The immediate past Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, Comfort Ekpo, might be dismissed this week from the university over allegation of gross misconduct, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report.
Mrs. Ekpo, a professor of educational technology, whose five-year tenure as vice chancellor ended November last year, has been on indefinite suspension since February 1.
She is accused of traveling to the U.K for a conference immediately after her tenure, without approval from the school.
The trip cost the university N2.7 million.
She is also accused of by-passing the Governing Council, the highest decision-making body in the school, when she wrote a letter to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, in November 17 requesting that the inauguration of her successor, Enefiok Essien, be suspended.
Mr. Essien was indicted for sexual assault and forgery by the Court of Appeal, Calabar.
Mrs. Ekpo had said in her letter to the minister that Mr. Essien’s appointment was causing “uneasy calm, tension, and anxiety” in Uniuyo because of his (Essien’s) “fractured integrity”.
Members of the Governing Council, including its chairman, Kimse Okoko, were said to have seen Mrs. Ekpo’s letter for the first time during the sitting of a federal government fact-finding panel to the school.
Council members, shocked by the letter, couple with the allegation that Mrs. Ekpo traveled to the U.K without authorisation, were said to have resolved that she should appear before an investigation panel.
But Ekpo rebuffed the council.
She wrote in her response that the panel’s invitation was “ignoble”, and that it would be “most inappropriate and unpatriotic” for her to honour it.
She said, “I have been informed of the persons recruited into the panel.
“I particularly note the inclusion of a ‘junior’ staff with a track record of truancy, unrepentant repeated acts of gross misconduct amply qualifying him for instant dismissal from service according to the University of Uyo Condition of Service.”
The ‘junior’ staff Mrs. Ekpo referred to is the local chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Idongesit Nsubong.
She said his inclusion in the panel was a “great moral bankruptcy” for the council.
Mrs. Ekpo went on to say that, “The present height attained by the University of Uyo has been the accumulated results of immense corporate and individual sacrifices by patriots and people of great minds over several decades.
“I consider it a great disservice to our people and generations any attempt in the slightest guise, to do anything that could now or later jeopardize our common interest.”
The response shocked members of the council the more, and earned her a query personally signed by the pro-chancellor and council’s chairman, Mr. Okoko, who accused her of trying to “ethnicize and politicize the subject matter”.
The council later suspended her after considering her response to the query as “unsatisfactory” and “unacceptable”.
Her sabbatical leave to Jamaica was also cancelled.
The panel sent a second invitation to Mrs. Ekpo, hoping that she would honour it this time.
But she wrote back, “I wish to repeat myself: I shall not appear before this panel as presently constituted.”
Mrs. Ekpo had on February 8 petitioned the federal ministry of education alleging that she was being victimised by Mr. Okoko, the chairman of the council.
She is exploring the option of going to court, someone conversant with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES.
PREMIUM TIMES learned that the council would meet on Thursday to decide on further disciplinary measures to take against the former vice chancellor.
A council member who did not want his name mention because he wasn’t authorised to speak on the matter told PREMIUM TIMES that the choice of words in the letter to the council did not fit the Professor Ekpo they all knew.
“She may be under some external influence,” he said. “But she is not above the law.
“The thinking of the university council is that if she humbles herself and apologises for her wrong-doing, she could be forgiven.”
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mrs. Ekpo, she declined to comment on the issue.
But in her response to the query, she had told the council that her letter to the minister of education was “properly routed through the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission”, and that it was a “situation report”, and “not a petition against anybody”.
She said the U.K conference was approved by the university, and that she had informed the vice chancellor and her head of department of her intention to travel.
“Throughout my 30 years of service in the University of Uyo to date, I have consciously distanced myself from acts of misconduct, insubordination, or any such demeanor,” she said to the council.
“This is confirmed by the fact that I have never received any query during this period. On the contrary, I have received only recommendations for my loyalty to all administrations and dedicated services rendered even under cruel circumstances.”