By Rich Odu
There is no end in sight yet to the crisis that engulfed the newly elevated Alvan Ikoku Federal University of Education, Owerri, over rumours that it had been reverted to its college of education status.
Christian Voice checks at the weekend revealed that the school had been under lock and key in the past one week, following the seven-day warning strike declared by the Joint Action Congress (JAC) of the three unions in the university, namely Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) Non-Academic Staff Union of (NASU) the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU).
The warning strike which ended Friday was sparked off by an alleged letter from the Federal Ministry of Education asking the former provost of the institution, Dr. Blessing Ijioma, to return as provost.
On the heels of this, some lecturers in the institution attested to receiving text messages purporting that the newly-appointed vice chancellor, Prof. Sadiq Abubakar, had been sacked.
Rumours of the reversion, reports said, had also affected other colleges of education elevated with Alvan, such as the Federal University of Education, Zaria, Federal University of Education, Kano, and the Adeyemi University of Education, Ondo State.
Inside sources told Christian Voice that on hearing of the purported letter of reversion, chairmen and secretaries of the unions in the four institutions moved to Abuja for clarification and they were told to ignore the letter.
Staff are, however, warried at the silence of the Presidency over the issue as the former provosts were accused of being unrelenting in their quest to cause the institutions to return to status quo so that they would regain their seats.
The four provosts were also alleged to have influenced the ministry’s authorities to write the letters which is causing the problem.
At Alvan, sources said that the union members chased out the former provost, telling her point blank that the relevation was a ruse and that she and her colleagues would never succeed in taking them back.
A lecturer in the university blamed the confusion on the delay in appointing a minister of education who would have taken decisions on such matters rather than the civil servants who, he said, appear to have been influenced.
It was alleged that supporters of the reversion had advanced the argument that the pronouncement of the elevation, which was made by former president Goodluck Jonathan after he lost the last presidential election, was done late and so are pressing the new administration to declare it null and void.
Proponents of the new status, however, say that the elevation was not former President Jonathan’s unilateral decision and may have been taken before the electiones.
“It was only pronounced after the election”, one of the Alvan staff said, adding that it was long overdue for an institution such as Alvan.
Meanwhile, Prof. Abubakar is said to be in total control, having conducted deanship and faculty representation elections as well as dissolved all standing committees and internal boards.
He has also inaugurated an electoral committee for the university congregation to elect their representatives at the governing council.
While the workers plan to resume tomorrow after the warning strike, students have however, expressed sadness that the strike had disrupted their academic programme.
They called for immediate resolution of the problem.
When contacted, union executives confirmed that the former provost, who was made the deputy vice chancellor in the new dispensation, called them on phone to inform them of a letter she had instructing her to resume work as provost.
According to Dr. Jovita Ogu, treasurer of the union, who spoke to Christian Voice, the former provost also said that the university status had been put on hold, pending the report of a committee which, she said, was looking into the viability of the four universities.
Ogu said that the letter was not shown to the union executives, nor was it presented to the VC who, until now, has not received a copy of the letter or a letter relieving him of his duty after resumption three months ago.
Accompanied by Mr Gabriel Ukah, assistant secretary and Comrade Maduka, prince secretary of NAAT, Dr. Ogu said that as at the time of going to press, chairmen of the unions, namely Comrades Ukachi Wachukwu, (ASUU) Lawrence Osuji (SSANU), Ifeanyi Enwereji (NASU) and Chieke Martin (NAAT) were in Abuja to iron out issues.