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Anxiety at UNICAL as feud of VC, bursar deepens


 University of Calabar

University of Calabar

Nine months into his five-year single term as the 10th vice chancellor of the University of Calabar, Prof. Zana Itiunbe Akpagu, appears to be grappling with stilling the storm that is gradually enveloping the institution, following the suspension of the school’s bursar, Peter Amama Agi.

Already, the situation has led to the emergence of camps among staff and students, with occupants splitting their support for Akpagu and Agi.

In the midst of the polarised atmosphere, however, the school’s governing council says it is yet to be intimated of the bursar’s suspension.

A letter signed by the institution’s registrar, Mr. Moses Abang, accused Agi of several breaches of extant rules as well as gross display of negligence and incapacity in the discharge of his assignments.

The letter maintained that the decision to suspend the bursar, were taken in an emergency management meeting of August 22, 2016, where recent developments on campus, including the arrest of the bursar by the Nigeria Police vide letter no. AB:3621/CRS/DFA/VOL.T/123 of August 17, 2016 on allegations of fraud, forgery and threat to life were deliberated.

The management noted that it became imperative for Agi to step down as bursar and clear his name of the mounting allegations.

Part of the letter read, “Furthermore, management observed that you have been impersonating the vice chancellor on the CBN e-payment platform, by making final approvals and payments, a duty that is the responsibility of the vice chancellor, who is the chief accounting officer of the university.”

The letter, which also accused the bursar of absenting himself from office without requesting any of his deputies to act, created a vacuum in the administration of the bursary, just as management frowned at a circular of August 18th, 2016, which the bursar requested members of the university community who needed his services in official capacity to reach him on his mobile phone, saying, “This is absurd and not acceptable anywhere.”

It added, “To further compound matters, you have as well deliberately orchestrated measures aimed at ensuring that the university loses the accreditation of its medical programmes, by refusing to purchase buses for the departments of public health and community medicine. This is a major requirement for accreditation and council had directed you several times on this, yet you bluntly refused to comply.”

“You deliberately refused to purchase an official car for the deputy vice chancellor in charge of administration, eight months after he was appointed into office; ignored several council and management directives on this; refused to purchase official car for the dean of graduate school, even when the graduate school designed measures to internally generate revenue for this purpose,” the letter added.

Agi was also accused of consistently ignoring management’s directives with impunity, and bluntly refusing to pay TETFund contractors, who have successfully executed jobs and rendered services to the university, thus causing the school to lag behind and incapable of accessing the 2015 allocation, since it has not exhausted the 2013 allocation to qualify for the next tranche.”

In view of these allegations, which the school’s management claims was “a clear manifestation of an orchestrated and deliberate design to bring to ridicule, the image of the University of Calabar, and indeed to cripple its progress as an institution … management has therefore resolved that you should be placed on suspension. You are therefore suspended as bursar of the University of Calabar, with effect from Monday, August 22, 2016. You are to handover immediately to Mrs. Atim Mensah, who is the most senior deputy bursar…”

Shortly after Agi’s suspension was made public, he denied knowledge of any development, insisting that he was still the school’s bursar.

According to him, “I am not aware of any suspension as bursar of the University of Calabar. I have not received any letter and there are procedures for appointment, suspension or otherwise of any principal officer of the university.”

On the various allegations, Agi said, “As a matter of fact, I have been on a medical break after I wrote a permission letter that I have an issue to sought out with the Nigeria Police, which I had done before I got sick.

“Nobody has queried me, no panel sat to discuss any issue/matter relating to my duties, and I have not responded to any letter from the university, or any of its representatives. As far as the University of Calabar is concerned, I am still the bursar.

“All the issues raised are baseless and cannot be substantiated. I know nothing about all matters raised, and it amount to calling dog a bad name in other to hang it. I will not succumb to all their blackmail as the bursar of the University of Calabar. ‎I will remain steadfast and commit myself to do the right things.”

For quite some time, there has been a cold war between the management of the school, led by Akpagu and Agi. This culminated into an open protest on August 15, when a group of workers and contractors, suspected to have been sponsored by the school’s management stormed Agi’s office calling for his removal for alleged “misappropriation of university funds and non-payment of approved vouchers.”

But Agi’s supporters and others sympathetic to him, are of the opinion that corrupt people in the school’s management were the ones that are gunning for his scalp, and wanting him out of office because of his insistence on due process, rule of law and accountability.

On Tuesday, a statement signed by Anthony Ukpong, on behalf of Concerned Staff, made available to newsmen, declared loyalty to Akpagu.

It read, “The staff and students of the University hereby pass a vote of confidence on the vice chancellor, and are dismayed by the activities of the bursar, who has arrogated to himself, powers of superiority over
the vice chancellor, who is the chief executive, by arbitrarily slashing the VC’s approvals, and in most cases, refusing to execute the VC’s approvals…”

In similar fashion, a group sympathetic to Agi “Concerned Students and Senior Staff of the University,” led by Mr. Ofem Agbor, alleged that the Ukpong-led group were sponsored by some disgruntled elements in the university who Agi as a threat to their corrupt act due to his insistence on due process and his commitment to curb financial indiscipline in the university.

Chairman of the school’s governing council, Emmanuel Iwunyanwu, in a telephone conference with some newsmen, said, “The council has not sat on the matter. The Vice Chancellor is the person that suspended him and if the registrar signed the letter as council secretary, the council has not met.”

However, “The Vice-Chancellor is the chief executive of the university and if there is something wrong in the university, he has the right to take whatever action he wants to take, and report to the council.

Apparently, he can exercise powers as the vice chancellor as he called a management meeting and decided to suspend the bursar. But the council has not met and I have not received an official report.

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