Sack of 400 staff in MOUAU: ASUU reacts, petitions Presidency

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU), Abia State, says its attention of has been drawn to numerous misleading statements in the print, electronic and social media in relation to the expiration of the appointments of over 400 temporary appointees at the institution.

In a press release by the group signed by Professor C.A. Echendu, chairperson and Dr. F. A. Nkaa secretary, and made available to newsmen in Umuahia recently, they drew the attention of the general public to a number of verifiable facts relating to the expiration of the appointments of the temporary appointees.

Part of the statement read as follows: “On 20th March 2014, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU) wrote to the then Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the University, Professor Anya Oko Anya, informing him that the then Vice Chancellor, Professor Hilary Odo Edeoga, was among other acts of impunity and breaches of due process abusing his power to make temporary appointments.

The union noted that the use of temporary appointments to fill academic staff vacancies has become the rule rather than the exception. It has denied the university the opportunity of giving each candidate equal opportunity and selecting the best and most suitable candidates.

We believe that a competitive selection process is the best option for recruiting high caliber faculty and administrative staff. The Governing Council under Professor Anya Oko Anya as Chairman swept the matter under the carpet until 29th January 2015 when it was compelled by the deepening crisis to set up a cosmetic committee headed by a member of that Council, Professor Rasheed K. Ojukutu to investigate the petition from ASUU MOUAU.

It is interesting to note that that committee, in spite of its cosmetic character, observed that “the Vice Chancellor (Professor Hilary Edeoga) has been recruiting staff on temporary basis subject to decree no 48 of 1992 as amended” and “that these appointments were sometimes not taken through the department/colleges for input”.

The committee concluded that “the offer of temporary appointments was becoming rampant within the system, a situation that is becoming a rule rather than exception” The Committee recommended that all appointments rather than come from Management to Departments should come from Departments through Colleges to Management and that no appointment should be made outside the established positions as contained in the budget proposals of Colleges and Units”. The Governing Council under Professor Anya Oko Anya woefully failed to take any measure to redress the anomaly or even to implement the recommendations of its own Committee.

Due to the inability of the Professor Anya Oko Anya led Governing Council to redress the arbitrary use of the instrument of temporary appointment, the Union (ASUU MOUAU) on 5TH August 2015 wrote a petition to the Visitor to the University, His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President and Commander –in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Union in the petition noted that the most flagrant abuse of due process in MOUAU is that the Vice Chancellor (Professor Hilary Edeoga) has singlehandedly, under the guise of the instrument of temporary employment, recruited over one thousand staff and still counting”. Sequel to the petition to the Visitor, a Fact – Finding Committee was sent to the University in December 2015.

The Committee observed in its report that “the power to make temporary appointments should be exercised responsibly” and recommended that the “Governing Council should revisit the entire process” of appointments and promotions with a view to determining in specific and clear terms whether there are infractions and in established cases of infractions take decisions as may be deemed appropriate.

The Federal Ministry of Education upheld the recommendation of the Fact – Finding Committee and directed that action be taken by the Governing Council. The Governing Council led by Professor Anya Oko Anya failed to comply with the directive of the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu to revisit the entire process of appointments and promotions.

The consequences of the unbridled temporary appointments by Professor Hilary Edeoga and the inactions of the Professor Anya Oko Anya led Governing Council were a continuously increasing and unbudgeted wage bill which resulted to the following: Unilateral stoppage of the payment of excess work load allowance for academic staff and hazard allowance for non – academic staff.

This was followed by the non-remittance of authorized deductions from staff salaries.
These authorized deductions include loan repayment deductions due to First Bank and Union Bank leading to the accumulation of default charges and mounting interests by the debtor staff, membership contributions to staff and union cooperatives and the check-off dues of staff unions.

This was still followed by fractional payment of salaries of staff which has continued till date as follows – January 2017 salary 75%, union and cooperative deductions 68%; February 2017 salary 75%, union and cooperative deductions 8.4%; March 2017 salary 80%, union and cooperative deductions 4%; April and May 2017 salaries 75%, union and cooperative deductions 58%, “June 2017 salary 75%, union and cooperative deductions 27%. The consequences in (4a), (4b) and (4c) have continued till date.

It is important to point out that in line with the provisions of the Federal University of Agriculture Decree number 48 of 1992, Schedule 2, 15(1), “the Vice Chancellor shall have the power to make temporary appointments to academic and non-academic positions for a period not exceeding 12 calendar months.

This was clearly indicated in the appointment letters of the temporary appointees that “the appointment will terminate automatically after one year”. With the coming of a new Governing Council, the Union on 20th June 2017 wrote to the Governing Council to bring to the attention of the Council the state of affairs in the university in relation to the non – implementation of the ministerial directive on the recommendations of the FACT- FINDING Committee.

The Union demanded that the fractional payment of salary should cease immediately and that the Governing Council should take immediate steps to redress other weighty issues that border on impunity by the former vice chancellor and professor Anya-led Governing Council.

In the light of the foregoing, the claim that MOUAU sacked over 400 staff is an utter falsehood and totally misleading.

The appointments of these temporary appointees automatically expired on its own as provided for in the extant laws of the university and as clearly stated in their appointment letters.

We congratulate the Council on the step taken to address the illegalities committed by the past Vice chancellor, Prof. Hilary Edeoga and Council headed by Prof. Anya O. Anya.
We also urge and encourage the Governing Council to deal with the other equally weighty issues as uncovered by the Presidential Fact-finding Panel and by the numerous University panels.

We hereby use this opportunity to remind the Visitor, that a Presidential Visitation Panel to MOUAU is long overdue by law. We therefore urge the Visitor, President Muhammadu Buhari to dispatch a Presidential Visitation Panel to Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, as is required by law, to conduct a forensic staff and financial audit of the conduct of the business of the university from 1st March 2011 – 29th February 2016.

This would afford an opportunity for detailed investigation into what has become the Stone Age in the life of MOUAU.

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