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AKS College of Science and Tech crisis deepens

...Tension escalates as NLC, Unions resist extension of tenure of former

…Embattled Registrar deploys police to haunt down Union officials

By Ekemini Simon

The last may not have been heard over the crisis that have deepened in one of the State owned Tertiary institution, Akwa Ibom State College of Science and Technology, Nung Ukim, Ikono.

The crisis which may snowball into anarchy if urgent steps are not taken to quell it is said to stem from the tenure elongation of the Registrar of the institution, Mrs Peace Dickson.

It was gathered that Mrs Dickson had served out her tenure on July 1, 2019 even as the recent extension violets the laws of National Board for Technical Education which governs the policies and activities of the tertiary institution.

The elongation of her tenure is alleged to have been manipulated by the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Education, Idongesit Etiebiet with the collaboration of a certain Director in the Ministry of Education after allegedly receiving a Greek gift of N2.5million from the Registrar for the deal to see the light of the day. The recommendation from the SSA on Education and the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Education is said to have made Governor Udom Emmanuel extend her tenure.

Consequent upon the tenure elongation, high ranking officials and Union leaders of the institution have protested the elongation describing it as illegal and blatant abuse of procedural approaches to management in any known tertiary institution.

The Union leaders it was gathered have vowed not to cooperate with her. This it is said may cause the institution to suffer.

The Acting Rector, Elder Vincent Essien in a bid to save the situation from further escalation had issued a circular on August 15, 2019 banning all meetings by Union Leaders, Staff, students and members of College Community in the institution except they obtain approval expressly from him.

Impeccable Sources from the institution revealed that why the Rector may be rightly disposed to her tenure elongation may not be unconnected to the fact that both have a case of financial impropriety which they are both working to cover. The sources who refused name on print said the Acting Rector has a case of N6million he cannot reconcile from Interim Joint Matriculation Board funds.

The embattled Registrar on her part had taken a step further to petition the Nigerian Police Force to aid her with claims of threat to her life.

In the petition dated July 27, 2019 and exclusively obtained by this reporter, the embattled Registrar alleged that eight staff of the institution who she described as terrorists had protested against her tenure elongation with threats to kill her.

Credible information obtained has it that the Registrar now move around with contingent of policemen who harass staff and union leaders believed not to be in support of her tenure elongation.

Information at our disposal has it that the senior officers among who should have taken over from the Registrar whose tenure expired on interim bases are Dr Samuel Oworekpe from Admission or Monday Etefia from Examination and record unit.

In a swift reaction to the development, the Nigeria Labour Congress, Akwa Ibom State chapter have frowned on the development describing the tenure elongation as illegal with a call that Governor Udom Emmanuel should come clean.

In a Media Chat with this reporter, the Vice Chairman and Acting Secretary of Nigeria Labour Congress, Akwa Ibom State, Comrade Iboro Ibara noted that the NLC frowns at the tenure elongation since it has no basis in law, Civil service rules and not known to happen in any other tertiary institution.

Ibara who described the tenure elongation as a kangaroo arrangement warned that if the State Government does not retreat the matter, the situation which he described as volatile has the strong possibility of leading to the break down of law and order.

He noted ” According to law, the appointment of the Registrar should be done by the Governor on the recommendations of the Governing Council of the institution. As at that time, the Governing Council of the institution was not in existence. The State Executive Council was not also constituted at that time.

” From where should we have the memo that went to His Excellency which resulted in the recommendations that the said woman whose tenure has expired be reappointed for an elongation of tenure. ”

The NLC Vice Chairman pointed out that in Civil Service procedures, when there is a retirement or lacuna occasioned by the coming to an end of the tenure of an official, what normally happen is that the most senior officer on that rank takes over from the official.

He said contrary to the practice, the institution is witnessing a situation where the Registrar claims she has a letter from the Governor extending her tenure.

While stressing that the NLC cannot be sure about the origin of the letter, he insisted that it will be a wise course for the State Governor to come clean.

He added ” Because of the nature of tertiary institution, there is academic freedom. You cant run the place like an army barracks. There you have people who are highly read. They want the laws to be obeyed. And the NLC wants to believe that the Government cannot be the one disobeying its own laws.

” She understands that the said tenure elongation does not attract the support of the institution. That is the reason she now rely on the police to give sad testimonies alleging threat to live against the union leaders in the college. And sadly the police are aiding her in the harassment and abuse of Union Leaders. This, the NLC will resist.

” This has made people to ask a lot of questions. The State government cannot be supporting this. It should not be said that Governor Udom Emmanuel is aiding and abating this. The executive being an arm of government is bound to respect the laws governing the institution.

” Since members of staff and Union Leaders she has assaulted belong to NLC, NLC is aware of the matter and has decided to step in. NLC cannot take it this low. It should not be said Governor Udom Emmanuel is violating the law. It is worrisome if government is truly behind this violation.”

Ibara stated that the NLC is worried even as Akwa Ibom people should be concerned how progress would be expected to be made under condition of rancour, tension and escalating misunderstanding.

He offered insight to the fact that normal working climate not to mention successes can not be experienced in a place of rancour where security agencies are hounding staff and where nobody is willing to work with the embattled Registrar.

The NLC Acting Secretary said that NLC have discovered traces of financial impropriety in her records hence she is afraid her deeds would come to the public.

Ibara said they are in the know that the Registrar wants to clean her table against financial misconduct leveled against her thus the reason she lobbied for tenure elongation.

The NLC Vice Chairman noted that to salvage the situation, all stakeholders must impress upon the Governor to see reasons to give a retreat to the elongation “else the centre would no longer hold and every thing will fall apart.”

The NLC Acting Secretary wondered Why the Governor would be hasty about tenure elongation but is yet to sign into law the amended bill establishing the institution.

He said the amended bill of the institution which has remain for a long period of time on the desk of Governor Emmanuel without assent has affected the college negatively as they can not access funds from Tertiary Education Trust Fund.

Ibara insisted that if the State government is concerned over the progress of the institution, they should rather give priority to the institution regularization by giving assent to the enabling law establishing the institution and not encourage illegality.

Contacted, the embattled Registrar, Peace Dickson refused comment over the issue and allegations leveled against her. She insisted all questions should be directed to the State Governor, the Acting Rector of the institution or the Commissioner for Education in the State.

She added ” I don’t have any allegation against me. Who so ever allege anything is saying to himself. ”

Contacted, the Acting Rector of the institution, Elder Vincent Essien noted that all issues are under control and there is no cause for alarm.

” Everything has been settled. No more issue or alarm. The approval came from the Governor, so what makes it illegal? The Governor has the right to do and undo. You should accept that. What makes it illegal? Do not talk about illegality so that you do not provoke the powers that be,” the Acting Rector said.

Essien disclaimed that he is not supporting the Registrar so as to cover up dirty deals, rather he is supporting the Governor to succeed.

He refuted claims of financial impropriety insisting that he does not know anything about such allegations.

Attempt to reach the Commissioner for Education, Prof Nse Essien for comment proved abortive as he neither responded to calls put across to his known phone line nor text messages sent to his phone line and WhatsApp contact as at press time.

Meanwhile, latest information at our disposal has it that emissaries from the State Government during the weekend have taken steps to dialogue with the aggrieved Union leaders and staff for peace. It was gathered that although few have bowed to pressure, many are poised on pressing on for the Governor to correct what they describe as abnormally.

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