The Provost, Federal College of Education (Technical), Asaba, Delta State, Dr (Mrs) J. E. Anene-Okeakwa, has reiterated her resolve to rid the College of untoward vices and reposition it as a citadel of teaching and learning and academic excellence. She stated this on the occasion of Town Hall Meeting of Management with Staff of the College. In her opening speech, the Provost explained that The Town Hall Meeting is a regular platform for rubbing minds with Teaching and Nonteaching staff of the College, feeling their pulse as feedback mechanism, as part of the deliberate effort of her Management Team to carry everyone along in the scheme of things. The forum afforded the Provost opportunity to explain the position of things from the stand point of Management. Staff had opportunity to ask questions and make useful suggestions.
Our correspondents sought audience with the Provost after the Town Hall Meeting to clarify certain allegations going viral online. Asked to confirm whether she unilaterally dissolved or disbanded ANTI CORRUPTION AND TRANSPARENCY UNIT OF THE COLLEGE (an ICPC-watchdog in tertiary institutions), she dismissed the allegations as false and unfounded. “As Provost, I have no power to disband ACTU, and I know very well the limit of my powers. It may interest you to know that I am a product of the system. I have been in Management for years as Head of Department, Dean of School, Deputy Provost, Governing Council Member, and now Provost. So I have garnered enough experiences to know how the system operates, the powers and limitations of Provost. I couldn’t have dissolved ACTU and as a matter of fact I did not. The truth is that Governing Council of the College in its ….Meeting held recently looked into the petitions and reports arising from and against ACTU. Council in its wisdom took steps to refocus the body on its core mandate. You may wish to interact with ACTU Chairman and members. Please go and hear from them directly”.
Following rumors that the Provost within 3 years in office built a magnificent estate for herself while the College wallows in infrastructural decay, we sought the reaction of the Provost. She dismissed allegations as the handiwork of idle minds. She told us that the building in question is not an estate but a modest family house which her husband commenced in 2006 but halfway into the project he succumbed to the cold hands of death. She narrated how she struggled over the years investing hard earned resources. She also had to sell off part of the land and ploughed back into the project. “I have been a Chief Lecturer in the College for almost 12 years now, at my level am I not expected to have a descent home?” she asked rhetorically.
Asked if there has been cases of financial fraud since her tenure, she replied: “There is nothing like that. Not even a complaint or petition against me bothering on fraud or related matters since I came into office. We don’t have problem of financial management in the College; what we have is problem of paucity of funds and it’s not peculiar to this College. As media men you know the state of the nation and you know this is not the best of times economically speaking. We are also battling with low IGR while working out strategies to improve on what we have. We follow due process in all financial dealings. We run an open door policy, carrying staff Unions along. When a kobo comes in they know; they also know how it is spent. You can find out from them. As journalists you know how to get your information. Please investigate. We have industrial peace and harmony because we carry everyone along”.
We made spirited efforts to speak to ACTU Chairman Mr S.C. Ilabor for his own side of the story all to no avail. However a member of the ACTU who pleaded anonymity spoke with our reporters: “Things have not being going well in ACTU for some time now. As I speak with you many of us have resigned as ACTU members because the Chairman practically turned ACTU into a weapon of blackmail and Vendetta. Most times he cajoles us into helping to settle his personal scores with staff of the College, instigating malicious petitions and stage managed investigations. On moral grounds Mr Ilabor is not fit to serve as ACTU Chairman because he was Vice Chairman in our Staff Multipurpose Cooperative Society for eight years. His regime is being investigated by EFCC/ICPC for fraudulent embezzlement, diversion/misappropriation of over #150million. Mr Ilabor was Chairman of Land Committee and we were told in Congress that the bulk of fraud was perpetrated in Land transactions, apart of Loan of over #5million he fraudulently obtained using his wife as proxy! You can see where ACTU problem started. The Chairman was using us to fight his battles! When we realized this we all resigned on moral grounds. The last stroke that broke the Carmel’s back was his latest campaign of calumny and vendetta against Dr O. E. Okonta a highly reputable Chief Lecturer and Governing Council Member. Mr Ilabor dragged ACTU into his personal squabbles with Dr Okonta over School of Science Deanship politics and College Staff Cooperative politics. All Ilabor’s allegations and petitions against Dr OKONTA using fictitious names turned out to be fabricated, malicious, all tainted in bad blood. How can we continue in a noble body like ACTU with a character like Mr Ilabor as Chairman, a serial blackmailer?”
On whether the Provost dissolved ACTU as published online, another ACTU member who also didn’t want her name on print for fear of harassment an intimidation replied: ‘That’s mere propaganda. We were all there at the Meeting of ACTU with Governing Council. We were invited following reports and petitions emanating from and against ACTU. ACTU Chairman had instigated an amorphous petition against Dr Okonta and purportedly carried out a Kangaroo investigation submitted to Governing Council. At the Meeting, the Provost did not even comment on the matter. So I wonder where the allegation that Provost dissolved ACTU emanated from. The ACTU members themselves promptly disowned Ilabor’s report against Dr Okonta having discovered it was all malicious, baseless, vindictive. We pleaded with Council to pardon us because we were misled and manipulated as weapon of vendetta against Dr Okonta. There and then ACTU members realized they had derailed substantially; instead of pursing its core mandate as anti-graft agency and watchdog against corruption, they veered into partisanship. It was at this point that the Provost lent her voice pleading with Council to pardon the flagrant violation of extant College/Public service rules and code of conduct caused by Mr Ilabor.”
In another development, our reporters called on the Staff Cooperative Society to know why they gave loan of #6million to the Provost and whether due process was followed. We gathered from the Cooperative Secretariat located on Campus that: ‘It is not true that we gave loan of #6million to the Provost Dr Mrs J. I. Anene-Okeakwa. Of course Dr Mrs Anene-Okeakwa is a member of the Cooperative Society and as such entitled to loans under prevailing conditions. But in this case it was College Management that accessed loan facility of #6million for the purpose of Accreditation of College Degree Programs which came out very successful. It followed due process as the application was considered, approved and disbursed by Cooperative Executives and ratified by Congress the highest decision making organ of the Society. Management has started repayment with normal cooperative interest and it ought not to be an issue at all”.
Asked to comment on the atmosphere in the College against the backdrop of an online publication that the College, is “boiling because of dissolution of ACTU”, some staff interviewed laughed over the publication as false alarm and a figment of the imagination of mischievous elements. Our sources within the College stated that the College is peaceful with everybody going about their lawful duties. A source stated: “We are not even aware that ACTU is dissolved though we all know the Chairman has turned ACTU into a monster. It will be in the interest of justice to have credible persons who are above board as crime watchdog. But the atmosphere is calm and there is conviviality. The provost assured us in the last Town Hall meeting that Management is on top of the Light problem in the College. That negotiations between Management and BEDC have reached advanced stage and light will be restored soon. Beyond the light issue, we are getting all our entitlements and benefits. Salaries as and when due, TETFUND being accessed by staff for development, research or book publications. As we speak, a number of our staff are overseas on TETFUND scholarship. The Provost and her Team are doing their best though as Oliver twist we will always ask for more”!
On the allegation that the Provost takes pleasure in staff suspension and dismissal with the case of My Lucky Onwuegbuzie in focus, a source privy to the case told our reporters that “Mr Onwuegbuzie committed gross misconduct which is even a dismissible offence. In spite of Government policy on use of social media and hate speech and in spite of College extant rules on public communication, Mr Onwuegbuzie using the social media to denigrate and incite staff and the public against both the Federal Government and College Management. Actually the College Management acted on circular issued by NCCE the regulatory/supervisory body under the Federal Ministry of Education requiring the College to conduct promotion examination for relevant Non-Teaching Staff. The Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) waded in and secured an understanding with Management to commence the exercise with Officers on grade level 11 – 14. Management in its usual way of giving listening ears to Staff Unions to ensure industrial harmony, accepted NASU request. Mr Onwuegbuzie who was not even affected by this promotion exam, threw caution to the winds, went on social media and published inciting comments that the NCCE/Management circular was demonic and evil and calling for boycott, thus instigating the staff against Federal Government and College Management. Well I know that Management followed due process to call the erring staff to order. His Union NASU condemned his action and pleaded for his penalty to be mitigated which Management obliged! So why are they dragging the name of Provost here and there over a mere administrative procedure? Is there any system without extant rules and regulations? Is there any system that promotes indiscipline? It was a panel that found him guilty not the Provost for crying out loud!
Our interactions with staff further revealed that the Provost has been managing the affairs of the College as an astute administrator. A senior Management staff who pleaded anonymity confided in our media Team: “Our Provost is just a messiah to the College. For three years now there is no healthy official car for her as Chief Executive. She has been managing the rickety car inherited. Can you believe that the so called official car at times breaks down on the road and the Provost will have to find her way using taxi or even tricycle (keke). Which other Provost or Chief Executive of FG institution can manage this way? She spends her monies to get the College going. Since she came on Board there is sanity in the College. Her War Against Indiscipline mantra is really paying off. An overwhelming majority of the staff loves and celebrates her. She is very kind, very intelligent, highly resourceful and innovative. Only few disgruntled staff are trying to rubbish her good image for political reasons, and they are not more than 10 attempting to heat up the system out of over 1200 staff! This is a case of INDISCIPLINE FIGHTING BACK. But they have lost the battle. You can see that the people are with her and God is with her. Please tell the world the truth! For my Bible states that Light shines in darkness and darkness can never comprehend!”