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ASUU Begins Probe As FUTO Denies ‘Promoting’ Pantami To Professor

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Isa Pantami

The Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) has clarified that it did not promote the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, to a professorial position, but only “appointed” him a Professor, considering that the minister was already a Reader.

Authorities of FUTO asserted that the appointment of the minister to the position of professor “followed required due process”, stressing that the name he gave to the university was Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim before his appointment.

Pantami’s appointment as professor in FUTO has been mired in controversy with some Nigerians faulting FUTO on the reported promotion of a minister, who has never been on the teaching roaster of the university and whose highest academic attainment was just a lecturer before he ventured into politics.

Naija News had reported that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) suspended its Gombe State Caretaker Chairman, Sunday Congo for writing a letter congratulating Pantami on his controversial promotion to the rank of professor, which a major national newspaper also questioned in their editorial.

While defending the appointment as deserving in an interview with Saturday Tribune on the issue, the Registrar of FUTO, Mr John Nnabuihe disclosed that the Minister was assessed alongside other internal members who were also appointed as professors.

He explained that Pantami’s appointment was “based on his qualification which he merited through long years of research works,” and that: “The university knows him as Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim based on the documents in his file submitted”.

While insisting that Pantami was not “promoted” as was reported in some quarters, the FUTO Registrar said “the only reason why it looks like it is a promotion is because he was a Reader and has not attained such position before. So, he is appointed into a higher position than where he was before.” 

“Somebody who is not your staff, you cannot promote him”, he said, adding that after graduating in Computer Science, Dr Ibrahim started as a lecturer at the Abubakar Tafawa Belewa University.

Dr Ibrahim, according to him, later went to another university in Saudi Arabia and was thereafter appointed as an “Associate Professor,” which was where he stayed for some time until he was appointed as the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) which he said was “like a research institute”.

According to him, “In such a research institute, somebody could be there and at the same time would be publishing papers that could make him qualify. He said based on that, a particular university “could decide to appoint someone as a professor.” 

The FUTO Registrar told the newspaper that in September 2020, FUTO advertised for the position of professor and lecturers in different disciplines in the institution and Dr Ibrahim applied.

He said: “If an associate professor is in a particular university and another university wants him and after assessing him he is qualified based on his research works and credentials, such a person could be appointed as professor by that university.” 

On when Dr Ibrahim would be available to take up his new job in the university, the Registrar said that “is his business,” saying “he applied and FUTO has assessed and appointed him, it’s not my business” (when he would take up the position). On whether FUTO has cyber security as a course, the Registrar said the institution has a Department of Cybersecurity under its School of Information and Communications Technology. 

eanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has launched an investigation into the appointment and has directed its FUTO chapter to look into the circumstances under which Pantami was promoted to the highest academic rank in the institution.

Reacting to the development, the chairman of ASUU, FUTO branch, Mr Christopher Echereobia, told Saturday Tribune that the union was aware of the development, adding that the union was already investigating the issue.

He disclosed that the national secretariat of ASUU had directed that “the issue should be investigated to ascertain the true position of the matter”, adding that the union held its zonal meeting on Wednesday and the issue was discussed.

The FUTO ASUU chairman said an investigation was ongoing and as soon as the inquiry was concluded, the union would come out with its position. He said ASUU members in the institution had been given two weeks to investigate the matter and come up with their findings.

“I just came back from Awka. We have been meeting and we want to get to the root of the matter,” Echereobia said.

He disclosed that the union has already contacted ASUU at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) because they learned that Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim was a one-time staff member there before he went for a PhD and later went to Medina.

The ASUU official added that the union was also trying to reach the Saudi institution to ascertain the true position, whether he was “associate professor” there or not.