By John Ikani
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Monday disclosed that it is setting up a committee to investigate how the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami was appointed Professor of Cyber Security by the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO).
The union said it was not convinced that the Minister deserved the appointment.
In September, Pantami was among seven academics who were elevated by the Council of FUTO to the position of Professorship at the council’s 186th meeting.
The university, in a statement listed others to include Lawrence Ettu as a Professor of Civil Engineering; Godfrey Emeghara as a Professor of Maritime Management Technology; Okechukwu Onyelucheya as a Professor of Chemical Engineering; Alex Opara and Chikwendu Okereke as professors of Geology, and Conrad Enenebeaku as a Professor of Chemistry. The university said they were all associate professors, also called readers, before their elevation.
Pantami, who recently attracted a public storm over past controversial religious comments which many described as inciting and disturbing was also criticised over the appointment.
The university was also not spared as many scholars and activists described the minister’s appointment as patronising and “an assault to Nigeria’s academic system.”
The backlash led to ASUU national leadership’s decision to set up a probe committee through its Owerri zone.
The report of the committee, which was last week leaked in the media, had cleared the Minister, noting that the appointment followed due process.
ASUU national body rejects report
However, reacting, the national body of the union said there was something wrong in Panatami’s appointment.
The President of the lecturer’s union, Emmanuel Osodeke, a Professor, while addressing journalists in Abuja on Monday at the end of its two-day meeting of the National Executive Council, said ”there are many unanswered questions on Mr Ibrahim’s professorship”.
According to him, the public should await its verdict at the end of the probe by another panel it had already set up.
He said; “ASUU NEC members, like many other concerned Nigerians, did not accept the report of the ASUU FUTO congress. There are serious doubts and unanswered questions bordering on the qualification of Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) for the position. The FUTO Branch Committee’s report failed to justify Dr. Isah Ali Ibrahim’s (Pantami’s) appointment to professor on the bases of requisite experience, professional suitability and antecedents at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa (ATBU).”
ASUU called on the management of Nigerian universities and other academic institutions to join in its efforts to safeguard what it called the waning image of Nigeria’s university system, saying the vice-chancellors “have no business trading honorary degrees and academic positions for personal and immediate gains.”
ASUU said doing so will continue to smear “the collective integrity of committed scholars and other patriots who are working day and night to uplift the system that produced them.”
The union said even though the congress of its FUTO branch had endorsed the appointment of Mr Ibrahim as a professor, the secretary of the committee the FUTO branch set up had made a u-turn to reject the verdict, giving a dissenting report.
The union said it would probe the activities of its members in the award of the professorship, saying the report raised more questions than answers.