Group calls for cancellation of Federal University, Lokoja screening exercise

By Peter Usman

A socio cultural group, the Uk’Omu Igala Organization, has called for the cancellation of the process for the appointment of Vice-Chancellor, Federal University, Lokoja.

The group hinged its objection to the processes adopted in appointment of Vice chancellor, which it said was based on apparent irregularities and deliberate exclusion of those who are talented with administrative and academic dexterities.

The national leader of the group, Comptroller Abdul Amade (rtd), in a statement signed and made available to IDEALPOSTS, said it was appalled that the Senator Chris Adighije-led screening committee disqualified all applicants of Igala extraction from the position of Vice-Chancellor.

Uk’Omu Igala Organization, therefore called on the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and the Federal Government, to call the screening committee to order, so as to prevent break down of law and order in the institution in the short run, and to avoid continued stagnation of the University, on the long run.

The statement read in part: “From the foregoing, we make bold to submit that we have no confidence on the committee which carried out this assignment of shortlisting. We have no confidence on the skewed process and strongly reject the entire compromised exercise where merit was sacrificed for selfish and parochial consideration.

“Report has it that about 80 persons applied for the position, out of which 20 distinguished and experienced professors of Igala extraction specifically from Kogi East (one of the three senatorial districts of Kogi State) applied.

“To the best of our knowledge, these scholars of Igala extraction met the criteria which were published as qualifications for application for the position. However, to our greatest surprise and chagrin, none of them was shortlisted for consideration, making the process suspicious and clandestine.

“We came to this conclusion following analysis and comparison between the twelve (12) shortlisted and some of the Igala Professors that were disqualified from further participation in the process:

“A Google scholar search revealed that whereas, at least, five of the Igala Professors had between 35 and 165 GoogleScholar –accessible Publications on the internet, six (6) (or 50%) of the twelve top shortlisted for position of VC by FUL Governing Council have GoogleScholar –accessible Publications of only between 2 and 20. Other indices of academic impact like googlescholar citations and h-index are even more revealing.

“Whereas, at least five (5) of the ten disqualified Igala Professors were elevated to the rank of Professors, mostly in first generation universities, between ten (10) and up to twenty (20) or more years ago, some of the top FUL Council’s shortlist for VC currently, have less than ten (10) years of experience as Professors. Moreover, many of the shortlisted candidates are from second and third generation Universities.

“Among the disqualified Igala Professors, are accomplished and distinguished first class scholars with excellent tracks of academic records.

“It may interest the public to note that virtually all the disqualified Igala Professors are fellows in their respective fields of endeavours including a Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science. On the contrary, it is apparent to see merit being sacrificed on the alter of nepotism when those shortlisted for the position appear not to have earned such scholarly status (Fellow of Nigerian Academy of Science or Fellow of Nigerian Academy of Letters).

“All the disqualified Igala Professors have notable national and international exposures, having won some awards of academic excellence, competitive research fellowships, grants and scholarships, and are, or have been members of some relevant national committees for grant administration (like TETfund Standing Committee on Research and Development, National Research Fund, Nigerian Science Prize, etc).

“On the other hand most of those that made it to the FUL Council’s shortlist for VC, are simply “local champions sponsored by ethnic behemoth.

“Whereas, many of the disqualified Igala Professors have administrative experiences as Head of Department, Assistant Deans, Deputy Deans, Directors, Deans of Faculties and Postgraduate Schools in universities where administration is more complex and challenging, many of the shortlisted candidates can only flout “higher” administrative experiences in mainly private institutions, where administration is at best, routine and at whims and caprices of proprietors.

“While at least one of the disqualified Igala Professors is a foundation staff member of FUL who is very vast in the history of FUL, and has served in various administrative capacities as Head of Department, Dean of Faculty and Dean of Postgraduate School for at least 8 years, Acting Vice-Chancellor, member of the FUL Management Committee, member of the first and second Governing Council of FUL, some of the shortlisted candidates have little or no relevant administrative experiences for the position.

“In face of stiff competitions a for position of Vice Chancellor, parameters such as presentation of “Inaugural Lecture”, being a desirable academic responsibility, is usually introduced. However, it is observed that while some disqualified Igala Professors have presented their “Inaugural Lectures”, some of the shortlisted candidates have not.

“As if these anomalies were not enough, the Council of Federal University Lokoja involved itself in some “illegal maneuvers” in order to achieve its hidden agenda to plant a non-viable and sub-standard University administration at Federal University, Lokoja”

“Appointing a “Shortlisting Committee” to undertake a generally discredited shortlisting process that is antithetical to academic traditions as well as being inimical to dream of any institution of higher learning which is meant to attain world-class status. As we can see, they used criteria that are not the most essential academic criteria in appointing a Vice-Chancellor that is expected to have robust capacity to take FUL to the next level. This is not acceptable in a competitive academic environment.

“Indeed , a close scrutiny of these shenanigans, shows that there is no provision for such a committee under the University Laws. What is provided for, is “Selection Committee” that will undertake both shortlisting and Interview of the candidates”

The group noted that the criteria used by the so-called “Shortlisting Committee” to disqualify Igala Professors were supposed to be debated, amended and accepted by the whole council for implementation by the Selection Committee, even before applications were opened by the Committee. None of these basic principles of international or even national best practices was adhered to.

Comptroller Amade asserted that the committee, instead of discharging its duties within the premises of Federal University Lokoja under the full glare of the administrative and security structures of the institution, the “Shortlisting Committee” met twice in Abuja in a very suspicious move.

According to the group, “Based on these anomalies, we are compelled to believe that the Council of Federal University Lokoja, has not displayed adequate evidence of intention or capacity to fairly and transparently organize, implement and supervise an acceptable merit-based process that would lead to the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor with intellectual capacity, relevant national and international exposures, relevant and vast administrative experiences, and social and political acceptability to lead Federal University Lokoja, in a way that would usher in steady development and stability in the next dispensation.

“The body is of the view that “From the foregoing, we make bold to submit that we have no confidence on the committee which carried out this assignment of shortlisting. We have no confidence on the skewed process and strongly reject the entire compromised exercise where merit was sacrificed for selfish and parochial consideration”

Amade further called on the Minister of Education to as a matter of urgency use his good offices to intervene and put the whole exercise to a hold, as it has led to serious agitation in the state.

“The Minister should use his good offices to ensure that the process be carried out afresh in a transparent manner where all candidates who meet the requirements are considered” he said.

Uk’Omu Igala Organization appealed to the minister to ensure that due process is followed in the appointment of Federal University Lokoja’s Vice-Chancellor “as exemplified in your recent quick intervention in the discrepancies that arose in the selection of the Vice-Chancellors of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and those of the Universities of Ibadan and Lagos. Your efforts at promptly restoring peace in the aforementioned citadels of learning are memorable and highly commendable.”

Recalled that following the impending departure of Professor Angela Freeman Miri in February 2021, advertisements were placed on various media channels calling for qualified candidates to apply for the position of Vice-Chancellor, Federal University, Lokoja, to succeed her.

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