The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Federal University, Otuoke on Thursday threw its weight behind the demotion of seven professors of the institution by the Senator Gbemisola Saraki-led governing council.
In a communiqué signed by its chairman, Dr. Joseph Omoro, and the Secretary, Dr. John Kalama, released after its emergency meeting at the institution, ASUU said the action against the professors followed the extant rules governing the university.
ASUU said the governing council looked into the case of the seven professors at its 10th meeting and reclassified the appointments of the lecturers following alleged lack of requisite scholarship.
Professors affected by the exercise according to the union were Dr. Steve Nwabuzor, downgraded to Lecturer I; Dr. Leonard Shilgba downgraded from Professor to Senior Lecturer and Dr. Timothy Falade-Obalande, who was brought down to Senior Lecturer.
Others were Dr. Felina Nwadike, from the rank of Associate Professor to Senior Lecturer; Dr. Sepribo Lawson-Jack, downgraded from the rank of Associate Professor to Lecturer I; Dr. Marcelina Offoha, from Associate Professor to Lecturer I; and Dr. Evans Eze, from Associate Professor to Lecturer II.
ASUU said though its duty was to protect the right of its members, it would not encourage acts of indiscipline from members.
The union said it was the responsibility of its members to work hard and be productive enough to acquire requisite scholarship to comply with appointment and promotion guidelines set by the university.
It insisted the policy was not intended to replace appointees of the former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Mobolaji Aluko but an attempt to sanitise the system.
The union said: “For instance, Dr. Steve Nwabuzor, now downgraded from the rank of professor to Lecturer I is not COREN-registered yet was appointed the Dean of Faculty of Engineering by the former Vice Chancellor (Prof. Mobolaji Aluko). His removal as the Dean is in line with the extant laws of COREN.
“That when the current Vice Chancellor (Prof. Seth Accra Jaja) assumed duty in 2016, he did not remove Nwabuzor as the Dean of Faculty of Engineering despite the illegality (contradiction to COREN Act) of this appointment. He remained the Dean until December 2018.
“That the action (the reclassification/demotion/downgrading of the seven professors) was not a witch hunt by the current Vice Chancellor on perceived opponents/allies of his predecessor/diasporans as claimed.
“That the reclassification/demotion/downgrading of the seven professors was not an act against diasporans as claimed because there are other productive, resourceful and value-adding Diasporans working in the university.
“This claim is a mere whipping of sentiments and cheap blackmail of being a Diasporan is not immunity against academic productivity.
“That the reclassification/downgrading of the seven professors is in compliance with extant laws establishing the university.
“That the reclassification/demotion/downgrading of the seven professors is in line with the request made by the four unions of the institution – the ASUU; the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities; the NAAT and the NASU, during the inaugural meeting of the university community with the second governing council of the university on May 25, 2016.”
ASUU noted the action taken by the governing council and management of the FUO on the seven professors followed due process and not a witch-hunt as claimed.
The union claimed specifically that Dr. Steve Nwabuzor was a member of the committee that reclassified other staff members of the university, hence, should not turn around and claim ignorance of the process.
ASUU said the conversion of some of the appointments of the downgraded professors to contract appointments was in line with the public service rules of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He stressed that the advancement of lecturers to ranks above Lecturer II is based on requisite scholarship among other conditions and in particular in accordance to “the rules and regulations governing conditions of the FUO.”
ASUU demanded that the demoted professors should refund salaries earned illegally in line with public service rules.
The union said it was not a foot soldier of the university governing council and management but a “watchdog”.
"Any faceless individual coming to create more anarchy in our region should desist and embrace peace, as we will not allow saboteurs to instigate unruly act here. We are ready to partner with the security forces to maintain peace in the Niger Delta"