By Oswald Agwu
Unions at the Federal College Agriculture, Ishiagu, Ebonyi State, on Monday, locked all the entrances into the institution in protest of alleged corruption, incompetence of the provost and fund embezzlement by three staff members.
The unions under the aegis of the Joint Action Congress (JAC) who were joined by some interest groups in the host community, also locked the administrative office, the Provost’s Lodge and other sensitive units of the College.
The protesters numbering over 500, displayed placards with various inscriptions such as “stooges have hijacked the provost’s duties; “enough of corruption in FECAI”; “the provost and his cohorts must go.”.
Speaking on the protest, the branch chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) in the institution, Mr Bamidele Adekunle, said that the leadership of the Provost, Dr Wilfred Nwangwu has been hijacked by three cabals who he alleged were cohorts of the Provost.
He noted that the matter had gone beyond the provost, as the unons have petitioned the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria over the activities of the three staff whom he said were the junior cadre.
Adekunle added: “They take management decisions, run the institution’s affairs, embezzling funds notably the N13million released by the Federal Government for sustainable agricultural programme to cushion the after effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chairman, Senior Staff Association in the institution, Mr Chukwudi Ezebuiro, decried the present situation in the College, adding that such actions rubbishes the legacies of the institution’s past management, especially those of Nwangwu’s predecessor, Prof. Justina Mgbada.
He noted that the unions have petitioned the police, Department of State Security (DSS) in addition to petitioning the relevant regulatory agencies, while efforts were being made to also petition the anti-graft agencies on the activities of the three cabalistic staff with the provost.
Ezebuiro stressed: “Relevant rules and regulations were strictly obeyed during Mgbada’s tenure but in Nwangwu’s reign, inefficiency, corruption among others are the order of the day.”
On his part, the chairman, Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes in the school, Mr Ahamefula Nkemdirim insisted that the institution’s gates would continue to remain shut even after schools re-open at full relaxation of COVID 19 lockdown unless a asubstantive provost or capable acting provost is appointed.
Nkemdirim alleged that the said three staff in their power, re-posted the Director of FECAI Ventures, which was their main source of internally generated revenue for refusing to connive with them to embezzle more funds of the institutions, a development he said was unbecoming.
The institution’s Provost, Dr Wilfred Nwangwu initially declined comment when contacted on telephone on the ground that the Executive Secretary of Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria directed him not to speak to the press.
Meanwhile, he later had a re-think, saying that the allegation of the staff overbearing attitude was ‘partially true’ as they always ignored his directives.
He regretted the development and explained: “They always did what they like because I directed the institution’s registrar to re-post them but he instead re-posted those who are actually working.”
He however, noted that the solution to the problem will be the re-posting of the three staff for peace to reign in the institution.
The College, like all institutions in the country are currently closed to academic activities owing to the COVID-19 lock down.
However, being also a research institution, some staff, especially of the management cadre andd others of essential services still go to work. Union activities were also kept alive, pending the reopening of schools by the federal government.