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Tension In Uniport: VC, Professor Fight Dirty

Palpable tension has gripped the University of Port Harcourt community as the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ndowa E.S. Lale, and former Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Uniport Chapter, Professor Andrew Efemini, an activist engage in a war of attrition.

National Network  checks reveal that the duo are throwing tantrums at each other following accusations of improprieties against each other with Vice Chancellor Lale tabling what he called 'very strong cases' against Efemini, a professor in the Department of Philosophy before the Governing Council of the university.

The Vice Chancellor in a petition made to the Council described Prof Efemini as a fraudster and  eccentric anarchist.

He accused Efemini of leading 'thugs' who severally disguise as students to block the East-West Road and 'extort money and personal effects from innocent road users in the name of students protest'.

The VC's invectives read in part: “It should be noted that in his self-righteous 'holy rage', Dr. Andrew Efemini (as he then was) led a gang of hired thugs which unleashed an orgy of violence in the University and Aluuj community under the pretext of protesting the unfortunate murther of four students of the University of Port Harcourt at Omokiri, Aluuj on 5th October, 2012”.

The seemingly provoked Vice Chancellor claimed that it was on record that his unruly gang burnt houses, looted shops, raped women and molested innocent residents, including staff of the University with catastrophic consequences.

The Vice Chancellor further stated that the allegations against him were “mere concoctions from the warped mind of Prof. Efemini and his gang of professional trouble makers”.

He went on:  “In his now characteristic bravado and clownish shadow-boxing exercise, Prof. Efemini levelled allegations against me, without providing irrefutable evidence to back up his bogus and reckless claims”.

 Prof Lale disclosed that no federal university was allowed to collect school fees from students, adding “Discerning observers will expect a self-advertised champion of students' causes to know the differences between statutory charges and school fees. Such selective short-sightedness is typical of Prof. Efemini, in his haste to reach conclusions, before verifying the facts of any matter.

“The National Universities Commission (NUC) directed universities that might wish to exceed the N45,000 ceiling to consult students and other stakeholders, which Prof. Efemini did, while he served as Acting Dean of Students' Affairs in 2013. The subsisting 'acceptance fee' was paid by students during the tenure of Prof. Efemini as Acting Dean of Students' Affairs. I was not the VC at the time the 'acceptance fee' became official policy. I must be a superhuman to mislead Senate, comprising very distinguished academics.

“I was not the VC when Senate reached an agreement for its members to serve two-year tenure on the Governing Council. Nobody was ever prevented from contesting a second tenure, as recent election into the council has proven.

“Prof. Efemini is a certified fraudster, who has done incalculable damage to the hard-earned image of UNIPORT. His sadistic urge for cyclical chaos is not in synch with the activities of a conventional university. Prof. Efemini has not hidden his intention to disrupt normal academic activities in the university, since the subsisting peace does not conduce to his operational structure.”

Lale added that the current attacks on him were not the first by Efemini on a VC, stressing that he levelled similar allegations against his predecessor, Prof. Joseph Ajienka.

He added: “Prof. Efemini was pardoned by the management on account of a previous infraction that almost earned him sack. He prostrated from office to office and recruited all manner of persons to intercede on his behalf. No sooner was he pardoned than he launched his latest shadow-boxing exercise, to the embarrassment of all men and women of goodwill, who pleaded for the waiver of his suspension.

“Prof. Efemini has long ceased to teach his courses and he does not have contact hours with students, as required by extant rules. It is now time for him to be released from the services of the university, to give him enough time to pursue his destructive programme of unremitting anarchy outside the sane precincts of the campus.

“Such an eccentric anarchist has no place in an academic community that prides itself on polished behaviour, refined discourse and deference to the rights of others. Prof. Efemini should no longer be allowed to pollute the campus with his wild imagination and shadow-boxing pranks.”

Prof Efemini had accused Lale, who took office on July 13, 2015, of financial impropriety, highhandedness, intimidation and incompetence, calling for his immediate removal.

The ex- ASUU chair said he decided to petition the University's Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, Prof. Mvendaga Jibo, to end Lale's “abuse of office and poor performance”.

He said: “Prof. Lale criminally misled the Senate by not providing an approved schedule of fee in federal universities to the distinguished members. The fee schedule directed that the recommended fees for all students should be a maximum of N45,000 only.

“The directive is that students coming into the university should be charged fees not exceeding N45,000, all inclusive. The circular warned against the collection of acceptance fee, but Prof. Lale collected N30,000 as acceptance fee from each student. Under the draconian VC's watch, first-year students are charged N128,000, excluding non-statutory charges at the various faculties and departments.

“In 2017, Prof. Lale, in pursuit of his ambition to see stooges and surrogates go to council, caused the withdrawal of elected internal members of council, who were yet to serve their statutory four-year tenure. In spite of protests, Lale ruled that two years in council for Senate representation is legal. Let him provide the law. Prof. Lale, after two years, conducted another election to council at the Senate on February 28. The tenure of four years, as stipulated in the university law, was violated.

“Prof. Lale must be urgently removed from office and investigated to save the university from further highhandedness and damage. He cannot be in office as VC, while Senate necessarily reviews all cases of injustice to students, arising from his criminal concealment since 2015.”

Efemini also alleged that the VC and his illegal internal council members unleashed terror on him and some members of staff, especially lecturers who were opposed to his ruthless abuse of office.

When contacted, Efemini's lawyer, Mr. Higher King told National Network that the action of the Vice Chancellor tantamount to ultra vires.

His words: “The Vice Chancellor does not have power to suspend a fellow professor. The only body empowered to suspend a fellow professor is the university's Governing Council being presided over by the Pro-Chancellor”.

The controversial human rights lawyer accused the Vice Chancellor of reducing the tenure of Senate members from 4 years to 2 years.

Kings said that this action of the Professor Lale was the crux of the matter, adding that his client, as a human rights activist was infuriated and had to challenge the Vice Chancellor.

“Section 15 (1) of the University of Port Harcourt Act, Laws of the Federation (2004) is very explicit on this and I advise anyone in doubt to go and read sit up”, he posited.