Seven professors who were downgraded to Lecturers I and II by the governing council of the Federal University, Otuoke on 17th December are crying foul that the action was a witch-hunt and discriminatory against diaspora lecturers by the vice chancellor of the school, Prof. Seth Accra Jaja.

The university said they “re-classified academic appointments by downgrading 7 teaching staff appointments to lower ranks for lack of requisite scholarship” because they wanted to “sanitize the system in order to take the University to greater heights.”

In a press release published by the school on the university website on 18th December, 2018, it listed the downgrades as follows:

  1. Dr. Steve Nwabuzor, who was downgraded from the rank of Professor to Lecturer 1.
  2. Dr. Leonard K Shilgba, downgraded from the rank of Professor to Senior Lecturer.
  3. Dr. Timothy Falade Obalade, downgraded from the rank of Associate Professor to Senior Lecturer.
  4. Dr. Felina Nwadike, downgraded from Associate Professor to Senior Lecturer.
  5. Dr. Sepribo Lawon-Jack, downgraded from the rank of Associate Professor to Lecturer 1.
  6. Dr. Marcellina Offoha, downgraded from the rank of Associate Professor to Lecturer 1.
  7. Dr. Evans Eze, downgraded from the rank of Associate Professor to Lecturer 2.

But speaking to journalists in a press conference by the affected teachers, one of the affected professors Steve Nwabuzor said, “Having replaced all the Aluko appointees in positions of leadership, Prof. Jaja decided to terminate the appointments by recklessly and illegally demoting them and converting their tenure appointments to contract appoints. It should be noted that all the seven professors purportedly demoted here are from the diaspora. Our appointments were ratified by the previous governing council of the university.”

Prof. Mobolaji E. Aluko was the inaugural vice chancellor of the university who having served from 2011 until the end of his tenure in 2016 appointed the diaspora teachers.

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When asked why the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was silent on the issue, the professor Steve Nwabuzor said, “I had a running battle with the president of ASUU when Prof. Bolaji Aluko was the vice chancellor. The president of ASUU is a lackey to Jaja so what he does is, whatever ASUU is doing, he doesn’t take our case before the congress of ASUU. He decides with a select few along with Jaja. Jaja used them as foot soldiers to get his bid to be done. Jaja gave him contracts in the university – you want to hear from me? Quote me directly.”

Another affected professor Dr. Felina Nwadike protested, “We may have come from the diaspora to serve our country. The vice chancellor has for 3 years remained in his residence in his home institution in Port Harcourt making twice weekly trips to Otuoke and is busy pursuing perceived opponents.“

And another professor claimed, “Call American University if they will not authenticate I have 4 masters degrees, a bachelor of science and a PhD and two of those are from the American University.”

However, in a rejoinder earlier by the university, the school disputes that the vice chancellor has any “personal disagreement with any of the said persons at anytime”, insisting the action were the execution of decisions of the “Governing Council (not the Vice Chancellor) of Federal University Otuoke at its 10th meeting’ and that its motive were to “sanitize the system in order to take the University to greater height.”

It is hoped that the university and the affected professors will use established mechanisms to reach a fair resolution of the impasse in the spirit of cooperation, oneness and brotherhood with a common destiny.

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