By Inyali Peter, Calabar
During the investigation of the former University of Calabar, (UNICAL) bursar, Peter Agi, there were retinue of petitions from almost all the over 200 units of the institution. But the want that broke the Carmel's back according to findings, was the weighty petition by the varsity branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
In an eleven page petition signed by its Chairman Dr. Tony Eyang and secretary, Dr. Jones Akung, on the 27th of September 2016, the association accused Agi of impunity, extreme disregard of the need for accountable behavior to individuals and established units and functionaries within the system.
In about nine allegations leveled against him, the union noted that the ex-bursar activities were essentially and most unacceptably vitiated the objectives of the Union's grim struggles for improved funding for the university. Agi was said to be working in ways that stifled the development of academic activities, discouraged academic initiative, frustrate otherwise very committed staff and endangered scholarship in the university.
The Union accused Agi of "Mindless and Unconscionable Rudeness to Professors, Functionaries, Colleagues and Staff". ASUU noted that the profundity of Agi's sense of self-esteem was quite legendary and there was countless reports of rudeness, insults meted on top university staff and functionaries including Professors, a situation described as " unforgivable " by the Union.
His arrogance according to the document was overbearing. When he was not directly insulting staff according to ASUU, he was cutting down on well considered approval made the Vice chancellor. This implies that Agi, consistently arrogated to himself superior approval powers to that of the Chief Executive and Chief Accounting Officer of the university (The Vice Chancellor).
This unacceptable act was of course absolutely new and strange to the university. In fact, it was in utter violation of the powers of the Chief Accounting Officer of the university. After his reapproval, payments was not dictated by availability of funds but by the whims and caprices of the bursar. This situation was regarded as the highest level of insubordination, betrayal of trust and share wickedness.
Similarly, Agi came under serious scrutiny over what the Union described as "Deliberate Withholding and Often Discriminatory Release of Approved and Legitimate Entitlements of Staff and Units". This accusation is more of an abuse of office as the ex-bursar was into the habit of releasing legitimate staff entitlement only when it pleases without recourse to datelines. Some staff entitlements was upheld for over three years for no meaningful reason other than his mood and pleasure.
For instance, under Agi, honoraria due to staff who participated in PGDM, MBA 1 and MBA 11 (Second Semester, 2013/2014 session), PGDM, MBA1 and MBA11 (First Semester, 2014/2015 session), Current/Teaching (First Semester, 2014/2015), Public Admin (First Semester 2014/2015), Marketing (Second Semester, 2014/2015) and Sandwich, August 2015 contact etc was upheld till Agi met his Waterloo.
A university is a training institution for both staff and students. In fact, even Professors are expected to continue to update and upgrade to meet up with contemporary challenges. Workshops, conferences, and seminars cannot be separated from any serious university. But, under Agi, staff development was frustrated as he deliberately denied them access to approved funds to engage in further studies or attend development programs.
University exist primarily for the purpose of academic thus, it is expected that anybody found in the academic environment should contribute meaningfully to the development of academics.
But regrettably, Agi's actions shows clearly that he knew little or nothing about the basic requirements for strengthening of academic programs and the improvement of quality of teaching staff. If this was not the case then it means that he was out to sabotage to the development of the institution.
His gross disregard for approvals duly granted to staff to engage in further studies as well as attend conferences, workshops and seminars was not only weakening the system but was depriving the university the opportunity to participate in programs where scholars gathers to share ideas.
In fact, the highest victims of this anti-academics practice were staff under TETFUND scholarship. Many of them were so frustrated that they abandoned their studies. Even those studying abroad, abandoned their studies all owing to the outright refusal of Agi to release their legitimate fees and other allowances.
Agi, amongst others allegations was also accused of "Refusal to Release Approved Funds for The Development of Academic Programs". Even word's renowned universities like Oxford, Toronto, California etc needs to constantly expand their programs to continue to maintain the revered status of leading universities in the world. In Nigeria, no university can smoothly function without proper approval of its programs by the National University Commission, NUC. Even approved programs must be constantly strengthened so as not to loose their accreditation which is periodically reviewed.
Painfully, Agi's penchant for and strange pleasure at refusing to release funds duly approved to enhance already accredited programs, even when such funds are available, are essentially subversive of the university's pursuit of excellence. Not only does the situation conduce to the accumulation of rot in academic programs, it also makes preparation for reaccreditation avoidably expensive.
Some Heads of Department, especially those with partial accreditation in many occasions had to go borrowing to address the basic needs for accreditation. May be, Agi was ignorance of the rate of implication of a loss of accreditation for the university, staff, students and their parents and the entire university community. He attempted many times to push the university to th embarrassing situation but thank God for the proactive nature of the Heads of Department.
The removal of Agi was indeed a blessing as all the allegations leveled against him by ASUU (Some will be discussed in subsequent edition) were found to be true by the joint Senate/Council committee set up to investigate him.
Again contrary to insinuations that the incumbent Vice Chancellor, Prof. Zana Akpagu was the masterminded of his removal, the Union revealed that ASUU was the first body in the university that raised the alarm over Agi's overbearing attitude. This was captured in the concluding part of the report against Agi.
According to ASUU, "It is regrettable that the university was indeed tardy in dealing with the matter. Had it firmly addressed the issues when our union raised them earlier in its protests to both the university Administration and the Governing Council, the university might have been saved the extended agony it has now experienced in the hands of that official".
The ASUU report, according findings was more indicting and incriminating therefore the allegation of witch-hunting against the VC does not hold water. The reports by the investigation panel clearly showed that the decision of the governing council to relief Agi of his position was informed by his high level of anti-academics activities, arrogance and alleged fraud.