A former lecturer at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, has painted a sordid picture of official corruption in the university.
Inih Ebong, an associate professor of theatre arts, says he has documents to prove that top management of the school, including a former vice chancellor, and several lecturers in the school were neck deep in corruption, but shielded from investigations and sanctions.
Mr. Ebong narrated to PREMIUM TIMES how a vice chancellor of the university once tried to force him to bend the rule to allow a student write examination in the theatre arts department, even when the student hadn’t registered for one full session for his courses. Besides, he said, the student hadn’t paid school fees, and had not been attending lectures.
Mr. Ebong said the student went away immediately he stopped him from entering the examination hall, and then hurriedly came back with a hand-written appeal letter, with an endorsement on it from a deputy vice chancellor.
‘HOD, Theatre Arts, please oblige. Our protocol officer brought this, and I have discussed the matter with the vice chancellor’. the letter reportedly stated.
The incident happened in 2000 when Mr. Ebong was the head of the department.
“That almost got me mad,” said Mr. Ebong, who was well-known within the campus for his anti-corruption posture.
As the culprit was his student, Mr. Ebong apparently knew his academic history, and had noted him for truancy. Besides, the student admitted in his appeal letter that he wasn’t able to register for the session, or attain lectures, Mr. Ebong claimed.
“I said over my dead body, you are not going to write the examination until the rules that govern examinations have been changed.”
Godfrey Essien, Uniuyo’s Director of Information, confirmed to this newspaper that the school’s regulations forbid students from writing examinations if they didn’t register for their courses at the beginning of the session.
After the incident, Mr. Ebong did a check on the student’s academic record and discovered that he still had about 54 outstanding credit hours in failed courses, which means he would have required extra two years to possibly finish his studies and graduate from the department.
“I don’t know (what happened thereafter). When they sent me out, they may have graduated him,” he said of the case.
Mr. Ebong, who was trained at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the Michigan State University, U.S, and the University of Birmingham, U.K, said corruption in Uniuyo was “very rampant and unlimited”, and that he had to personally intervene in some cases where students were being exploited.
“Take for instance, when candidates are looking for admission and people stay out there collecting money from them.
“I have had to leave my office and went to NASU Secretariat inside the campus with a girl they collected money from and promised her admission in theatre arts. When I said ‘show me the man who collected the money’, they pointed at the man. I said ‘bring that money now, otherwise I take you up’. I said ‘give it to the girl’. I had done things like that.”
His daughter, who was then an undergraduate student in the school, was also a victim of lecturers’ exploitation.
“From the very first day she entered (the school) they gave three assignments and five books, call it celebrated handout that she must buy; every student must buy and read, otherwise you can’t submit (your assignment).
“And they had a coded way – when you pay to buy this, they give you a number. When you want to submit the assignment you must quote that number.”
Mr. Ebong, being out of work, having been booted out of the school for being a thorn in the flesh of the authorities, was able to buy just one of the five books. When the daughter completed her assignments and the lecturers were unwilling to accept them, he approached the head of that department.
“You know what the man told me? That I shouldn’t have come by myself, I should have sent my daughter to come and see him.
“I looked at him again and said ‘I beg your pardon, I can’t come and see you and talk about my daughter?
“After much dribbling, I said give me these books – these so-called books – they have terminated my appointment, but I’ll look for money and pay you so that she can do these assignments and submit. The man committed himself in writing. I have all those things in the house. In the end, my daughter was frustrated; they did not collect her assignments.”
But Mr. Ebong didn’t give up. He took an unusual approach to fight back for his daughter’s rights to education. He collected the three assignments from her and personally submitted them, with a covering letter to the university authorities.
The school didn’t investigate the complaint, he said, and at the end his daughter abandoned Uniuyo, and with the advantage of her dual citizenship, she left Nigeria for the U.K where she made a first class in medical biochemistry and acquired a Ph.D before the age of 30. Besides her, another three of Mr. Ebong’s children were frustrated out of Uniuyo, the former lecturer claimed.
Mr. Ebong, more than a decade after, is still in court, challenging the termination of his appointment. He is also pressing on with a 14-year-old libel suit against the university for publishing a disclaimer on him.
He said that people were unwilling to engage him in any other job because of the disclaimer, but that even without money he was not ready to give up the fight until he obtains justice against his former employer.
“The last salary I collected was in July 2001. So, if I have not died, if I have not broken down since then, I don’t think I’m going to break down until justice has been done,” he said.