UNN VC Prof Bartho Okolo congratulates INEC chairman Prof Attahiru Jega as he confers PhD honoris causa on him at UNN 42nd convocation

UNN VC Prof Bartho Okolo congratulates INEC chairman Prof Attahiru Jega as he confers PhD honoris causa on him at UNN 42nd convocation

Ifeanyi Ezugwu, Enugu

For Professor Bartho Okolo, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria (UNN), his fifth and last year as the authority of the school is getting bitter and more bitter by the day. For him, he would wish his administration ends as quickly as possible.

Although, he has no fewer than nine months to stay in office, those close to him say he would want the tenure to be fast tracked as the newly constituted Governing Council moved in to look into all aspects of the University administration with the intentions to make the school responsive to the demands of the stakeholders.

The council had sat twice since it was reconstituted early this year and 247UREPORTS gathered that in those two sittings, the Vice Chancellor had often come out more worried and disturbed over the agenda and resolutions of the council which seeks to have in details the activities of the University ranging from the management of the NUGA games fund, recruitment of workers, award of contracts to general administration. The Council was also said to have shown its willingness to implement the recommendations of the visitation panel which had been swept under the carpet by the Prof. S.O. Igwe led Council over the years.

These issues above were said to be deliberately glossed over by the previous Council headed by Prof. S. Igwe which gave Prof. Bartho Okolo unlimited powers to do anything in the University. The previous Council was purely seen as a lame-duck which took pleasure in looking the other way while the university was almost grinding to a halt. The then Council Chairman which was said to be a product of the former meeting. National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Vincent Ogbulafor was alleged in different quarter as one person who had no idea on how to handle corruption cases and so when he was appointed as the Chairman of the UNN governing council, he had no problem looking the other way while the school rail-roaded to the abyss.

As it stands today, 247UREPORTS gathered that due to the thorough and uncompromising stance of the current council led by Professor Emeka Enejere to see that the University was restored to what it ought be, Prof. Bartho Okolo had often come out of every council meeting with some injuries to nurse. An insider source who spoke to 247UREPORTS on condition of anonymity said the Vice Chancellor had gone to seek medical attentions abroad after each council meeting.

He said ?After the inaugural session of the Council few weeks after they were constituted by President Goodluck, the Vice Chancellor was terribly hit by the demands of the council members and immediately developed high fever. He immediately took a break and flew overseas to seek medical attention. Also, in the third week of July, the Council met again for the second time and the VC came out again looking sickly than ever. Again, he took another break to seek medical attention abroad. This time it was alleged he travelled to India.

When he knew that trouble was looming was when his request for the newly constituted council to wait for about six months before commencing sitting was turned down. He asked for time to travel abroad for six moths but the council refused to oblige him.

We also gathered that when the situation was becoming very hot for the VC, he was alleged to have run to the former Vice President and his in-law, Dr. Alex Ekwueme to intervene on his behalf but the plan failed even after two visits to the Council Chairman. What I am not sure of was the rumor making the rounds that a staggering amount of N30million was dangled before the Council Chairman to cooperate but which was also said to have rejected. A close source disclosed.

The issues

The council was said to have frowned at the creation of the office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor DVC (Academic) which creation predates Prof. Okolo?s tenure in the University and which was not supported by the report of the last visitation panel. In the present circumstance, Council was alleged to have recommended that the office of the DVC Academic be scrapped with immediate effect. Although, 247UREPORTS gathered as at the time of going to press that there had not been any official letter to Professor Polycap E. Chigbu to that effect, the former Dean of the School of Post-Graduate studies of the University was said to have been making frantic efforts to go back to his classroom in line with the position of the Council.

Prof. Chigbu whose election into the position of the DVC was so controversial had been touted to be the right hand man of the VC whom according to sources was being groomed to take over from him (Okolo) at the end of his tenure in May 2014. It was so controversial to the extent that when it was becoming obvious that Prof. Chigbu would lose the election to one Prof. Aruhota Onaga of the Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology Department, though a very young professor, the Vice Chancellor, against the usual practice, moved the election to Enugu Campus of the University overnight just to ensure that his candidate (Chigbu) won. Close watchers of the VC?s actions say he was banking on Chigbu?s candidature because he was the only one he could trust to cover his tracks when he eventually leaves office.

On the issue of DVC, the visitation panel reports were said to have recommended only one DVC (Administration) in the University stressing that in the case of Enugu

Campus which is also headed by a DVC, the report was alleged to have recommended that the Provost, College of Medicine should be overseeing it. Although, 247UREPORTS made further inquires on the position of the DVC Enugu Campus but not much information was received as at the time of going to press.

Another issue that may have rattled Bartho Okolo was the directives by the Council to the Bursar (Mrs. M.E. Obi) and the Registrar (Mr. I.A. Okonta) of the University to submit detailed account of their work in the past four years.

This directives according to 247UREPORTS source was flouted by the two principal officers who were expected to submit the reports during the last Council meeting held in July and when the council wanted to raise its sledgehammer on them, a professor who was in the meeting saved them from the impending suspension order by pleading that the officers be given more time, probably till September meeting, within which to submit the report. As at the time of filing this report 247UREPORTS gathered authoritatively that the Registrar was already ready with his own reports. Though not much was heard from the office of the Bursar, fillers coming to 247UREPORTS newsroom have it that the Bursar is very lethargic because it was obviously suspected that she might have been handling financial matters with the VC through the telephone without any written document, a situation alleged to be occasioned by the VC?s poor attendance to office.

On the indiscriminate appointment of Senior Special Assistants (SSA) by Prof. Bartho Okolo, 247UREPORTS gathered authoritatively that the Council had given orders to the VC to sack all of them with immediate effect and asked him to get ready to give details of the fund the University may have illegally paid to these illegally employed SSAs.

247UREPORTS was told that the appointment of the SSAs was ostensibly contrived by the Vice Chancellor to have a leeway through which he could do certain things without the contributions of the principal officers of the institution.

Our source said ?these SSAs were employed by the VC to completely opaque the principal officers from knowing what the University was doing. For instance, one Dr. Anyanwu of the Micro Biology was appointed SSA to the VC on Exams and Registry matters. By this, he was acting in the place of the Registrar on those issues. There is also one Mr. M.E. Ugorji who had retired some years ago as a Deputy Registrar but the VC appointed him as the SSA on registry matters.

Also, in a bid to fully cage the Registrar, one Mrs. Ngozi Ezeibe who is a Deputy Registrar was known to be working directly with the VC on admissions by-passing the Registrar. She was also alleged to have at various times called meetings of faculty officers without the Registrar?s directives.

Professor Annie Muoneke was also to have been appointed the SSA to the VC on Project and Municipal Services. By this appointment, he was said to have usurped the functions of the Director of Works of the University. He was also saddled with the powers to oversee the Lion Water company of the University. As the head of the Lion Water company of the University, it was alleged that the University voted some N7million to Lion Water for its turn around and nothing visible could be seen on ground. In the light of the above, the Council might have been interested in knowing how the fund was implemented. In an apparent move to block any information leaking to the council, the Lion Water project under Muoneke was alleged to have sacked some two officers of the company, and one of them is Mr. Otti who retired from Bursary Department some years ago.

Also, affected by this sack is one Mr. Gab Ndu who the VC appointed as the SSA on communications. By this, he was usurping the functions of the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the University. Since he came into office as the SSA, the office of the PRO had been made moribund. The SSA had been made to supervise all the funds allocated to the Public Relations Department of the University.

Another factor that caught the attention of the Council was the appointment of one Ms. Oriola by the Vice Chancellor to head the ICT section and the payment of her salary in dollars. The lady was paid the sum of N2.5 monthly in Dollar equivalent. Curious members of the council were said to have asked the VC why his staff in the University should be earning such huge amount when the VC himself receives N1.5million a month. All efforts to get him to answer the question failed as the VC remained mute.

During the last council sitting, the Vice Chancellor was asked questions on who employed Ms. Oriola but thinking that he would be spared if he gives such reason. He quickly said she was employed by the Controller of Personnel Services, Mr. J.E. Jisieike but the council went a step further to immediately invite Mr. Jisieike to answer the same question. When Mr. Jisieike arrived, the same question was put to him and in his response; he said that Ms. Oriola was employed by the Vice Chancellor, an answer that was greeted by a defeaning silence. In a bid to break the silence, the Council right there and then stripped Mr. Jisieike of his position as the Controller, Personnel Services and ordered that the department be abolished and moved to the registry department forthwith while Mr. S.E. Ofoegbu, a Deputy Registrar was directed to take charge of Personnel services.

247UREPORTS gathered that the Vice Chancellor had employed over one hundred administrative staff since he assumed office without due process and based on information at the disposal of the council members, the council has called for the details of all those employed in the last four years. It was further gathered that the VC allegedly employed one Mrs. Ugonnabo, a first degree holder into the bursary department of the school and was curiously placed on GL.13.

Prof. Okolo was also said to have employed his wife and posted her to Enugu Campus without following due process, a situation that has caused some ripples within the University Community.

Over the months, the Council was inundated by petitions from different stakeholders in the University. The issue of N2,000 deducted from workers monthly was also tabled before the Council and could be part of the agenda for the next council meeting. Also, contractors who had completed their jobs over time but were yet to be paid wrote petitions to the Council seeking the intervention of the body.

Council also noted that the University had allegedly squandered funds which were raised during the NUGA games and the one that readily comes to the mind of the council members was the N500million sent to the University for the Completion of the Akanu Ibiam Stadium on campus. To that effect, he was asked to give account of the total money which he received as the Head of the NUGA Games hosted by the University.

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