The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the umbrella for lecturers in Nigerian universities, has rejected the report submitted by a committee in its Owerri, Imo State zone, on the appointment of Nigeria’s minister of communications and digital economy, Isa Ibrahim, popularly known as Pantami, as a professor of cybersecurity by the management of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO).
The union’s president, Emmanuel Osodeke, a professor, while addressing journalists in Abuja on Monday at the end of its two-day meeting of the National Executive Council, said ”there are many unanswered questions on Mr Ibrahim’s professorship’.
He also said the public should await its verdict at the end of the probe by another panel it had already set up.
He said; “ASUU NEC members, like many other concerned Nigerians, did not accept the report of the ASUU FUTO congress. There are serious doubts and unanswered questions bordering on the qualification of Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) for the position. The FUTO Branch Committee’s report failed to justify Dr. Isah Ali Ibrahim’s (Pantami’s) appointment to professor on the bases of requisite experience, professional suitability and antecedents at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (ATBU).”
ASUU called on the management of Nigerian universities and other academic institutions to join in its efforts to safeguard what it called the waning image of Nigeria’s university system, saying the vice-chancellors “have no business trading honorary degrees and academic positions for personal and immediate gains.”
ASUU said doing so will continue to smear “the collective integrity of committed scholars and other patriots who are working day and night to uplift the system that produced them.”
The union said even when the congress of its FUTO branch had endorsed the appointment of Mr Ibrahim as a professor, the secretary of the committee it set up had made a u-turn to reject the verdict, giving a dissenting report.
The union said it would probe the activities of its members in the award of the professorship, saying the report raised more questions than answers.
Mr Osodeke said: “Some critical questions begging for answers include the following: Has Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) met the 12-year post-qualification requirement as contained in the advertisement? Does he possess the required relevant academic publications and 70 per cent being in web presence? Can a serving minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria take a tenured appointment in the university? Is he capable of carrying out his official duties as required of a professor at the same time as a serving minister? Has Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) met the conditions of teaching, supervision, mentorship of younger academics and academic leadership required of a professor?
“What did the external assessors’ reports on the documents submitted by Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) say about his publications? As it has always been the culture of academics, what did the referee reports from his places of previous employment say about him? What is the general assessment of the students previously taught by him? Did the Governing Council meet to approve the appointment?
“In view of the foregoing and having rejected the ASUU-FUTO Committee’s report, NEC set up an independent committee to investigate all issues surrounding the controversial appointment of Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) as a Professor of Cyber Security in the University. Thereafter, the position of ASUU-NEC shall be made known to the public. In addition, another committee shall visit the ASUU-FUTO branch with a view to determining the role of members in the controversial appointment and report back to NEC for further action.”
In September, Mr Ibrahim was among seven associate professors, otherwise regarded as readers, who were elevated by the governing council of FUTO to the position of professorship at the council’s 186th meeting.
The university, in a statement listed others to include Lawrence Ettu as a professor of civil engineering; Godfrey Emeghara as a professor of maritime management technology; Okechukwu Onyelucheya as a professor of chemical engineering; Alex Opara and Chikwendu Okereke as professors of geology, and Conrad Enenebeaku as a professor of chemistry.
Mr Ibrahim, who recently attracted a public storm over past controversial religious comments which many described as inciting and disturbing was also criticised over the appointment.
The university was also not spared as many scholars and activists described the minister’s appointment as patronising and “an assault to Nigeria’s academic system.”
The backlash led to ASUU national leadership’s decision to set up a probe committee through its Owerri zone.
The report of the committee, which was last week leaked in the media, had cleared the minister, noting that the appointment followed due process.
The union, apparently dissatisfied, has, therefore, appealed to Nigerians to await the report of another committee it had set up during its executive council meeting at the weekend.
It listed reasons for its doubt of the committee’s report and also pledged to investigate its members’ roles in the alleged fraudulent appointment.