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Racket threatens Shell’s CEMAC amid UNN’s petty politics

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• Ignorant Persons Want To Rubbish CEMAC, Says Prof. Muoneke
The University of Nigeria is unarguably, one of the first tier institutions in the country. But, recently, the university with two campuses in Nsukka and Enugu seems to be marred with politics and corruption.

Expectations are high that the visitation panel would look into various alleged cases of breaches and abuse of due process in the institution.

For instance, during the recent process of selecting its Vice Chancellor, there were concerns and even court cases against the violation of extant regulations governing the selection of Vice Chancellor.

Discreet investigation by The Guardian on developments within the Enugu campus of the university, showed some staggering developments.

It was gathered that few endowments for academic centers, including the INNOSON Building for Business School, the Diagnostic Center, the Maritime building, the CBN center and the Shell building for the Center of Environmental Management and Control (CEMAC), have remained decrepit.

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Also, despite grants, there are many uncompleted buildings in the campus, particularly the administrative and maritime buildings. The Maritime Building seems to be worse hit, as it has not taken off even after wasting of several millions of naira.

The CEMAC building, which was inaugurated before the end of the term of Prof. Bartho Okolo, who was the then Vice Chancellor, is the only completed building for academic center in the campus.

A visit to the site showed that the building was not only poorly built with cracks all over, but also ironically aging faster than the old-aged buildings on campus, such that staff of the Centre express surprise how the building met the standards of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).

According to the promoters of the intervention, the initial intent was to make the place one of Shell’s Centers for Excellence, but to the utmost revulsion of Shell’s visiting team, that idea was shelved off. As such, the university continues to lose such vital endowments, even as no questions are being asked as to why UNN is lagging behind other top tier institutions.

Findings revealed that the then Personal Assistant to Prof. Bartho Okolo, Prof. Anene Muoneke, handled both the building project and procurement of low-grade furniture into the building. That might explain why most of the furniture have dilapidated and discarded after millions naira were expended on their procurement.

In a surprising move, Prof. Muoneke is now back in office as Director of the Center and has been working assiduously with the University administrators to be named the NNPC/Shell professor, a position set aside for a renowned researcher.

Background searches revealed that the prospect does not have the pedigree, as he has allegedly not actively published in top scholarly journals. Credit might go to the perceived corruption and politics at UNN, where currently anything goes.

Surprisingly, checks showed that only UNN has a designation for political professors. Many of the academic professors The Guardian made efforts to interview curiously declined, saying they do not want to get involved, but were unanimous in professing that “UNN is of past glories.”

But, speaking to The Guardian in confidence to avoid punitive measures, students and staff of CEMAC described as hell, the arrogance and pomposity displayed by the new Director of CEMAC.

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Said a staff of CEMAC: “There is a cabal running the affairs of both the center and the university. They are only interested in misappropriating funds from SPDC.

“A recent vacancy for the professorial chair was announced in an obscure Internet site with standards lowered to qualify a particular candidate.”

The source disclosed that new students are now planning to collectively leave to other institutions, explaining that they cite lack of cordiality and competence at the center for the different programmes that are offered in Environmental Management, Disaster Risk Management as well as Chemical Security Management.

Efforts to speak to the Director proved fruitless as staff in his office insist on formal application for interview, even as they directed the reporter to go to the University’s Public Relations Office in Nsukka.

However, attempts to engage students undertaking courses under the Director showed that unlike his predecessors, the director does not teach any course. “His role is purely administrative and he has not shown any inclination to research,” a female student from one of the South/South states disclosed.

However, some staff of the centre mentioned that he posts news items from BBC on environment on the Center’s WhatsApp group as part of his research contribution.

They stated: “The center, which is supposedly a research unit, is gradually sliding into oblivion as it lacks research direction now. This is a mirror image of what is happening at UNN.

“It is unbelievable that this is the university that the great Zik of Africa was instrumental in its foundation. If a school of this caliber, where the great brains are trained can stoop so low, what will happen to the newly developing institutions?”

At a time when emphasis is on developmental journalism, this report is intended to highlight the problems higher institutions face with a view to finding solutions.

It is obvious that politics and corruption are the twin demons destroying the fabric of education, especially against the days of Professors Eni Njoku, Chike Obi, Afolabi, when competence was the benchmark for appointments.

But, responding to enquiries by The Guardian, Director of the Centre, Prof. Mouneke, said contrary to insinuations, the vacancy for the Shell Chair was published on March 24, 2021 in two national newspapers, including The Guardian, stressing, “People sometimes talk about things they are uncertain about.”

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On the issues of poor quality construction job and threat by Shell and students to pull out of the collaboration, Prof. Muoneke stated: “Let me give you a brief history of the Centre.  When Prof. Okolo was the Vice-Chancellor, through his networking he got Shell to donate money for the constructing the Centre. Then, I helped in monitoring the project.

“Shell had two dedicated executives that held monthly meetings with us and this centre was commissioned in March 2014, which is over seven years ago. I had nothing to do with the centre afterwards.  The Shell executives monitored everything while following due process, as you know how they handle their things.

“The furniture they are talking about.  I only became Director of the Centre, September 4, 2019, so, I am barely a year-plus old in the Centre.  The Shell people did not pull out and if they had pulled out, they would not have advertised for a Chairperson.”

Prof. Muoneke stressed that he is one of the active professors in the university and not just CEMAC, noting that he does not publish academic research materials in any kind of journal, but in high-impact journals. “I do not think that if I am not active that I will attract the collaborations so far within not just the centre, but the university,” he declared.

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