By Akon Etumukwa
An atmosphere of dissent has enveloped the Federal Polytechnic Bida, Niger State, over the planned renewal of the tenure of its incumbent Rector, Dr Abubakar Dzukogi.
The rector, whose tenure is due to elapse on May 22nd 2019 is embroiled in allegations of plotting to stage his return for a second stint despite approaching the compulsory retirement age from public service.
Trade unions in the polytechnic which separately addressed journalists in Abuja yesterday, were divided over the propriety of the rector’s return as some rebuffed the idea, while others offered unalloyed support.
A faction of the Joint Action Committee, JAC, of the unions comprising the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, Non Academic Staff Union, NASU, and SSANIP delivered a joint letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him not to reappoint Dzukogi.
Chairman of the JAC, Comrade Umar Saganuwan, said Dzukogi was due to retire from public service in two years, arguing that reappointing him would breach the guideline for appointing vice chancellors, rectors and provosts which stipulates that the rector must not be more than 55 years.
Saganuwan noted that the criteria used to advertise for the office four years ago, which pegged the age limit at 60 contravened the guidelines for such appointment, alleging that it was manipulated to favour the rector who was 59 years old.
The union leader, who expressed dismay over the failure of the governing council of the institution to advertise for the position of rector as Dzukogi’s tenure ends in May, said due to the rector’s retirement age, he was statutorily not qualified for reappointment for a second tenure.
“By convention and in compliance with government regulations dealing with the appointment of chief executives of public tertiary institutions in this country, the council ought to have placed an advert for the vacancy of such position at least six months before the end of the tenure of the incumbent occupier so as to allow for smooth transition,” he said.
The unions alleged that the Ministry of Education and the National Board for Technical Education, NBTE, were complicit to the irregularity as the council had forwarded Dzukogi’s name to the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, for reappointment and the minister is believed to have forwarded the name to President Muhammadu Buhari.
They regretted that allegations of financial impropriety and misdemeanour levelled against the rector in a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, were killed by forces influenced by the rector.
But in a swift reaction, another group which comprised representatives from the Bida Emirate Council, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics, SSANIP, concerned members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, and a collation of Bida youths, denied the allegations against Dzukogi and presented an open letter to Buhari supporting his reappointment.
Spokesperson of the group, Comrade Femi Fashaaba, noted that since the incumbent rector assumed office in 2014, the entire polytechnic had been transformed and no rector has outperformed him.
Fashaaba added that as an academic environment, the polytechnic which is running about 40 accredited courses has not lost a single accreditation in his four years as rector.
He argued that by the provision of the Polytechnics Act and an instant circular issued from the Head of Service, Dzukogi was qualified to have a second term, adding that the circular clarified that tenured appointments were not subject to Civil Service retirement age.
He said “Nothing by law stops Dr Abubakar Dzukogi from taking up his tenure” and expressed worry over the ambition of Saganuwan who lobbied the current rector to become deputy rector, but could not scale through, stating that “since then he has vowed to be an unrepentant enemy to this current administration; no wonder he is going places just to discredit this administration.