Civil society groups under the aegis of Coalition of Civil Society Groups, Abia State, CCSGA, have tasked the Governor -elect of the state, Dr. Alex Otti, to set up machinery to look into nonpayment of salaries and alleged certificate racketeering in the state Polytechnic, Aba, as soon as he is sworn in as Governor.
It alleged that the Polytechnic has been badly mismanaged by successive management committees and governing councils with bloated workforce, 34 months of unpaid salaries and alleged certificate racketeering.
The CSOs stated this following an ongoing investigation at the State House of Assembly over a Diploma certificate issued by the Polytechnic to a businessman, Chief Gregory Okwuchukwu Okafor.
In a statement signed by the Coordinator of CCSGA, Comrade Johnson Uzor Emeh, the group lamented that the polytechnic is now known for administrative recklessness, impunity, alleged misappropriation and administrative high handedness.
It said; “Since the inception of the Polytechnic, the institution has not been lucky in terms of administration. This is noticed in administrative recklessness and impunity, alleged misappropriation, certificate racketeering and non-payment of salaries.
“A former Commissioner for Education in the state even described Abia Polytechnic, Aba, as a polytechnic where waste of money is unprecedented and needs overhaul. In Abia State Polytechnic, the real problem is that, over the years, each succeeding management committee and governing council of the institution has aggravated the problem of the institution.
“Abia Polytechnic, Aba, has 95 men at their two gates and over 10 medical doctors when no student or staff lives inside the school. It has 44 bank accounts. The Polytechnic has 42 workers in her bookshop. It has about 1,000 non-tutorial staff and the polytechnic needs a total overhaul.”
The rights group further noted that lack of political will by the State government to implement the reports of the committees it set in the past has aggravated the rot in the institution.
“Furthermore, there is a controversy over a diploma statement of result issued by the Polytechnic issued to one Chief Gregory Okwuchukwu Okafor. We petitioned the Abia State House of Assembly on the above alleged Diploma statement of result issued to the businessman. On 17th November, 2022, the Speaker of the State Assembly, Hon. Chinedum Orji inaugurated an adhoc committee to investigate the matter under the chairmanship of Hon Chikwendu Kalu. During the committee sitting, it was discovered that the former Registrar, Mrs. Comfort Nwabughiogu denied authorizing or having any knowledge of the issuance of the Diploma statement of result which was issued on her letterhead as she retired on 15th October, 2021, while the statement of result was issued by the current Registrar, Mr. Chinyere Oriaku, on 30th November, 2021, using her letterhead paper without her consent.
“When the current Registrar, Mr. Chinyere Oriaku, was contacted on why he issued the Diploma statement of result on the letter head of the retired Registrar, Mrs Comfort Nwabughiogu, he claimed that the institution had not printed new letter head as at November 30th, 2021. But the adhoc Committee discovered that Mr. Oriaku, had signed a letter on 5th October, 2021, with his name as Registrar on 5th October, 2021, while he was yet to be appointed Registrar, Mrs. Comfort. Nwabughuogu retired on 15th October, 2021 and Mr. Oriaku was appointed as Registrar on 17th October, 2021.But it was noted that as far back as 5th October, 2021, Mr. Oriaku had issued letters as Registrar with his own letterhead while Mrs. Nwabughiogu was still on seat as the then incumbent Registrar.
“During the sitting of the adhoc committee, the immediate past Chairman of the Governing Council of the institution, Elder John Nwangborogwu, even pleaded with the adhoc Committee to bar the media from covering the sitting. One wonders why the management of the polytechnic is afraid of the media coverage of a public hearing. Public institutions are run with public funds and should not be afraid of their activities being known to the public. A clear conscience fears no accusation.
“About 10 innocent senior lecturers and other non-academic staff that were against the alleged Diploma statement of result were suspended from the Institution from December 2022 till date. The fear was that they may say the truth when called upon by the Committee. These innocent persons are suffering. Imagine the innocent being victimized for standing on the truth by guilty and corrupt people using money and impunity to continuously suppress the investigation. This is a case of punishing the innocent to shield and cover the guilty.
“The adhoc Committee should submit an interim report on the investigation so far as they are about to wind up. The interim report should consider the recall of those staff of the Institution that have been victimized by the corrupt management, while the top management should be suspended in order not to frustrate the on-going investigation, as no one can be a judge in his own case. Government is a continuous process.
“This report will help the in-coming government of Dr. Alex Otti and the next Abia State House of Assembly to do the needful in the course of sanitizing the institution.”
The civil society groups urge the Governor- elect to ensure the total overhaul of Abia state Polytechnic as soon as he is sworn in to ensure that identified culprits in the alleged rot are brought to book to serve as deterrent to others.