A face-off between the provost of Abia State College of Education Technical, Arochukwu, (ASCETA), Dr Philips Nto and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) over the sack of a lecturer is worsening.
It is also taking on political undertones.
The union accused Dr Nto of witch-hunt in the sacking of the lecturer, Mr Kevin Egesi, a union leader and called for his reinstatement.
Dr Nto spoke on Saturday, however, that Egesi was redundant and was fired as part of a reorganization going on in the college since two years ago.
The provost maintained that because of the redundancy, Egesi had time to engage in partisan politics and was holding town hall meetings with governorship candidates with the exclusion of that of the Peoples Democratic Party.
“Even if he is acting on the mandate of COEASU to interview or hold town hall meetings with governorship candidates, courtesy demands that the PDP candidate ought to be there also.
“But he did that without the PDP governorship candidate,’’ Nto said.
Rising from a zonal delegates’ congress of the union in Owerri on Friday, the South East Coordinator of COEASU, Dr Churchill Okonkwo, noted that Egesi was the sole victim of the re-organisation.
He lamented that academic staff in the college were being owed more than 27 months salaries in addition to being promoted without benefits.
“What the sacked chairman of COEASU in ASCETA was doing is what every chairman that is sympathetic to the chapter will do to request that the arrears of salaries be paid.
“That was what Egesi and his executive were doing; fighting for the welfare of academic staff in the college, but the provost took it as a personal war,’’ he said.
Okonkwo argued that to carry out re-organisation in a College of Education, there must have been memoranda from government and from the college’s governing council, but there was none.
“ASCETA does not even have a governing council,’’ he said.
The zonal coordinator wondered why the provost failed to access the personnel file of Egesi before claiming that the sacked lecturer had no masters’ degree and was redundant.
“If he had checked the personnel file, he would have realised that Egesi had already gotten his Masters in Economics and is about to complete his PhD,’’ he said.
Okonkwo claimed that Nto himself lacked the qualification to be a provost and urged the state government to review the provost’s appointment.
“If the government cannot pay the salary arrears, that’s okay, but saddling the system with incompetent persons is out of it. COEASU will not accept it,’’ he stressed.
He said COEASU made some overtures to nip the issue in the bud in the past, but they did not work.
He added that the union was considering many options including a strike and court actions if the provost failed to reinstate the sacked lecturer.
He also urged the provost to step aside for an investigation into the management of the resources of the college.
Dismissing the union’s allegations further, Dr Nto said Egesi’s sack had nothing to do with the struggle for improved academic staff welfare and payment of salary arrears.
Nto insisted that Egesi’s sack was based on a reorganisation that started two years ago in which tens of staff members were affected.
“Egesi happens to be one of them and the primary reason was because he was redundant,’’ he said.
Nto said Egesi was neither teaching any course nor functioning as an administrative staff in the institution.
He described COEASU’s claim that he was not qualified to be a provost after seven years on the seat as “unfortunate’’.
He noted that the national and zonal leadership of the union visited him in 2022 but didn’t see anything wrong with his appointment or qualification after seven years.
“Abia State College of Education is a state-owned institution and managed by the state and guided by laws of the House of Assembly.
“By Abia State law, I am eminently qualified to be the provost,’’ he maintained.
Nto added that he had been teaching in a university in the past 17 years and graduating students most of whom now teach in the same college of education.
“Why are they particular about Egesi? Is Egesi bigger than others that were affected in the reorganisation? Why didn’t they call for the reinstatement of other people sacked,’’? he queried.
“They also went to the press to give directives to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu. Is it not an insult?
“Since the matter is already public, let it be settled in public,’’ Nto stressed.