Nigeria’s minister of communications and digital economy, Isa Ibrahim, popularly known as Pantami, has reacted to the verdict passed by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on his appointment as a professor of Cybersecurity by the Federal University of Technology, Oweri (FUTO).
Mr Ibrahim, who spoke on Wednesday while addressing journalists shortly after the Federal Executive Council Meeting (FEC) which was chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said he would refrain from publicly speaking on the issue because the matter is in court.
The minister had spoken extensively on a policy document approved by FEC which mandates government officials and agencies to mandatorily use official emails with the government’s domain name, but when asked about the ASUU’s position on his professorship award, he declined comment.
The minister said: “On your second question, no comment. No comment, and no comment. That is my position. I’m here for an official assignment that focuses on my responsibility. So anything to deal with my ministry of communications and digital economy, I can be subjected to you and that is why I come here. I couldn’t go anywhere.
“What is most important is that the institutions you have mentioned are in court. As a government official, do you know what contempt of court is? You need to know. So because of this, I’m a law-abiding citizen.”
In September, 2021, Mr Ibrahim was among seven academics who were elevated by the council of FUTO to the position of professorship at the council’s 186th meeting.
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The university, in a statement, listed others to include Lawrence Ettu as a professor of civil engineering; Godfrey Emeghara as a professor of maritime management technology; Okechukwu Onyelucheya as a professor of chemical engineering; Alex Opara and Chikwendu Okereke as professors of geology, among others.
The development had attracted controversy among Nigerians, especially academics, who described the process leading to the appointment as “unprecedented and illegal.”
ASUU on Monday gave its verdict on the professorship awarded to Mr Ibrahim, describing the appointment as illegal.
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At a media briefing held at the University of Lagos at the end of its two-day marathon meeting of the union’s National Executive Council (NEC), ASUU said the review of the processes that led to Mr Ibrahim’s appointment as a professor , were against the laid-down procedures within the university system.
The union’s president, Emmanuel Osodeke, said: “ASUU NEC rejects in its entirety the purported appointment of Dr Isah Ali Ibrahim Pantami as a professor of cybersecurity.
“From the evidence available to us, Dr Pantami was not qualified, and the said appointment violated established procedure for appointment of professors in the university.
“NEC directs all members and branches of our union throughout the Nigerian federation not to recognize, accord or treat Dr Isah All Ibrahim Pantami as a professor of cybersecurity under any quise NEC.”
ASUU said the latest decision was a follow-up to an earlier decision taken in 2021 when it set up a committee to visit the university to investigate the circumstances leading to the appointment.
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ASUU added that it will sanction all its members who may have taken part in the processes, saying such will serve as deterrence to others.
“NFC also resolved to sanction all ASUU members who participated in the process that led to the illegal appointment in accordance with the established procedures of our union,” ASUU said.
Meanwhile, the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, has tackled the Academic Staff Union of Nigeria, ASUU, regarding the ministerial appointment of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Ibrahim Ali Pantami.
MURIC’s Director, Ishaq Akintola, said ASUU was yet to learn its lessons, stressing that the body’s stance on Pantami’s professorship was the joke of the century.
The Islamic organization said ASUU lacked the “locus standi” to declare an appointment and promotion ratified by the university’s council illegal.
In a statement he signed, Akintola said: “The Academic Staff Union of Universities yesterday declared Professor Pantami’s professorial appointment as illegal. It is the joke of the century.
“It is trespass. ASUU national should know its limits. Again, is there any section of the ASUU constitution that empowers it to override appointments made by universities? This is an affront. No more, no less.”
The Islamic organization wondered when ASUU began to wade into procedures for “promotion or appointment of the academia in any Nigerian university?”
“Is ASUU dancing to the gallery by championing the hate campaign of a section of the country? But will ASUU be able to carry all its branches along? For instance, will Northern universities see things the way ASUU national sees them? ASUU national will divide this body again if it continues this way. Remember that many other universities have formed other lecturers’ associations because of bullying from the centre.
“One expects ASUU national to have learnt its lesson by now. There is a world of difference between fighting the collective cause of all members and fighting your own member or fighting a particular branch. This is a fight you cannot win. What came out of the conflict between ASUU national and its UnIlorin branch? Who blinked first? Ilorin dealt with ASUU national and got away with it.
“It is quite amusing that ASUU national threatened to sanction those who participated in the process that led to what ASUU called ‘illegal’ appointment. It is an empty threat. Unions are not held together by the force of threats. They are kept alive by good leadership, tolerance and sacrifice.
“Besides, Professor Pantami’s work at FUTO is a voluntary work that attracts no payment and this has a place in the rules of the civil service. Neither is the minister doing it without the knowledge and approval of Mr. President,” MURIC added.