…As Culprits Beg For Leniency And Forgiveness
In its efforts to ensure amicable resolution is reached between the management and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) of Akwa Ibom State College of Education, Afaha Nsit, the Governing Council has reinstated the four suspended lecturers, as the defaulting lecturers pleaded for leniency and forgiveness.
On Tuesday, August 23, 2022, two months and some weeks after the Governing Council in its emergency meeting reached a resolution and suspended four erring lecturers for a period of three months on grounds of insubordination and gross misconducts, the council yielded to the intervention of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly through its committee on education, and announced the reinstatement of the union members, but with an additional caveat.
The chairman of the Governing Council, Mr Bassey Dan Abiajnr., made the pronouncement at a joint meeting with the management of the institution led by the provost, Dr. Daniel Udo, representative of Akwa Ibom State commissioner for education, representative of commissioner for finance, Governing Council members and chairman, Reconciliation Panel, Prof. Antia-Obong Ekong, Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Uyo, Uyo, and former commissioner for education in the state, at the Council Chamber of the college, recently.
Addressing the meeting, the chairman, Governing Council, said the gathering came on the heels of the agreement all stakeholders reached at the State House of Assembly to sheathe their swords and embrace the path of peace.
Abia furthered that the House instructed them to meet, mitigate on grey areas, show some level of remorsefulness for peace and permanent resolution of the feud in the overall interest of all.
The caveat for their reinstatement, according to the Governing Council are: an individual written apology letter from the four affected lecturers and notes of undertaking communicating alliance to be of good conduct. “What I am asked to convey to you is clearly in line with the spirit and agreement of what we had last in our meeting before the State House of Assembly Committee on Education.
“It is important I put it on record in letting you know the findings of the Committee as follows:
“1. To inform you that; the Council by the Committee found you culpable; thereby justifying the action of the disciplinary of the Governing Council action, and that your suspension is hereby withdrawn.
“2. That you are fully restored with emphasis that payment of the backlog of your three-months salaries is also granted but this is on the condition;
“3. That four of you shall separately and individually tender a written apology and an undertaking to be of good conduct henceforth to the Governing Council. The rest of the recommendations shall be communicated to you through the office of the registrar who is also the secretary of the Council,” he reeled out.
Abia, who informed that their disposition on the matter to shift grounds and bend over backward is not a sign of weakness but a strength of character, hinged on the intervention of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Education.
Responding on behalf of the lecturers, the chairman of COEASU who is one of the defaulting lecturers, Dr. Godwin Sam Akpan, thanked the Governing Council and management for restoring them back to office.
Dr. Akpan, while apologising to the Governing Council and management, appreciated them for tempering justice with mercy in their case, and regretted their actions that went contrary to best ethical standards of practice, Noting that COEASU as a union is a stakeholder in the college, hence, there is need for cordial working relationship with all relevant stakeholders. “Whatever happens in the course of trying to exercise our legitimate duty is hereby regretted. We also appeal to the chairman of Governing Council and members to try to interface with the union anytime there is problem so that they can also hear from us”, he apologized.
The lecturers were suspended on the 23rd day of June, 2022 for the period of three months on the grounds of gross misconducts. They were: Dr. Goodwin Sam Akpan- Department of Education Foundation and chairman COEASU Afaha Nsit, Mr. Okon EtimInyang, Department of Biology, secretary, Mr. Ofonime Friday Udo, Department of Mathematics, PRO and Dr. Ubong James Akpan, Department of Social Science.
Recall that on June 21, 2022, the defaulting lecturers led by the chairman of COEASU, attempted imposing an illegal industrial strike action on the Union members. They went further to barricade the entrance of the institution as well as attempting to place the college gate under lock and key without following due process as contained in Nigerian Labour Law. Expectedly, such act of insubordination and negligence of duty did not go down well with the school management and the Governing Council.
In a move to maintain law and orderl at the institution, the provost, Dr. Daniel Udo, described such attitude as unbecoming and unacceptable when he said: “They attempted locking the school gate to thwart teaching practice orientation exercise that was billed to take place within the school premises. I became curious and inquired why they want to lock up the school gate, they said they were on strike, I said no, you are not on strike. Because there was no such memo nor resolution passed by staff of the institution.
“I’m a unionist, if a union is given instructions from the national, it is incumbent on the Chapter leader of that union to return to the branch and brief members about the directive from the national and allow them to react, take a resolution either to join or not to join the strike.”
Concerned about the Illegal action of the labour leaders, the Governing Council swung into action, held an emergency meeting, suspended the affected lecturers and equally constituted a fact finding panel chaired by Prof. Antia-ObongEkong, to investigate and report back to council and management of the institution.
Abia described the action of COEASU leaders as negligence of duty, act of insubordination, highly detrimental to the wellbeing of students and the Institution. “COEASU has a constitution, if they want to do anything, they must be civil enough to follow due process. You do not just wake up and declare a strike action without approval and resolution from the union members. You do not take people by surprise and force,” he maintained.
The fact-finding panel investigated the immediate and remote causes of the crisis that led to the suspension of the affected lecturers. However, their duty was interrupted when Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Education waded in to engender a lasting solution to the unhealthy rift between management and COEASU.
With the intervention of Akwa Ibom State Legislature, the chairman, House Committee on Education, Mr Godwin Ekpo, on August 16, 2022, which was the third and final meeting of the committee with the management, COEASU, NLC, Commissioner for education and her counterpart in the Ministry of Labour and Manpower Planning, resolved that the matter be closed amicably and feedback sent to the House on August 24, 2022.
“The verdict of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly today is that the College of Education, Afaha Nsit, will sit on this matter and everything concerning this issue on the 23rd August, 2022 and bring the feedback to the Committee on the 24th August, 2022,” Ekpo directed.
As directed by the House, the feud has been put to rest, the four suspended lecturers reinstated, apologies tendered, and mechanisms put in place to fast track payment of outstanding rights and privileges.
The management, Governing Council and leaders of COEASU, Afaha Nsit Chapter, have finally buried the hatchet. Peace and tranquility has returned to the institution on Tuesday, August, 2022.
Conclusively, now that curtains have been drawn, differences sorted out, peace embraced and crisis brought to an end, all parties are on a unified track to foster growth, development and advancement of academic excellence in the Institution.
Also, the Governing Council has expressed its resolve to communicate the outcome of the meeting to the House Committee on Education.