…We don’t know whether there are crises, right thing must be done – Council
… Council Places Embargo on College Account
…stakeholders identify problems, proffer solutions
By Saviour Ekpe
The Akwa Ibom State College of Education, which was established in 1991 under the military decree No.2 of 1990 as a corporate body with cardinal mandate of conducting examinations and award certificates, diplomas, degrees and other academic distinctions to persons who have pursued any course of study approved by the College and satisfied such other regulations as the College may prescribe with a clear cut mission of producing God-fearing, intelligent and result-oriented Teachers who are poised to implement Educational Policies and Programmes of Government geared towards the attainment of the general goals of Education and best global practices.
Situated on the facilities of the defunct Teachers Training College (TTC), Afaha Nsit were made available to the new College for its take off, as concerted efforts were made to renovate the premises to meet the desired standard of the College of Education and in January 1991 the College of Education, AfahaNsit effective lectures commenced with a population of 179 students and 352 staff.
Today, the vision of being the leading College of Education in the country, committed to providing excellent and qualitative learning opportunities to students must have been beclouded by unnecessary petty politicking. Information reaching us shows that there is a cold and silent war within its ranks of leadership especially between the College Management and Governing Board. When Century Newsfront sought to unravel the mystery behind the brouhaha, it was gathered that commotion in an attempt to carrying out of their constitutional responsibilities as management accuses governing council of interference. A grape vine source who pleaded anonymity told Century Newsfront that governing council does not draw a line of responsibility as their roles are duly spelt out by laws establishing the college, “we are not comfortable the way council interferes in the management of the college. There are stipulated responsibilities, it is clear that council has and knows its role, likewise the management”.
Our source who explained that one of the areas of the show down boils on finances where the council ‘eyes’ the income to the college with a view to sharing in some of the proceeds, “the reason for this silent war between the management and governing council is about money, money, money. I will only divulge a tip of it, for instance, the N25m the governor graciously gave for the just concluded convocation; the N5m monthly subvention for the running of the college and any income to the college, council wants to have a certain percentage, refusal on the part of management brings about disruption in the system. As I speak now, the monthly subvention has been put on hold. The council is boasting that it was their initiative for the amount to come and that since management does not ‘comply’, they had to put it on a hold and this is not good enough to the system”.
The source lamented lack of effective operation and activities in the college due to the incessant and ongoing silent war, which has been on for some time now, “as I speak to you now, the new adhoc staff management recruited including the Technologists have not been paid for some months now. Right now, we don’t have chemicals in the laboratories, no consumables in the workshops, allowances and entitlements of staffers have not been paid for many months. How can a college that is preparing teachers run in such an atmosphere?”, the source queried. He identified the reason student attendance in the college is dwindling, “if you observe, student attendance in the college is dwindling by the day, the reason is not far-fetched, there are many polytechnics today that students go for NYSC after graduation and these students take advantage of it. What I am saying in effect is that; let’s put our house together so that certain gray areas be corrected for a smooth running of this college”.
Another source which spoke to Century Newsfront under the condition of anonymity explained the root cause of why the college deteriorated to the extent it is today, “it is true that council has some level of supervisory role in the affairs of the management. We have never been so dissatisfied in the way the college is managed. Government made a grave mistake to have drafted the key and sensitive officers of the college into the college. The provost is never an educationist, yes he is a professor, he is in a University but he is not an educationist. What worsened the whole situation is that the Registrar, Bursar, Chief Librarian, Director of Works even the governing council are all new to the system, infact, they were imported to the college. Even the chairperson of the governing council, though a staff of a University, is not an academic. This college is in crises. We don’t understand why Akwa Ibom State College of Education should be the only state owned Tertiary Institution that people are sent from outside to manage. Does it mean that people that toiled and labored for the progress of this school cannot manage the school? I want to tell you that the desire of every public servant is to grow to the zenith of his or her career, where you rise to a certain level that you could have gotten to the highest level of your chosen career, before you know it, it is being truncated by sending an alien from somewhere as a result of political settlement or family relationship in an academic environment. We are not there in the ministry to become Permanent Secretaries, since we choose to be here, we expect to climb the ladder of careers to the top once in a while. We know the Nitty-gritty of this Institution; we know who could fit in any post because we grew together in the system. We only hear announcement on the media that a new provost has been sent from so so or so University without advertising such vacant post”.
In his swift reaction, the Chairman of the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), Afaha Nsit Chapter who also doubles as Chairman of Joint Unions of the College, Comrade Ene Archibong noted that as union, several attempts have been made to let the government understand that the college has capable hands that can manage itself and that the issue of sending people from ‘outside’ to manage the college does not really augur well, “we have written several letters to state our standpoint that it is not the best option for government to send managers of the college from outside the college”. He averred that government undue influence in who manage the college is detrimental to the smooth running of the institution given its strategic roles in molding teachers, “if the right thing is not done at the choice of management, how will the college have a stable atmosphere for the grooming of people who will teach our children, what is the fate of education of our state?”, he puzzled.
Speaking to a cross section of academic staffers, who spoke on condition of anonymity said that they are actually aware that there are some internal bickering between the ranks of leadership in the college for a long time now, wondered why the supervisory ministry of Education and the governor not personally wade into the matter before it consumes the college and lead to the closure of the institution. While some threw stones on the provost for keeping back their entitlements, others praised his leadership ability in the provision of basic amenities in the college, “as long as I am concerned, the provost is trying his best. Look at for instance, I am in my office and we have constant power supply to power equipment in our offices and of course, we have good office space to work in. this is what an average public servant want. Before now, we were suffering from epileptic or non-supply of power”.
The President of the Students Union Government of the College, Comrade Mfreke Usoro while interacting with Century Newsfront in company of the Speaker of Parliament and Chief Judge of the College poured encomiums on the Provost saying that new accomplishments have been recorded at the assumption of headship of the college by Prof. Ekpo. The student leaders observed that if the heights attained by the current dispensation were achieved years ago, the college would have been envy of other institutions, “the current administration led by Prof. Matthew Ekpo has achieved so much, starting from internal roads construction and renovations; building of school of languages and the college chapel, which is under construction. Generally, the current Provost and his entire management team are student-friendly and they have the interest of students at heart. We are expecting more of such cordial relationship between management and students”.
When contacted, the Chairman of the governing council of the college, Mrs. Regina Ikpat with three other council members referred us to the college Bursar and Provost for details but denied some allegations leveled against the council. The council claimed ignorance of crises between the council and management but blamed management of insubordination, lack of transparency and lack of accountability, “I am not signatory to the college account and the money you are talking about was sent to the college account through Ministry of Education, the Bursar will give you details as the Chief Financial Officer of the college because the Bursar and Provost are signatories to the college accounts. On several occasions, we have requested for statement of accounts and they don’t want to give us to know sources of income and expenditure, the law governing the college empowers us to superintend over all matters that have to do with the college, so we are operating within the ambience of the law. Even the TETFund money, we are not aware what comes in to the college. We are insisting for the right thing to be done in the college. About the crises you talk about, I don’t know about that, I am hearing that for the first time but the right thing must be done”, she insisted.
On his part, the Provost of the College, Prof. Matthew Ekpo flanked by the Deputy Provost in charge of Administration, King Ibritam while interacting with our reporter explained that his appointment to head the management team of the college at this time was Divine and that he will do everything possible to justify the mandate given him. The Provost, a pastor in one of the Pentecostal Churches, used Biblical quotations in most cases to buttress his point, “the issue of TETFund fund, I have letters from TETFund with me here and if you look at it, they have specific things and amount budgeted to each to be expended. For instance, if you are asked to buy 20 tables for a particular amount, you have no choice but to buy those 20 tables and when they come for inspection, it is expected that they see those 20 tables. In their letter addressed directly to me it reads, ‘you are held responsible for each of the subheadings’. So TETFund money come with specific instructions”. He promised to make some positive marks and imprints before the expiration of his tenure as provost.