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INVESTIGATION: In desperate quest to become VC, IMSU employs serving Alvan Ikoku Varsity DVC, promotes her to Professor after six months

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INVESTIGATION: In desperate quest to become VC, IMSU employs serving Alvan Ikoku Varsity DVC, promotes her to Professor after six months

When the Federal Ministry of Education, on the 2nd of June 2023, announced that the hold placed on the University status of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration had been lifted, a proxy war began.

It was a secret scramble for the position of the Vice Chancellor of the new Alvan Ikoku University of Education, Owerri.

For most of the actors, it was a race against time, as a substantive Vice Chancellor will inevitably be appointed in due course.

On the 20th of October, 2023 when the Federal Government confirmed the official take-off of the Alvan Ikoku University of Education via a press release by the Federal Ministry of Education, the serving Provost of the erstwhile College was appointed the Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) of the new University, while other principal officers of the erstwhile College were to continue to discharge their duties in acting capacity until substantive principal officers of the University are appointed.

Findings indicate that there are several qualified academics from within and across the country who have already dusted their resumes to apply for the Vice Chancellorship of the new University of Education.

While many interested applicants await the advertisement for the vacant Vice Chancellorship position, suspicious activities capable of undermining the new University and eroding the integrity of the state-owned university, the Imo state University, in quick succession, may have been uncovered.

While probing the random whispers of discontent from among several academics and even some non-academic staff, this newspaper unveiled suspicious and seemingly irregular move to promote the serving Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor of the new Alvan Ikoku University of Education, Dr. Stella Ngozi Lemchi, to a Professor in the Imo state University, an action allegedly designed to perhaps qualify the DVC for the plum job of the Vice Chancellor.

 

a number of the academic who spoke to our correspondent strictly on the condition of anonymity, for fear of victimization, expressed their distaste with what some of them described as a plot to qualify dr. stella ngozi lemchi, who must be a professor to be eligible to contest for the position of the vice chancellor of the alvan ikoku university of education, where she currently serves as the acting deputy vice chancellor.

 

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They maintained that there are backlogs of promotion arrears yet to be addressed, yet the University hastened to promote Lemchi to a professor six months after employment.

It is not known for certain, when the plot was hatched or who the key actors in the plot are, but what is apparent is that there may be powerful forces behind the move and that the Governing Council of the Imo State University, Owerri, on the 10th of January, 2024, in its 71st regular meeting, ratified Dr. Stella Ngozi Lemchi as professor.

Seemingly, it took the Imo state University just six months to ferry Lemchi from her Ph.D level to a professorship in the Imo State University where she is not known to have worked or lectured for one day.

While Dr. Stella Lemchi was included in the external assessment report for the promotion of senior academics to the ranks of Professors and Readers, which the Governing Council ratified on the 10th of January 2024, the letter informing her of the endorsement of her professorship by the Council on January 12, 2024 which was signed by the Registrar, Dr. Julius Uzoma Osuagwu partly read as follows: “Further to our letter of 26 July, 2023, offering you regular/full-time appointment, we write to inform you that the Governing Council of the Imo state University… approved your external assessment report that you be made Professor of Home Economics Education with effect from the day you assumed duty on 31 July, 2023 in the Department of Science Education…”

Letter signed IMSU Registrar, Dr. Julius Osuagwu appointing Dr Stella Ngọzi Nlemchi as professor

 Questions

These process throws up many questions?

What is the urgency and rationale for the haste in employing Dr. Stella Lemchi, who is a serving head of a federal institution and presently the highest-ranking staff of the Alvan Ikoku University of Education Owerri, as a lecturer in an apparently non-existent department in the Faculty of Education.

From our investigations, as at the time of her employment, there was neither a Department of Science Education nor a Department of Home Economics Education in the Faculty of Education, Imo state University.

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The Departments in the Faculty of Education are as follows: Department of Physical Science Education; Department of Education Foundation and Counselling; Department of Social Sciences Education; Department of Language Education; Department of Library and Information Sciences and the Department of Life Science Education.

Was there any urgent need for a Professor in the Faculty of Education?

That is also doubtful because the faculty of Education arguably boasts of the highest number of Professors in the University, especially in the light of the fact that Imo state University lacks adequate lecturing staff, what more professors, in key areas of learning in some emerging field of science like robotics.

Promotion Cycle

Soon after the June 2, 2023 announcement by the Federal Ministry of Education that the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education’s University status will take effect soon, Dr. Stella Lemchi who was then the Provost of the College, secured employment the next month, July 26, 2023, as a lecturer in the Faculty of Education, Imo state University.

In less than six months, without any indication that she lectured any class, supervised any project or even worked anywhere in the faculty within the period, the Imo State University Governing Council promoted her to a Professor.

Both academic and non-academic staff of the University who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity maintain that the university promotion cycle was every three years. A few others added that special promotions can only happen when the beneficiary has posted some exceptionally innovative and academic milestones. They aver that for the instant case, they could not figure out anything exceptional that could have spurred the urgency to make her a professor in record time.

Most of the critics of Lemchi’s professorship did not criticize Lemchi’s intellectual potential but were peeved by what they considered the flawed procedure through which she emerged.

Procedural breach

Not a few academics in the University confirmed to our correspondent that there is an extant procedure for promotion to a new rank in University, even among senior academics.

They maintained that every staff for promotion must go through the Departmental Appraisal Committee, Faculty Appraisal Committee, University Central Appraisal Committee from where the assessments are moved to the Senate and finally to the Governing Council.

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Investigations by this newspaper discovered that neither Dr. Stella Ngozi Lemchi nor her credential were presented for appraisals at any of the levels in the faculty.

According to the appraisal summary sheet for senior academics in the Faculty of Education, across all the departments, of the more than 72 senior academics appraised, Dr. Stella Ngozi Lemchi’s name was not found in the Departmental or Faculty report.

IMSU authorities speak 

When our correspondent contacted the Chairman of the University’s Governing Council, Chief Ernest Nwapa for clarity on the issue, he replied with a text message that he was currently out of town and unable to address the issue at the time.

FILE: Imo State University (IMSU)

However, the Registrar, Dr. Julius Osuagwu maintained that Lemchi’s professorship was duly earned having passed through all the relevant processes and scrutiny.

He noted that the agitations against Lemchi was pure witch-hunt by disgruntled elements.

He explained: “Lemchi applied to be employed as a professor in Imo State University but we told her we cannot give her the job until her work is duly assessed. So her work was sent out for rigorous external assessments after which it was returned positive and subsequently her professorship was ratified by the Governing Council.”

On whether it underwent the usual multi-level appraisal from Department, Faculty up to the Council, Osuagwu insisted that Lemchi’s appraisal went through the standard University process.

“The report that was moved to the Council emanated from the Appointment and Promotion Committee reports at the departmental and faculty levels, then to external assessors and before coming to the council.”

On why the Imo state University employed a serving DVC of a federal institution and went ahead to promote her to professor six months after her employment, the Registrar simply stated that: “She is on a leave of absence”. He added: “Once you are employed by the University, no matter where you may be, whenever we do appraisal for promotion, the person will be appraised and if deserving, will also be promoted accordingly. No promotion procedure was skipped, it is obvious that some people are just fighting to undermine the woman for no just cause.”

 

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