly reported these remarks to the school's governing council, the state commissioner of police and the director of the State Security Service, SSS, in the State. Both men were interrogated by security operatives and later released.

When the recent fire incident happened, the principal suspects were the two men who were arrested by the police. Other lecturers were arrested along with them over their alleged roles and public comments prior to the incident.

Kareem and Amichi denied the allegations, saying they were baseless and unfounded. Karem told Newswatch in Idah that it was sad that he could be linked with this kind of criminal matter. "It is unimaginable for me to contemplate, or attempt to destroy an institution I have contributed my quota in no small means, in building and nurturing for this long period of 22 years I have served there," he said. He explained that his immediate family members depended on the institution in so many ways and that it would be unthinkable to associate him with the arson in the institution. "I have worked in the same Polytechnic for 22 years, my wife has put in 23 years, some of my children had graduated from there, while others are still under-graduates there. Moreso, this institution is situated in my own home. Why on earth would I destroy it as Egila is making the world to believe?

Some of the lecturers who spoke to Newswatch under the condition of anonymity believe that Egila was on a mission of personal vendetta because they challenged his style of leadership. They accused Egila of ineptitude and corruption at the time he was seeking for a second term in office as rector, and that he had been looking for an opportunity to deal with them. The opportunity, came for Egila, during students' demonstration over their SIWESS Allowance and he use it.

The crisis in the Polytechnic had its root in a long-standing feud between the management and a section of ASUP over sundry allegations against Egila. In a petition addressed to the executive secretary, National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, dated March 25, and signed by 12 lecturers, Egila was accused of high handedness. He was accused of interfering in the affairs of the ASUP, non-payment of their salaries for several months, non-payment of excess work load for three semesters and leave transport grant, LTG for 2002 and 2003. They also alleged that the lecturers were owed several months of revolving loans such as car, furniture and housing among others, some of the staff linked the financial woes of the school to Egila.

In another petition made available to Newswatch, the rector was accused of financial mismanagement and corrupt enrichment. He was said to have used several private contracting firms to execute fraudulent contracts. For instance, he was said to have used one Jenu Ventures, a private company belonging to a family friend to carry out over-inflated contracts. He was also accused of running the school like a private empire. There were also allegations of intimidation of staff against Egila, and that he used divide and rule system on members of ASUP. This perhaps explains his alleged vested interest in who becomes what in ASUP and students union government respectively.

Part of such problem, Newswatch learnt, came to light November 14, 2004 when the ASUP members passed a vote of no confidence on their entire executive members led by Hassan Opaluwa who was believed to be an apologists of the rector. The executive was sacked and a caretaker committee was set up, chaired by M.J. Ahon. But Opaluwa obviously angered by his removal promptly instituted a court case at an Idah high court four days later.

From then, the stage seemed to have been set for an epic battle at the institution between members of ASUP and the management of the school. This development crippled ASUP since then as several attempts to hold its congress meetings were stopped by security agents on the orders of the schools management.

The period also coincided with the end of the rectors first tenure. Newswatch learnt that Opaluwa allegedly made Egila believe that his fellow lecturers were forming a coalition to resist his second tenure bid.

Egila refuted the allegations against him, saying, the petitions and allegations were malicious and misleading. According to him, the inconsistencies experienced in the payment of salaries and other allowances was due to shortfalls in the allocation from the federal government. "We were expecting N39 million to pay salaries, but what was given us since 2002 was N26.06 million.At a point we could no longer supplement with what we were collecting from students. And we duly called the staff and students to explain to them. Now the federal government has accepted the actual money due to us which is N41 million and we have started clearing all the arrears gradually," he said.

Opaluwa dismissed insinuations by his colleagues that he was a stooge of the management. He told Newswatch that he was old and educated enough to be a rector of an institution.

Many staff and students who spoke to Newswatch in Idah town about the administration of Egila had differing views. While some commended him for the rapid structural development on the campus, others see him as merely supervising some projects which were on-ground before he came on board as rector.

Additional report by Betty Abbah.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.