Two senior staff of the University of Abuja who recently dragged the management of the university to the anti-graft agencies have been sacked by the Governing Council of the university for alleged insubordination after being placed on suspension for eight months without salary.
But the disengagement of the two staff for allegedly exposing corruption in the institution has drawn the ire of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, who has called on the Federal Government to protect the whistle blowers in a bid to fight corruption in the system.
Termination of the appointments of the two staff came just four days after the burial of the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the University Governing Council, Samuel Ogbemudia, in Benin City, as the Governing Council convened meeting on 22nd and 23rd of March 2017, to effect the sack.
Meanwhile, SSANU has stated that the Federal Government was too slow to wield the big stick on perpetrators of corrupt practices, either as convicts or suspects under investigation/trial as in the cases in the Nigerian University system in recent times.
SSANU in a statement issued yesterday and signed by its National President, Comrade Samson Chijioke Ugwoke, said the suspension and termination of appointments of the two staff of the University as a result of whistle blowing, constituted a gross violation of the Whistle blowing Policy of the present administration, which should not go unpunished.
The union has called for the reversal of the termination of the appointments of the affected members, Comrades Jude Nwabueze and Nurrudeen Yusuf by the Management and Council of University within one week.
SSANU also demanded that the Management and Council of University of Abuja should tender a strong apology to the Federal Government and the Nigerian citizens for allegedly defying the orders of Government and disregarding constituted authorities.
According to the statement, “The Union, SSANU, wishes to bring to the notice of the Nigerian public and the world at large that the reason the Management of the University gave for the said termination of the appointments is false. It is because of whistle blowing and Union activities, and not insubordination as alleged. SSANU therefore wants to put the records straight.
“The Management of the University of Abuja got itself engulfed in unauthorized recruitment of staff without following due process, thus over bloating the system.
“When the government of President Muhammadu Buhari came to power and it was no more business as usual, coupled with the recession that greeted the Country, the Budget Office stuck to the release of the actual budgetary provision for all MDAs.
“This led to “perceived shortfall in the university (Abuja) in 2015 as the University could not pay the entire staff their correct salaries. This and many other demands of the Union (SSANU) in University of Abuja, including unpaid arrears of promotion and other welfare issues of members, gave rise to the crisis which HEIGHTENED in 2015.
“The Management failed to honour her own side of the Memorandum of Understanding it entered into with the Union that would have ended the crisis in the early times. The Union had to cry out to the Federal Government (whistle blowing) for intervention. Does this constitute acts of insubordination?”
SSANU in the statement further stated, “The Management of University of Abuja began dealing with the issues in contention initially by inviting the two staff in their capacities as SSANU Chairman and Secretary along with the other Exco members to meetings where some understandings were reached that would have nipped the problems in the bud.
“The failure of Management to do the needful led to the externalization of the matter (i.e. to Government and the public through the Press) by the Union. This angered the Management who decided to single out the Chairman and Secretary (i.e. Jude Nwabueze and Nurudeen Yusuf) and issued queries to them, this time as staff of the University transport and health services units respectively (no more as SSANU leaders).
“The Management also went ahead to suspend the duo without salary (not even half salary) and without any defined period as is the practice in the Nigerian University System and public service. Consequently, they have been on suspension without salary for the past eight months.
“The University Governing Council Disciplinary Committee that eventually recommended the dismissal of the two staff (Officers of SSANU) did not even bother to give them any fair hearing before conviction, neither did the Council, though illegally convened, see this procedure as faulty.
“All principles of natural justice were jettisoned. The public may also wish to know that there was disagreement among the members of the Senior Staff Disciplinary Committee which led to incomplete signature of all members.”
Commenting on the legality of the meeting of the Governing Council that allegedly terminated the appointment of the two staff, SSANU said, “The meeting of the Governing Council was convened on 22nd and 23rd of March 2017, barely four (4) days after the burial of the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the University Governing Council, Samuel Ogbemudia, in Benin City.
“The respect accorded Elder Statesmen in this part of the world was thrown to the wind, all in a bid to hurriedly disengage some persons from their source of daily living in the guise of insubordination. Courtesy demands that the Council meeting would have waited at least two weeks as a mark of respect.
“In a rational setting, the vacuum created by the death of the Pro-Chancellor would have been filled, even if it is in acting capacity. This was not done. Neither was there any clearance or permission obtained from the Honourable Minister of Education for the said meeting.
“The meeting was therefore not properly convened as required by law. As it stands, the Vice-Chancellor, in conspiracy with some of his cronies in the Council, connived to hold this illegal council meeting. From the proceedings of the meeting, it appears as if the major reason for the “emergency” meeting was to disengage these two staff.
“The public may wish to know that the tenure of the present Council has expired and Government has put machineries in place to constitute a new one. This is probably why the Vice-Chancellor, out of desperation to send these two packing, knowing fully that he may not elicit the support of the incoming Council to do the dirty job, connived with some members to hurriedly convene the meeting to quickly execute his agenda.
“It is also important to inform that the Council did not reach any conclusion on the matter whether or not to dismiss or terminate the staff, because inside sources revealed that the issue of the legality of the Council meeting surfaced during the session and it became so weighty that no meaningful decision could be taken that would stand.
“Therefore, at what point did the decision to terminate the appointment of the duo came to be, and who gave the directive that the termination letters be issued?”
Disregard for government policy
“Whistle blowing became prominent with the Whistle Blowing Policy of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration, which encourages Nigerians to expose corrupt persons and especially, public office holders. The policy also tends to protect whistle blowers from any act of intimidation or punishment in the hands of the superiors or establishments.
“The suspension and the so-called termination of these two staff of University of Abuja, which by all ramifications is as a result of whistle blowing, constitutes a gross violation of the Whistle Blowing Policy of the present administration, which should not go unpunished.
“It could be deduced here that the Management of the University, currently being investigated over alleged corruption, hurriedly took this action so as to distort the investigation, since the two will now be considered outsiders to the University.
“It is also important for the public to know that SSANU at the National Level, had taken several steps including initiating, visiting and holding about three meetings with the University Management, all in a bid to resolve the crisis, but failed because the Management would not want the matter resolved.
“The Union therefore reported the matter to the Federal Ministries of Education, and Labour and Employment for their intervention. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment has finished with the preliminaries and has scheduled a meeting of the Union with the university management for Wednesday, 5th April, 2017.
“The University Management is aware of this development as they have been duly communicated. Why then this hurried action of the University Management when relevant bodies saddled with the responsibilities to resolve industrial disputes are already intervening?
“All the Vice Chancellors under trial in court and those being investigated to the point of arraignment are still maintaining their seats. Are they above the law? At least, it is on record that all judges under investigation/trial have stepped aside. Why not the Vice Chancellors?”
The union urged the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Education to re-build the confidence of the masses on the protection clause of the whistle blowing policy by immediately dissolving the Governing Council of University of Abuja before the planned general dissolution of others.
It further called the government to “remove the Vice-Chancellor and the Principal Officers of the University for acts of insubordination to the Federal Government of Nigeria, especially the Registrar for incompetence, advising the Management and the Council wrongly and guiding them to take a very wrong and unpopular decision.
This will serve as deterrent to other Chief Executives.
SSANU also called on all well meaning people of this country to “prevail on the University of Abuja administration and FGN to do the needful to avoid throwing the Nigerian University System into another round of crisis; and also re-build the confidence on the masses in the fight against corruption. These should be done quickly in the interest of industrial peace in the university and the country at large.”