The University of Ilorin is enmeshed in a controversy over the alleged improper promotion of a wife of the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Abdulganiyu Ambali. The lecturer, Taiwo Ambali, was among 112 academic staff whose promotion was recently announced by the university with effect from October 1, last year.
Mrs. Ambali was promoted from the position of Lecturer 1 to Senior Lecturer. But some of her colleagues protested that the promotion was in breach of the regulations guiding staff promotion at the university. Under the regulations, they said, a staff cannot be promoted to Senior Lecturer until after three years of service as Lecturer 1. Mrs. Ambali was a lecturer at the University of Maduguri when the University of Ilorin where her husband is the Vice-Chancellor offered her appointment as Lecturer 1 through a letter of May 30, 2015.
Following the release of the list of the 112 newly promoted academic staff, Kayode Afolayan and Solomon Oyelekan, in their capacities as the Chairman and Secretary respectively of a faction of the local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, wrote a letter of protest on February 6 to the vice-chancellor in which they accused him of nepotism over the inclusion of his wife in the list.
ASUU has two factions in the university, dating back to the crisis of 2001 when the university expelled 49 lecturers. The lecturers were reinstated in 2009 on the order of the Supreme Court.
In their letter of protest, Messrs. Afolayan and Oyelekan insisted that Mrs. Ambali’s initial appointment by the university should have been to the position of Lecturer 2 instead of Lecturer 1, and that she was not in any event due for promotion until after three years of her previous appointment or promotion.
In a prompt response to the letter in which the lecturers had raised other issues, the university management on the same February 6 issued queries to Messrs. Afolayan and Oyelekan, accusing them of “malicious allegations and publications”.
The university directed the officials to explain within 48 hours why disciplinary actions should not be taken against them for the alleged infractions.
A day later on February 7, the university followed up with letters to the two officials suspending them from their duties as lecturers. Reacting to the development, the Zonal Coordinator of the Ibadan Zone of ASUU, Ade Adejumo, condemned the suspension of the officials as an “act of illegality and cowardice”.
“This latest act of illegality and cowardice by the Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin is a classic case of corruption fighting back when you fight corruption”, Mr. Adejumo said in a statement. ASUU accused the Vice-Chancellor of indecency in the appointment of his wife, Mrs. Ambali, as a senior lecturer in the university.
“By appointing his wife on �temporary appointment basis'(without prior advertisement or interview), by placing her on Lecturer 1 after a fresh Ph.D. (while many staff Ph.D. who had put in years of service in the University are still on Lecturer 2 even after Ph.D.), and by promoting her after only one year (when all other staff have to wait for three years), Professor Ambali certainly breaks new grounds in corruption and indecency in the so-called ivory tower,” the union stated through Mr. Adejumo.
“The Union warns that the actions by the University of Ilorin pose a great danger to democracy, to decency, and to the anti-corruption efforts of the present government. How can the government proudly claim that it is encouraging citizens to ‘blow the whistle’ against corrupt officials while allowing its agencies to openly victimise whistle blowers?
“If University officials can be so openly corrupt under the glare of anti-corruption agencies, then what is the future of the fight against corruption? And how can democracy and justice thrive when a University, an institution that is supposed to nurture leaders and democrats, openly practise dictatorship and illegality while suppressing debate or dissent?”, the union further queried. The Vice-Chancellor has, however, faulted ASUU’s stance on the promotion of his wife and denied the charge of nepotism.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Ambali pointed out that the promotion of any academic staff is the sole responsibility of the Appointment and Promotion Committee, (AP&C), stressing that Mrs. Ambali was duly promoted following legal procedures.
“My wife commenced her career at the University of Maiduguri as a Lecturer II Officer in 2006 and was promoted to Lecturer I in 2009. She later transferred her service to the University of llorin and was recently promoted to the rank of Senior Lecturer by the AP&C.
“This act was sequel to the approval of both the department and faculty management team.” Mr. Ambali stated. Mr. Afolayan however faulted the Vice-Chancellor’s position. He disputed Mr. Ambali’s claim that his wife, having been a lecturer at the University of Maiduguri, was entitled to the position of Lecturer 1 offered her by the University of Ilorin.
“If you look at the promotion letter, when she got to University of Ilorin, she was promoted to lecturer 1 on temporary basis”, Mr. Afolayan argued in a conversation with PREMIUM TIMES.
“Even then, she ought to spend three years in University of Ilorin before she can be promoted to Senior Lecturer. She was also promoted to Lecturer 1 on Level 7, which would mean that she had spent seven years as Lecturer 1, which is another wrong information”, he stated.
“When the AP and C was to meet, her own (Mrs. Ambali’s) case was treated specially. The Vice-Chancellor had said he did not know about the promotion, how come he is now saying it is legal? He formed a special panel for his wife and promoted her to Senior Lecturer. The promotion ought to have come in 2018.
“Even if she were to be promoted on accelerated basis, there should have been a newspaper advert stating that there is vacancy in the position of Senior Lecturer in her department. But none was done. They promoted her on special recognition without following due process, which is totally wrong.
“Those are the issues. The Vice- Chancellor cannot feign ignorance in the case and cannot defend it. You don�t transfer years of service from Maiduguri to Ilorin”. When PREMIUM TIMES spoke earlier with the spokesperson of the university, Kunle Akogun, on the controversy, he had said the suspension of the two lecturers had nothing to do with the promotion of anyone in the university.
“Why will anyone be suspended based on an allegation? It is not true”, he stressed. Mr. Akogun explained that the two lecturers were suspended for “acts of insubordination, not attending classes, indiscipline and gross misconduct.”
He added further that “The two lecturers are not our ASUU Executive Council members”. “Our own ASUU Chairman, Dr. Abdulrahim, has not been suspended by the university, he is the only one we know”, Mr. Akogun stated.
The academic staff union has had two factions in the university since the protracted crisis at the university that led to the expulsion of 49 lecturers in 2001 for participating in a national strike called by ASUU over a dispute with the Nigerian government.
After eight years of litigation, the Supreme Court in 2009 directed that the lecturers be reinstated and all their salaries and other entitlements from the day of their suspension paid to them.
Although the university complied with the court judgement, it has remained at odd with the national body of ASUU which had backed the expelled lecturers throughout the protracted crisis.
As a fallout of the crisis, the university management does not recognise or relate with the local faction of ASUU which is recognised by the national body of the union, while the local faction that the university recognises does not participate in the activities of the national body, especially in union strikes over industrial dispute.
This has ensured that the University of Ilorin for close to two decades now has been able to protect its academic calendar from disruption by teachers’ strike. Messrs. Afolayan and Oyelekan are officials of the faction recognised by the national body but which is ignored by the university management.