The Rivers State Governor, Siminialayi Fubara‘s decision to nullify a recent hiring round at Ignatius Ajuru University of Education (IAUE), Port Harcourt, has stirred controversy.
The recruitment process, originally finalized by his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, had employed over 1700 individuals who are now uncertain.
Announcing the decision, Prof. Prince Chinedu Mmom, Commissioner for Education, indicated that the cancellation was due to irregularities and the university management’s failure to follow directives.
The abrupt decision has caused a significant reaction among stakeholders.
The statement read, “The Government of Rivers State has observed with dismay, the inconsistencies/irregularities and flagrant disobedience to the directives concerning the just concluded recruitment exercise at the IAUE, Rumuolumeni, Port Harcourt.
“Therefore, the recent employment exercise conducted by the management of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt is hereby cancelled.
“All appointment letters issued and received are hereby nullified and affected persons are directed to return the letters to the office of the Registrar of the institution, and other employment-related properties such as ID Cards in their possession to the office of the Head of Service, Rivers State immediately.
“A proper and credible recruitment exercise shall be conducted in due course.”
According to Vanguard, the Chairman, of Rivers Civil Society Organisations (RIVSCO), Enerfaa Georgewill in reaction to the development said, “For us in the civil society space, we are vindicated to the extent of the irregularities cited by the government. We agree with those who say the process should be reviewed.
“The incumbent governor merely echoed what we said at the time of the exercise. Rivers people cannot forget we raised the red flag promptly enough over the impunity of nepotism, favouritism and the flawed processes of employment at the time.
“It happened first at the Rivers State University (RSU) and the government kept deaf ears to the alarm raised before the same happened at the IAUE. Nothing to cheer about the government just waking up from her slumber now.
“We are however opposed to sweeping termination of appointments by fiat. We believe a committee of competent persons should be empanelled to review the process. Those with genuine qualifications should have their employment ratified and those who fall short done away with.”
The Spokesman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers, Darlington Nwauju said, “The cancellation of the recruitment at IAUE is a confirmation of the deceit we have always warned Rivers people about.
“Now, in one breath, you claim to be consolidating and in another breath, you choose to discontinue and discredit, meaning consolidation was trumpeted in order to hoodwink Rivers people.
“In a state where the unemployment rate is high up there, one can only imagine what becomes of those who got these jobs on merit outside of political or ethnic considerations.”
The Coordinator of Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre said, “It’s a bold move. However, aside from the impunity in unilaterally nullifying the entire process at the detriment of those who may have earned their employment genuinely, why punish the innocent and turn a blind eye on the real offender?
“The school management which the state government accused of irregularities and disobedience to directives is the real offender here. They should be the first to be sanctioned and we didn’t find that in the government statement.
“Besides, even Wike should have questions to answer. If there were irregularities, the former governor, authorised it, because he approved the recruitment in defiance of alarm raised by stakeholders over the irregularities.
“We hope he (Fubara) reviews the process in fairness to those who may have merited their employment. We are talking about throwing persons already engaged for months back into joblessness.”
One issue, the government fiat is coming with a new Vice-Chancellor (VC), Okechukwu Onuchukwu, at the helms of the IAUE. Prof Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele under whose administration the recruitment was done had exited office after serving out his tenure.
The development has seen the incumbent VC come under heavy knocks for allegedly instigating the said nullification of the employment.
“He had followed up the government’s directive last swiftly with a sack of Deputy Registrar, Establishment of the institution, Emmanuel Kalagbor and Deputy Director, ICT, Emmanuel Aburutou.”
But this disposition has seemed ironic because one of the major talking points in this saga has been that some of the irregularities cited by the government happened under the current VC.
Dismissing some of these claims in a statement signed by the Deputy Registrar/Public Relations, Ngozi Okiridu, the IAUE said, “It is not true staff hired by the immediate past VC Prof Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele were fired as soon as Prof Onuchuku came on board.
“Over 85% of those employed by Prof Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele are still at the university. Universities like any other institutions, organizations, agencies are guided by laws, rules and regulations and IAUE is not an exception.”
The affected, working without pay for the past eight months, were about being paid the backlog of salaries when the government announced the cancellation of their appointment.