Crisis hits FCET Lagos over provost’s tenure

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The Federal College of Education (Technical) (FCET) in Akoka, Lagos, is currently embroiled in a significant crisis concerning the tenure of its Provost, Wahab Azeez.

This conflict has escalated, leading to allegations of threats and daily protests, significantly disrupting the college’s activities.

Dr Azeez has accused union leaders, particularly the Chairman and Secretary of the Senior Staff Union of Colleges of Education (SSUCOEN), Augustine Nwachukwu, and Kazeem Qadri, of threatening his life and that of his family.

According to Azeez, unionists have locked his office and other management offices since May 27, claiming that his tenure as provost has ended.

During a media chat, Azeez stated, “They even posted a banner on the building that I should vacate within the next seven days or be forcibly removed. My family, including my wife, who is also a lecturer, is under serious threat.”

Unionists Deny Allegations

The protesters have denied these allegations, maintaining that their actions are within the bounds of lawful protest.

SSUCOEN Chairman Augustine Nwachukwu told PREMIUM TIMES, “Our conduct has been civil. Nobody has threatened his life.”

Root of the Conflict

The conflict centres on the interpretation of the Federal Colleges of Education (Amendment) Act, 2023, which introduced a five-year single term for management officers of education colleges.

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Azeez, appointed for a four-year term in May 2019, was reappointed for another four-year term in January 2023. He resumed his second term on May 26, 2023, before the amended act came into effect on June 12, 2023.

Azeez claims that the Federal Ministry of Education clarified that those who had already started their second term before the amendment should complete their term.

The ministry’s response, signed by Director of Legal Services Enonebi Azorbo, confirmed that Azeez should serve his second term without further extension.

Protests and Ministry Intervention

Despite this clarification, the protests continued. The SSUCOEN leadership, under the new umbrella of “concerned staff,” has consistently resisted reopening locked offices and demanded Azeez’s departure.

The situation prompted the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Education, which sent a delegation led by Uchenna Uba, Director of the Colleges of Education Department, to meet with the factions on June 12.

The report of this committee has been submitted to the Minister of Education, Tahir Mamman, who is meeting with the involved parties today, July 4, 2024, to seek a resolution.

NASU’s Position and Provost’s Accusations

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In anticipation of the meeting, NASU leadership has urged its members to comply with the ministry’s directives and avoid violence. However, SSUCOEN’s continued protests and the provost’s allegations of threats have intensified the conflict.

The provost accused the protesters of not only barring him from accessing his office but also mobilising forces against other workers and unions whose positions are against theirs by organising “illegal congresses and staged impeachment of officers of the unions.”

Students’ Involvement and Plea

The students’ union has also been drawn into the fray. The students’ union president, Yusuf Dauda, has written to the minister, highlighting the impact of the crisis on students and accusing the “concerned staff” of taking the law into their hands. Dauda’s letter emphasized the need for a peaceful resolution to protect the students’ interests.

In a similar development, the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Colleges of Education Students (NANCES) also wrote to the minister, accusing the protesters of interfering in the affairs of the students’ union on the campus.

NANCES Senate President, Isaac Ushahimber, stated that their fact-finding mission to the college revealed acts of hooliganism by some workers.

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“As a student advocate group, NANCES wants to sue for a peaceful and rancour-free environment that will enable our students to continue enjoying the available resources and facilities in the college,” Ushahimber said.

Awaiting the Minister’s Verdict

As the conflict continues, the Federal Ministry of Education’s intervention will be crucial in resolving the tenure dispute and restoring order at FCET Akoka.

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