The Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) has appointed a lecturer, Mohammed Gwaram, who was suspended for alleged criminal offences by the institution’s governing board, as the substantive provost of the Federal College of Agricultural Produce Technology (FCAPT), Kano.
Apart from his interdiction, PREMIUM TIMES also obtained documentary evidence indicating that Mr Gwaram was not qualified for the position as of the time he filed his application.
He was accused of being dismissed by two federal government-owned institutions before his engagement by the Kano-based college. He was said to have failed to secure approval from the federal civil service commission as prescribed by the public service rules, before securing the appointment at the college.
They also accused Mr Gwaram of forgery, saying he wrote the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation informing it of the purported withdrawal of his interdiction, and called for the restoration of his full salary without the knowledge of the governing board that suspended him.
Relevant stakeholders at the institution, including the governing board and staff, have, therefore, kicked against the appointment, declaring it as illegal and unacceptable.
Specifically, some college workers, under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Colleges of Agriculture and Related Institutes, have petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing the research council of usurpation of the institution’s governing board’s roles.
The union also said the council acted against relevant provisions of the act establishing the college, and the public service rules guiding such an appointment.
However, the leadership of the research council has declined comment on the matter, as the matter is already being litigated in a court of law.
The executive secretary of the research council, Garba Sharubutu, told our reporter on the phone that a case on the matter has been instituted at the Federal High Court in Kano.
“We have been taken to court by other applicants on the appointment. So you can join us at the court at the next sitting to have firsthand knowledge of the whole case,” Sharubutu said.
Similarly, the embattled lecturer, who denied all the allegations levelled against him, also said he would not like to comment on the issues on the phone. He said there are documents to support his claim but that he could only share them with the reporter in person.
The connection between ARCN and the college?
By its mandate, the ARCN is responsible for the coordination, supervision, monitoring and evaluation of agricultural research, extension and training across Nigeria’s 15 agricultural research Institutes, 18 federal government-owned agricultural colleges and the three universities of agriculture.
The council also offers policy advisory services to the government on matters relating to agricultural research and development.
ARCN, however, does not have the mandate to oversee the administration or any other activity of the institutions, as they run independent budgets and are governed by their governing boards.
For instance, the vice-chancellors of the three agricultural universities are statutorily appointed by the President on the recommendation of the individual institutions’ governing councils.
There is also evidence that the appointment of Mr Gwaram’s predecessor was by the President on the recommendation of the college’s governing council.
How it started
Following the scheduled January 2020 expiration of the tenure of the immediate past provost of the Federal College of Agricultural Produce Technology (FCAPT), Mohammed Sule, the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN) placed an advertorial seeking a successor in Daily Trust Newspaper on December 18, 2019.
But some workers kicked against the process at the time, accusing the research council of insubordination and for taking over the role of the institution’s governing board headed by Abubakar Wurno, a retired ambassador.
According to a member of the staff union who does not want to be named, apart from faulting the process by the council, the union also complained about the inappropriateness of Mr Gwaram’s application.
But despite the objections, the research council via a letter dated August 24, 2020, appointed Mr Gwaram the substantive provost of the college.
Issues against Gwaram
In one of the petitions addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari through the office of the special assistant to the President on Youths and Students’ Affairs, the staff union listed about six grounds for its objection to Mr Gwaram’s appointment.
These grounds include what the union described as the violation of chapter 2 clause 2.1.3 (c) and 2.1.5 of the condition of service for the federal research institutions, colleges of agriculture and allied institutions as applicable to the college.
The law states that; “The position of the Executive Director or Provost shall be advertised internally and externally, and that governing board shall upon conclusion of an interview recommend through the Honourable Minister of the supervising ministry the best three (3) candidates to Mr. President for approval.
“In the case of a provost, he shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the governing board through the minister of the supervising ministry.”
According to the union, there is nowhere in the law that recognises the ARCN as the authority to appoint a provost for the college.
PREMIUM TIMES also obtained evidence indicating that Mr Gwaram was dismissed from the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research, Benin City. This was revealed via a letter addressed by the institute to another former employee of Mr Gwaram- Hussaini Adamu Federal Polytechnic, Kazaure, which confirmed the embattled official’s dismissal from the institute.
The institute’s letter was the evidence required by the polytechnic to also dismiss Mr Gwaram in 2009.
In the letter dated November 25, 2009, and titled; “Letter of Dismissal from Service,” the polytechnic said the decision to dismiss Mr Gwaram was taken at the institution’s governing council’s regular meeting of November 24, 2009.
The letter, which was signed by the polytechnic’s registrar, Rabiu Muhammed Danmalam, and addressed to Mr Gwaram, reads in part; “Consequent upon your position to the chairman of the council which emanated as a result of my letter, Re: HAFF/CA/PER/YG/011/Vol.IV253 dated 7th September, I am directed to inform you that:
“The management, in an effort to respond to the petition, has informed Council that you were dismissed from services of Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research, Benin City, on 22nd, 2003 based on information obtained from NIFOR 40th annual (2003) ISSN. 942742 and confidential report received to that effect.
“Pursuant to the provisions of the public service rule 020206 (ii) and the letter from NIFOR you cannot continue to be in the service of the polytechnic.”
And based on the Rule 020206 (a) (ii) of the Public Service Rules provides which provides that;“No candidate shall be appointed to any post in the Federal Public Service without the prior SPECIFIC APPROVAL OF THE FEDERAL CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION if he/she has previously been employed in government service and BEEN DISMISSED or called upon to resign or retire therefrom. Such approval must always be obtained irrespective of any delegation of the Commission’s powers,” the union said Mr Gwaram was not even qualified for employment at the college in the first instance.
Police indict Gwaram
On February 13, 2020, the Kano State police command submitted its report on the allegations of defamation of character and inciting public disturbance levelled against Mr Gwaram. It was in response to the complaint filed by one Alhaji Muhammad Hadi Ibrahim, a lecturer at the Federal College of Agricultural Produce Technology (FCAPT), Kano.
The report, which was signed by officer in charge of intelligence, Kano State’s Intelligence Bureau, Salisu Mohammed, explained that in retaliation to the alleged opposition received as a deputy provost, Mr Gwaram resorted to the use of anonymous text messages against his perceived enemies in the college.
He was accused of using a mobile telephone line, which was later linked to him, to share frightening messages about some individuals at the institution.
It was on the basis of this indictment that Mr Gwaram was interdicted by the governing board of the institution, having pleaded with the police to deal with the issue internally.
His notice of interdiction, which was conveyed to him on March 9, 2020, and signed by the institution’s registrar, Halima Sani, was the outcome of Mr Gwaram’s response to a query that served him on the matter.
“The management has studied your response and observed it is contrary to the report received from the police as endorsed by the commissioner of police, Kano State. The management has decided to believe the police report and resolved to forward your case to the governing board of the college for final decision. Meanwhile, the management has decided to place you on interdiction with effect from March 9, 2020, pending when the board will decide your case,” the notice reads in part.
But, in what the governing board’s chair described as a fraudulent act, Mr Gwaram was said to have conspired with the institution’s acting registrar, Ms Sani, to communicate the office of the accountant general of the federation on the purported withdrawal of his interdiction.
The board has, therefore, queried Mr Gwaram and Ms Sani on the allegation and its verdict may be out any moment from now.
A copy of the query, which was obtained by our reporter, reads in part; “In process of the board meeting held on October 27, 2020 from the matters arising as reported by the senior staff promotion and disciplinary committee, the governing board was notified that the provost of the college, Dr Mohammad Yusha’u Gwaram and the acting registrar, Hajiya Halima Sani, conspired and illegally wrote a letter to the accountant general of the federation and to the attention of the director IPPIS, informing them that the interdiction placed on Dr Mohammad Yusha’u Gwaram by the board as a result of gross misconduct has been withdrawn and that they should consider full payment of his salary.”
The query, which was signed by Maryam Ahmed, a deputy provost, on behalf of the chairman of the governing board, sought response from the two accused officials within seven days “otherwise disciplinary action will be taken against you, within extant of the civil service rules.”
In his response to our reporter’s enquiry, Mr Gwaram described the allegations levelled against him as “insinuations by detractors.”
He said; “I would have to discuss with you and support such discussion with documents to see the true situation so that you see what, which is different from the allegations. First, I wasn’t dismissed. Second, the so-called interdiction was wrongly applied and its basis faulty. Third, I officially withdrew my services from the so-called dismissed employer and merged it.
“My story is very long, but I have approved documents to support my facts. Thank you for the inquiry. Maybe you should know the case is before the court for determination. Can we wait for the verdict? Thank you.”
Board chairman speaks
The governing board chairman, Mr Wornu, told PREMIUM TIMES on the phone that he was surprised by the actions of both the research council and Mr Gwaram.
He said; “We have written the minister of agriculture a letter of complaint and we are currently awaiting the response on the illegalities being perpetrated by the council.
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