September 18, (THEWILL) – The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has ordered a probe into the award of professor given to the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami.
Pantami was recently elevated to the academic rank of a professor along with some other lecturers by the Federal University of Technology (FUTO), Owerri.
The minister’s elevation has generated controversy, with many faulting FUTO for promoting an individual who is not on the university’s teaching roll and who was still a low-cadre lecturer before he ventured into politics.
Consequently, ASUU has directed its FUTO chapter to look into the circumstances under which Pantami was promoted to the highest academic rank in the institution.
The chairman of ASUU, FUTO branch, Mr Christopher Echereobia, said the union was already investigating the issue.
Echereobia said the body’s national secretariat had directed that “the issue should be investigated to ascertain the true position of the matter.”
He said investigations are ongoing and as soon as the inquiry is concluded, the union would come out with its position, adding that ASUU members in the institution had been given two weeks to investigate the matter and come up with their findings.
Echereobia said: “I just came back from Awka. We have been meeting and we want to get to the root of the matter.”
He said, the union has contacted Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Univeristy (ATBU) and the school Pantami went to Saudi Arabia to ascertain whether he was an “associate professor” there or not.
Meanwhile, authorities of FUTO have explained that the professorship was granted on the basis of Pantaminhaving submitted he holds a doctoral degree.
FUTO also insisted that the appointment of the minister to the position of professor “followed required due process.”
In a chat with newsmen, the registrar of the institution, Mr. John Nnabuihe, said: “The university knows him as Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim based on the documents in his file submitted,” adding that he was assessed alongside other internal members who were also appointed as professors.
Nnabuihe defended the promotion as deserving, saying it was “based on his qualification which he merited through long years of research works.”
He said Dr Isa Ali Pantami was not “promoted” as reported in some quarters but was “appointed”.
“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 explained.
According to Nnabuihe, Pantami was employed as a lecturer by the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, before he was appointed as an associate professor by a Saudi university. This was his position before he was appointed the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), which he said was “like a research institute.”
According to him, working in a research institute like NITDA and publishing academic papers qualifies an individual with Pantami’s credentials for appointment “as a professor.”
He further explained that in September 2020, FUTO advertised for the position of professor and lecturers in different disciplines in the institution and Pantami applied.
“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, ” he added.
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.
Also explaining the circumstances of the appointment, a senior lecturer (names witheld), said the university committee is excited to have Pantami as one of its seven new professors, even though the minister has indicated that he would not receive remuneration because of his current position.
“We gladly welcome this new set of professors in our reputable institution. It is even more heartwarming to note that Prof. Pantami has already communicated to the University that he won’t collect salary for now because of his national assignment.
“As you are aware, a professional title on an individual connotes leadership and exceptional contribution at national and international levels in research, scholarship, teaching/mentorship and learning.
“In Nigerian Universities, a professorial appointment has been a prerogative of the Senate of the Universities. Because of autonomy, the criteria for the appointment of a professor varies from one university to another.
“A criteria for appointment of a professor is usually a process unless strong evidence indicates some waiver. The professorship is not a theory, but a practical aspect; an expert with the ability to profess his expertise in his field/profession.
“The procedure for appointment and conferment of a professor is annual and include an application by suitably qualified individuals through recruitment or promotion.
“The application is internally assessed by a panel of assessors (mostly professors) usually by the relevant members of a Senate standing committee of Appointment and Promotion (A&PC) of the University.
“Upon the committee’s positive assessment, the University may communicate to the applicant his appointment to the professorial position subject to a positive assessment of External Academic Assessors (usually three, one of which may be a reputable professor in Europe or North America).
“These External Assessors are independent of the applicant and are of professorial standing in a discipline related to the applicant’s core research and academic interest.
“The referees must not have supervised or collaborated with the applicant on any research/scholarly projects as well as must not be related whatsoever to the applicant.
“Therefore, in summary, appointment and promotion to a professorial position is a process and varies from university to university. University Senate is the final approving body for the conferment of professorial title on applicant and has also the power to waive certain criteria to confer the title when they are convinced that the applicant is qualified to have the title,” he said.