The academic staff union of the National Center for Technology Management (NACETEM), a research institute located on the campus of Obafemi Awolowo University, have decried the forceful imposition of a holder of the Higher National Diploma as the acting director general.
The staff members questioned the board’s appointment of Yusuf Abdullah Muhammad as the acting Director General/CEO after the exit of the last DG, Willie Siyanbola. The protesting staff expressed dismay over the appointment of Mr. Muhammad, whom they described as having no qualification in research or technology, adding that such qualification ought to be requisite.
In a solidarity press conference, the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI) called on the Federal Government to intervene by reversing the appointment in order to save the institution from crisis. The union threatened a series protests at OAU and outside if the government failed to intervene.
“NACETEM is an agency that provides critical knowledge support in the area of science, technology and innovation (STI) management. The agency’s activities span human capacity building, policy research and consultancy services in STI management,” the union said. It criticized the imposition of a DG with no background in either technology administration or in research.
The union admitted that Mr. Muhammad is the oldest staff after the former DG, but insisted that it was wrong to use seniority as the criterion in appointing the institute’s leader.
The union’s statement added: “The Board, in its own wisdom, has nominated Mr. Yusuf Abdullah Muhammad, an administrator and a HND holder in accountancy, to superintend over a research institute that has at least 10 PhD holders and over 30 Masters Degree holders in its fold. Being the most senior in terms of rank, the officer ordinarily would have been made to act. But the peculiarity of the agency’s mandate requires a seasoned academic which the agency has in large supply.”
The union condemned the appointment of “an incompetent and unacceptable headship for NACETEM by the governing board.”
The union accused the agency’s new board of modifying its statutes in order to clear the way for the appointment of the new acting director, adding that Mr. Muhammad played a role in doctoring the statutes.
“To our surprise, an abridged version of the draft enabling law, sponsored solely by Mr. Yusuf Abdullah Muhammad, was considered by this same governing board at its special board meeting held in Abuja on 20th November, 2013. We [would] like to draw your attention to the fact that major elements of the initial draft enabling law which had been considered by various offices and the management team of NACETEM have been put aside,” the statement asserted.
ASURI alleged that Mr. Muhammad had introduced some changes into the laws to facilitate his eventual appointment as NACETEM’s substantive DG. The union stated that some of the irregularities that arose from changes made by Mr. Muhammad include composition of the governing board, the requirements for the position of the DG/CEO, the functions and mandates of the agency, and the removal of the power of the agency to award postgraduate certificates and degrees.
According to the union, the “abridged enabling law” reportedly made by Mr. Muhammad also ceded some powers and sole responsibility of the DG/CEO to the board. The ceded powers include the responsibility to set up guidelines, regulate and manage NACETEM funds, ratify appointments as well as termination and dismissal of junior staff of the agency.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source at the institution alleged that Mr. Muhammad’s appointment was part of a strategy by a former administrator to cover up some mismanagement and misdeeds at the agency.
NACETEM staff charged that the board, in a desperate move to push through Mr. Muhammad’s appointment before its ratification, his name was hurriedly used in a national daily newspaper as the acting DG.
“It was also observed with utmost surprise that a publication on page 34 of the Vanguard of Monday, 25th November, 2013 portrayed Mr. Yusuf Muhammad as the new Acting Director-General of the agency when there [was] no approval to that effect. In fact, what the paper published as an appointment was merely a proposal by the governing board, which was not acceptable to ASURI and a host of other members of staff. This is seen as a collective insult on the psyche of the agency and a calculated attempt to tarnish the image of the agency which has been built up over the years,” the protesting staff stated.
In a letter to Nigeria’s Minister of Communications, Ms. Omobola Johnson, who also oversees the Ministry of Science and Technology, the union demanded that a candidate with a PhD in Technology Management, Sciences, Engineering or Social Sciences be appointed as the new acting Director-General in order to avert a crisis.
The statement also called for a new board composed of technocrats and at least a south westerner. The union gave a two-day ultimatum for their demands to be met.
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