By Mohammed Abdullahi
The Hon. Minster may recall that I wrote the first letter on February 28, 2022 after subterranean efforts were deployed by the Kaduna Polytechnic Governing Council to justify the exclusion of Professor Muhammad Sani Yahaya from the recruitment exercise through recommending the appointment of the Acting Rector, Dr Suleiman Umar, as the substantive rector for the institution.
The exclusion of Professor Yahaya, a teacher with the Kaduna State University, from the recruitment exercise had sparked off outrage among members of the polytechnic community, following a deliberate ploy not to invite academics of professorial status. Despite protests and a press conference called by the don, the Governing Council still went ahead to recommend Umar for appointment as substantive rector.
Aware that the Governing Council was allegedly not willing to revisit his exclusion from the interview, Prof Yahaya approached the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) for adjudication over the matter. As it is, both sides have commenced legal fireworks, thus invalidating any planned appointment of a new substantive rector until determination of the case.
With the illegal tenure of Dr. Umar ending next week, May 18, 2022, plans are allegedly already afoot to procure yet another illegal tenure extension for Dr. Umar who has so far spent over year in acting capacity; an act that is not only illegal in civil service rules, but also prohibited by the Polytechnic (Amendment) Act 2019.
Those accused of being behind the illegality of renewing six-month extension for Dr Umar on November 17, 2021 are hell-bent on repeating their ignoble act. The circumstances under which Dr Umar’s extension of six-month tenure was renewed in November 2021, contrary to the provision of the Polytechnic (Amendment) Act 2019, is suspect as the tenure extension was widely believed to have been procured on the altar of alleged financial inducements.
With the current illegal tenure extension expiring on May 18, 2022, subtle plans have already been concluded to secure yet another illegal extension in order to perpetuate the cabal’s riotous disposition. Frightened by the likelihood that Dr Umar’s appointment as the substantive rector may turn out an elusive dream, the Registrar, Dr Muhammad Sani Musa, who is widely perceived by many as the real brain behind the crisis, is allegedly contriving yet another illegal extension.
In a move that is causing outrage and tension amongst members of the polytechnic, the Registrar on May 09, 2022 wrote to both the Chairman and Members of the Governing Council to approve yet another considered by many as illegal renewal of six-month tenure for Dr Umar to continue in office as the Acting Rector. If the Council approves such a reprehensible recommendation, it will not only be a subversion of the Polytechnic (Amendment) Act 2019, but also a clear case of enthroning embarrassing impunity.
Anyone conversant with your antecedents must be at a loss on why you have not beamed your searchlight on the corruption-ridden Kaduna Polytechnic and the many infractions that have gone uninvestigated. From the news and commentaries trailing the narratives on this matter, it is clear that allowing Dr Umar to continue serving as Ag. Rector is illegal and a violation of the Polytechnic (Amendment) Act 2019 which states: “In the case of vacancy in the office of the rector, the council shall appoint an acting rector who should not be in office for more than six months”.
It is only in Kaduna Polytechnic that the tenure of an Ag. Rector was renewed beyond the approved six-month as enshrined in the Polytechnic Act. There are scenarios in Mubi and Auchi Polytechnics where acting rectors never had their tenures renewed after the expiration of the six-month period as enshrined in the law. The question on many lips is: Why is Dr Umar’ case different?
The answer to this is very easy to make sense of. The tenure of Dr Umar has given rise to suspicions that the development has given right to an exclusive club of a privileged cabal to limitlessly access the financial vault of the institution. Critical stakeholders are beginning to worry that alleged over 100 IGR contracts, running into hundreds of millions have been awarded to cronies of this illegal management, with less emphasis on academic development.
The thinking of many people within the school community and beyond is that the new people on the controversial platforms of power believe that with money, anyone can be compromised. A glimpse of the man who now serves as the Chairman of the Contract Committee of Kaduna Polytechnic will give the Hon. Minister the clue on why the Registrar is perceived as the force behind what is tearing the school apart.
The Executive Secretary of the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), Professor Idris Bugaje, who is the immediate rector of the polytechnic, has been unjustifiably accused of being behind the travail of Dr Umar. As Executive Secretary of NBTE, he cannot be seen to be quiet when things are wrongly done.
Beside being a constant victim of blackmail through a faceless group called KadPoly Forum, Prof Bugaje has refused to be cowed in remaining silent in the face of a campaign of calumny unleashed on him.
Happily, many accusing fingers are pointing at the KadPoly Forum and labelling it as a fictional platform created by those who are committed to helping themselves in sustaining the despicable illegality for pecuniary reasons. Mallam Musa Muhammed and Joseph Kazachan, previously taunted as the chairman and secretary of the Forum, are allegedly only fictional personalities deployed to fight the principled stance of Prof Bugaje who has remained relentless in standing up against lawlessness in the polytechnic system.
For this crisis rocking the polytechnic to be resolved, the illegal extension of another tenure being sought for Dr Umar should be denied. A new panel for the recruitment of a new rector should be set up under the watch of the Ministry, NBTE and incorruptible technocrats in order to conduct an interview for a new rector.
All cases of corruption allegation levelled against the Dr Umar-led management, especially in the award of IGR contracts ruling into hundreds of millions of naira, should be investigated. A new Acting Rector should be appointed for a period of six months in order to take over the affairs of the polytechnic. The Governing Council should not be exclusively allowed to conduct the recruitment interview for a new rector as the Council has not been able to demonstrated the type of impartiality expected of it.
Those who love opulence more than academics should not be allowed to diminish the excellence of this premier polytechnic. For now, the Governing Council is largely seen as an interested party and Dr Umar’s controversial tenure should not be renewed for another six months.
Renewing Dr Umar’s tenure for another illegal tenure amounts to drilling a hole in the path of transparency. I pray to the Almighty Allah to grant the Hon. Minister the wisdom and strength to end the hawkish manipulations of those determined to destroy Kaduna Polytechnic.
Abdullahi, a public commentator, writes from Minna, Niger State.