The Rivers State Governor, Siminialayi Fubara, has sparked reactions following his decision to nullify a recent hiring round at the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt.
The recruitment process, originally finalised by his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, had employed over 1700 individuals who are now left in a state of uncertainty.
In a statement issued by the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Prince Chinedu Mmom, he 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, 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. There’s nothing to cheer about the government just waking up from its slumber now.
“We are, however, opposed to the sweeping termination of appointments by fiat. We believe a committee of competent persons should be appointed to review the process. Those with genuine qualifications should have their employment ratified, and those who fall short should be done away with.”
The Spokesman of the All Progressives Congress 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, one can only imagine what becomes of those who got these jobs on merit outside of political or ethnic considerations.”
The Coordinator of the Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre, said, “It’s a bold move. However, aside from the impunity of 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 them because he approved the recruitment in defiance of the 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 people already engaged for months back into joblessness.”
One issue, the government fiat, is coming with a new Vice Chancellor, 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 criticism for allegedly instigating the said nullification of employment.
“He had followed up the government’s directive swiftly with the sacking 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 that 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, organisations, or agencies, are guided by laws, rules, and regulations, and IAUE is not an exception.”
The affected, who had been working without pay for the past eight months, were about to be paid the backlog of salaries when the government announced the cancellation of their appointment.