From Chuks Moses, Awka.
The Governing Council of the Federal Polytechnic Oko, Anambra State, is under pressure from staff unions for alleged docility and shielding the Rector, Prof Godwin Onu over a One billion Naira (N1Bn) fraud charge hanging on his head.
Concerns are being raised over the tenure of the Council following reports of a rash of petitions at the Federal Ministry of Education in Abuja.
The Council, according to investigations had on the directive of the Minister of Education allegedly suspended Prof Onu, while the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offenses Commission (ICPC)investigated him.
Consequently, an eighteen count charge suit was slammed on him by the Commission on Jan 16,2017 but the arraignment has suffered serial setbacks, as it could not hold after several other adjournments till date.
The prevailing heat and industrial disharmony over the Rector’s return to his seat prompted the staff Unions in the institution to remind the Governing Council of their earlier petition over the matter.
The Council then allegedly issued a query to the Rector citing relevant Civil Service Rule infractions on his part which could lead to sanctions in line with existing Civil Service procedures.
Piqued by the return of the rector, the coalition of staff of the institution under the aegis of the Joint Action of Unions -made up of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics(ASUP), and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics(SSANIP)in a letter dated Sept 25,2017 to the Governing Council and the Minister, wondered why Onu’s recall came amidst outstanding indictment, investigations and pending arraignment in court for 18 Count charge bothering on fraud and deliberate misrepresentation of facts on oath.
The Unions in the letter drew the attention of the Council to the corruption charges which the ICPC had commenced legal action in the suit with Charge No A/35c/2016 dated Oct 18,2016 is still pending in the Awka High Court for conspiracy to defraud to the tune of N1 Billion.
The Unions said it was surprised that contrary to an earlier Ministerial directive that the Rector should hand over the affairs of the Polytechnic to his deputy pending the conclusion of his trial which was first slated for hearing in March 2017 at the High Court of the Chief Justice of Anambra State.
The case was later adjourned to July 4, 2017, and was further adjourned till November, 2017 which did not again hold thereby causing worries that with the way it was going, the trial may not begin before Prof Onu leaves office in March 2018.
The ICPC is also said to be worried at the unusual delays in bringing the rector up for arraignment at the court, having concluded all investigations into the matter since 2016.
There were fears that the rector’s resumption of duty could allegedly obstruct justice and the diligent prosecution of the case, as he continues to preside over matters and the school where witnesses listed to testify against him still work.
In its two-paged letter of concern to the Chairman of the Governing Council, the Union noted, “Chairman Sir, the Union wish to draw the attention of the Council to the relevant Sections of the Public Service Rule as they relate to such corrupt practices by Civil and Public servants.
“These include Sections 030404, 030406, 030409 and Sec 030411. The letter pointed out that such sections were invoked by the FG in the case of the immediate past former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Babachir Lawal when he was being investigated. Also that it was in line with these sections of the Civil Service Rule that the FG on May 11, 2017 suspended the Vice Chancellors of Federal University of Technology, Akure and Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Profs Adeniji Daramola and Olusola Oyewole respectively.”
The letter which was jointly signed by the Union chairman of ASUP, Godson Okeoma and his SSANIP, Inno Okeke told the Governing Council the continued stay of Prof Onu as Rector of the institution was injurious to the integrity of the case in court. It beseeched the Council to save the polytechnic from further slide as anything short of that would compel the FG to take action.
However, efforts to get comments from the rector yielded no result as at the time of filing this report. Repeated calls and visits to his office also yielded no result as he was always said to be “in a meeting”.