There is a brewing crisis at the Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas, Ekowe, Bayelsa State, where some staff have expressed dissatisfaction with the newly appointed acting rector, Dr Iwekumo Wauton.
The staff have already petitioned the minister of education, urging him to revisit Wauton’s appointment with a view to cancelling it, as the processes that led to his emergence did not conform with the provisions of the Federal Polytechnics (Amendment) Act.
Section 8(2i) of the Act provides that anybody who is to be appointed rector of the polytechnic must have lectured in the polytechnic for at least five years as chief lecturer. But in the case of Wauton, he only joined the polytechnic from the Niger Delta University last year and never lectured in the polytechnic system all his life.
In the petition they sent to the minister, a group of staff who called themselves concerned staff of Federal Polytechnic of Oil and Gas, Ekowe accused the immediate past rector, Dr Enetimi Idah Seiyaboh of manipulating the processes to favour Wauton.
But Wauton believes the staff who petitioned the minister are mere disgruntled workers who did not have the right to undertake the action. He would not want to talk about the issues in contention, as he was in a meeting.
He only said one of his staff would speak with TNN on the issues. But nobody was there to address the allegations.
In the letter which was endorsed by Robert Igali, he said “I write on behalf of The Concerned Staff of the Federal Polytechnic Ekowe, to intimate the Honourable Minister of Education about the immediate and remote predicaments of the polytechnic, an institution into which over ten billion naira (N10,000,000,000.00) of tax payers’ money has been invested without commensurate infrastructure to show for it within the last twelve years when the institution was established. This is principally due to the high handedness and lack of capacity as demonstrated by successive Rectors of the institution.
“As such, the polytechnic has not fared well relative to sister institutions established same year and some even later. Honourable Minister Sir, Federal Polytechnic Bali was established same year with Ekowe. Available records show that resources invested in Bali amount to a paltry ten percent (10%) of those put into Ekowe. With the physical infrastructure in Bali, any government could, in anger, take a decision for the closure of Ekowe. This is as a result of the faulty leadership selection process that has characterized the institution from inception till date, and as such should not be allowed to continue.
“While all the Rectors of Bali thus far had been polytechnic lecturers who were very conversant with the peculiarities of administering the sector, those of Ekowe had been young university lecturers who were interested in amassing wealth and paying for their appointment as professors from corrupt university Vice Chancellors.
“The Honourable Minister may recall that one of the requests of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics in particular, other staff unions as well as student unions of Polytechnics, is to stop the practice of appointing lecturers (as succinctly captured in Section 8(2)(i) of the new Polytechnic Act 2019 as amended) from outside the polytechnic sector as Rectors. The obvious reason for this is that university lecturers do not find the polytechnic attractive enough; but would rather come in as the helmsman and leave at the end of their tenure, after ridding the institution of resources, in most cases. It is clear that their interest is not in the development of the sector; but in the pecks and benefits that come with the position.
“It is common knowledge that the appointment of Rectors of polytechnics is usually initiated by the Governing Councils of the respective institutions, and recommendation of three candidates done for the approval of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria. This process is usually predicated by strict adherence to all laws establishing the polytechnic as well as other relevant guidelines as provided by the Supervising Ministry in guaranteeing the credibility that should characterize the process.
“Contrarily, in outright disregard to the laid-down procedures of section 2.0 above, and to the greatest dismay of the polytechnic, the academia, interest groups and indeed public watchers, Dr. Timi Seiyaboh, the outgoing Rector of the institution, brought in Dr. Wauton Iwekumo from the Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University (NDU) in 2020 and got him appointed as Deputy Rector. This misdemeanor was perpetuated such that, as Dr. Seiyaboh exits the scene on Tuesday 27th July 2021, having completed a five-year tenure as Rector, the said Dr. Wauton Iwekumo will take over by hook or crook.
“Honourable Minister Sir, this act was perfected with the listing of Dr. Iwekumo as the first candidate on the list recommended by the Governing Council for appointment as Rector. It may interest you to note that Dr. Iwekumo suspended his appointment as Associate Professor in the university from which he came, for the personal gains he had discussed with the outgoing Rector.
“Honourable Minister Sir, the Federal Ministry of Education’s template in the advertisement for the position of Rector, as well as all guidelines on the appointment of Rector as stated in the Federal Polytechnics (Amended) Act 2019 had consistently stated that applicants MUST have spent a minimum of five years as Chief Lecturer in the polytechnic sector.
“This was cleverly omitted in this instance (see advert document from Polytechnic attached). Also find attached the score sheet of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) which, as you already know, is the agency that oversights Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. Very disturbing and sadly too, Dr. Wauton who had been a senior lecturer at the NDU, has never taught in the polytechnic and do not understand the peculiarity of the institution as such.
“Honourable Minister Sir, it is pertinent to point out that the different positions in the academic staff cadre of polytechnics do not have equivalents in the university system, and vice versa. He has therefore NEVER being a Chief Lecturer in a polytechnic for a minimum five (5) years until he was illegally and fraudulently engaged by the outgoing Rector Dr. Timi Seiyaboh barely a year ago, in preparation for this evil plan of making Dr. Wauton his successor as Rector with a view to continuing his acts of large-scale misdemeanour.
“It is against the backdrop of the foregoing that we make this passionate and save-our-souls appeal to the Honourable Minister that he uses his good office to save the already-drowning Federal Polytechnic Ekowe by appointing a Rector from amongst polytechnic lecturers with requisite qualification that have the minimum five years of teaching experience as Chief Lecturer in the polytechnic system as clearly stipulated in the Federal Polytechnics (Amended) Act 2019, as well as other relevant guidelines contained in the templates of your Ministry.
“In view of these, we humbly appeal to the Honourable Minister to take a critical look at the submission from the Federal Polytechnic Ekowe for appointment of a Rector in ensuring that Dr. Wauton Iwekumo and other candidates on the list who do not meet the criteria as stipulated in the law establishing polytechnics as well as other guidelines are not considered. However, if all three candidates on the list recommended for your consideration do not meet the requirement, you may direct that the process be cancelled.”
When TNN called the acting rector again for continuation of the interview, he did not take the calls.