New Telegraph

Dwindling fortunes of Abia Polytechnic

In the beginning

Located in the former Girls Technical College (GTC), Umungasi, Aba, the Abia State Polytechnic was established by Edit No. 8 of 1994.
Records show that the initial intake comprised students taking various Certificate Programmes. The Ordinary National Diploma (OND) Programmes of the institution commenced in the 1994/1995 academic year with the Higher National Diploma (HND) Programmes introduced in the 1999/2000 session.
With its six Schools (Faculties): School of Business & Management, School of Engineering & Technology, School of Environmental Design & Technology, School of Science & Industrial Technology, School of General Studies & Communication Technology, and the Centre for Evening Programme & Continuing Education together with many departments, Abia Poly provided Aba with the needed education to balance the intense commercial environment.

But for some years now, it has been one issue or the other, ranging from the serious battles between the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Polytechnics (SSANIP) and Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), Abia State Polytechnic chapter and the management over salary arrears to issues of extortion, school fees receipt forgery, loss of accreditation and now the issue of certificate racketeering.
Before the recent withdrawal of accreditation fully by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and with their 30 months salary arrears hanging, the authorities of the Abia State Polytechnic on Thursday, January 27 2021, suspended most of the affected workers who are in the leadership of SSANIP and NASU over their alleged roles in the failure of the Polytechnic to secure accreditation back then.
In an investigative publication made by New Telegraph on the 24th of February 2022, a recently removed Chairman of the Polytechnic’s Governing Council said that the suspended workers have been tarnishing the image of the institution through some inflammable and unfounded statements and stressed that efforts that have been made to clear these arrears are truncated by the demarketing and demeaning activities of the suspended workers.
As all these were happening, the school’s image was deteriorating, the government was sitting on the fence, and the students were leaving in droves while the management and some dubious lecturers are busy ripping off vulnerable students through unethical and unprofessional means which includes extortions, hiking of prices of textbooks and asking for a huge amount of money from students on projects among other unspeakable things.

Probe process
During the investigation back then in February, the Council Board Chairman told New Telegraph that the school is already in trouble because the major instrument for their payment is the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the institution which comes through school fees and he asked how can the institution get students when the unions have killed its image, making an institution which sometimes had a population of 57,000 students to now have below 8,000 students.
While all these issues were going on, the Abia State government was still at loggerhead with the school management expressing their own innocence in the predicaments and afflictions of Abia Polytechnic with the excuse that its obligation to the school is to pay subventions. The government in so many ways watched as the rot in the institution deepened and to this point where it cannot be hidden anymore.
On the 19th of July 2022, the NBTE hammer fell on the institution as the Board cited the non-payment of staff salaries and allowances for over 30 months as its major reason to withdraw the accreditation of Abia State Polytechnic.

NBTE speaks
The Head of the Media Department, NBTE, Fatima Abubakar, said in her statement that the accreditation was withdrawn because the polytechnic had not shown any commitment towards offsetting the arrears and ensuring regular payment of salaries.
She also said that the Board had drawn the attention of the Polytechnic’s management to the dangers inherent in non-payment of salaries, including the suspension of quality assurance visits.
She equally said that the board went the extra mile of writing to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State, informing him of the dire situation of the polytechnic but all to no avail.
She added also that the board has decided to withdraw the accreditation status of the polytechnic to safeguard the quality assurance mechanism of the board, as well as to ensure that students are not left at the mercy of demotivated staff that may resort to under-the-table practices to survive.
Facts on the ground have shown that the hammer of the NBTE on Abia State Polytechnic came too late as too many dubious practices have allegedly been ongoing, either as a result of the non-payment of the staff salaries or the entrenchment of corruption among the lecturers and the institution’s management.
Allegations of people manufacturing certificates within the institution to cover up for their academic deficiencies of the past have been there and recently, a lawyer and a human rights group opened up part of such allegations through petitions to the Rector as well as to Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) demanding answers and investigation into the alleged foul practices.

An Umuahia-based lawyer, Okey Amechi, SAN, in his own move, petitioned the Rector of the institution, Prof. Kalu Osonwa, to question how a student, Gregory Okwuchukwu Okafor obtained his Ordinary National Diploma (OND), result from the institution.
In a similar move, a human rights organization, Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy (CRPA), has also written to the polytechnic, over the same issue demanding answers about possible certificate racketeering.
In the petition, Amechi said Okafor, a businessman in Aba, and a member of the Aba Sports Club 1926, had indicated an interest in contesting the election for the office of the President of the Club scheduled for December 1, 2021.
He said going by the Constitution of the Club, an aspiring member must be a holder of at least a Diploma obtained from a tertiary institution.
Amechi alleged that Okafor, having not the said academic qualification, secured admission during the 2018/2019 academic session into the department of Business Administration and Management.
“Surprisingly, Chief Okafor who had up to the closure of nominations for the office of the President of the Club maintained he was a student of Abia Polytechnic, suddenly brought a purported OND statement of result, dated November 30, 2021.
“This statement of result purportedly showed that Chief Okafor had graduated from your school with effect from August 1, 2020,” he wrote.
He noted that the OND statement of result issued to the student which the institution said took effect from August 2020, was despite the disruptions in academic activities across the globe in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amechi said the authenticity of the said result issued to Okafor was seriously in doubt, stressing that as of December 2021, the school was yet to graduate students for the 2018/2019 session.
Casting doubt over the authenticity of the result, the petitioner averred: “The Diploma statement of result, though dated November 30, 2021, still bears the letter-headed paper of a long retired Registrar of the school, Chief Mrs C. A Nwabughiogu, instead of the current Registrar, Mr Oriaku Chinyere. C., while an attestation letter to the Aba Sports Club, also dated November 30, 2021, had Oriaku’s letter-headed paper.
He, therefore, requested the Polytechnic to verify in writing the status of the OND Statement of Result issued to Chief Okafor to avoid legal actions.

CRPA verdict
Meanwhile, CRPA has also requested the institution to verify and make public the authenticity of the OND result issued to Chief Okafor.
The human rights group added that in dealing with its request, the Polytechnic should be guided by the need to protect the sanctity of the academic certificates of Abia State Polytechnic.
The lawyer and the rights group had noted that the letter-headed paper of the immediate past Registrar was used to issue the Diploma result dated November 30, 2021, when she had since retired from the polytechnic.
In another petition written to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Mr Collins Opurozor noted the anomalies in the process leading to the award of OND to the businessman.
He urged the anti-corruption commission to investigate the matter and bring those culpable to book Contacted about the petitions, the Rector of the Polytechnic, Prof. Kalu Osonwa, directed all inquiries to the Registrar.
However, the Registrar, Mr Oriaku Chinyere. C, dismissed the allegations when asked about the issue of the attestation letter he sent to the Aba Sports Club 1926 and the Diploma Statement of Result, both dated November 30, 2021, bearing his letter-headed paper and that of the immediate past Registrar of the Polytechnic, Chief Mrs C.A. Nwabughiogu, respectively, signed by one Ogbuji Ebere Peace.
Oriaku admitted that there have been many inquiries about the matter which the school had answered and supplied the necessary pieces of evidence to prove that the allegation of certificate racketeering is false.
“I can tell you that those things are false allegations being peddled by those who don’t know the operations of the institution. All documents necessary for clarification on the matter are with us and we’re ready to make them available. But I can categorically tell you that those allegations are false,” Oriaku said.

Registrar explains
When contacted, the immediate past Registrar, Chief Mrs Nwabughiogu, denied doing any wrong, insisting that she retired from the Polytechnic before November 30, 2021.
Meanwhile, the New Telegraph obtained notable reactions from stakeholders and residents of Aba on the loss of accreditation by the institution with some of the reactions showing signs that it was a matter of when and not if the institution is about to collapse.
In her reaction to the loss of accreditation, a popular Radio Broadcaster in Aba, Anastasia Odochi Uchenna on July 24th 2022 wrote: “Months ago on People and Politics (one of the programmes she anchored), I talked about months of unpaid salaries in Abia State Polytechnic.
I remember vividly. It was a Friday edition.
The next day (Saturday ) I was at Addrex Hotel with Late Angela Ekwubiri. We went to eat roasted fresh fish. Lo and behold, I saw the management team of Abia Polytechnic. They were having what appeared a strategic meeting at the VIP section of the Hotel.

“I told Angela that the meeting was about me. She laughed and asked why. I told her I tackled the management the previous day and my instincts tell me they are preparing for “battle “. I was right! Monday morning, the Rector of Abia Polytechnic, Bursar and Chairman of the board arrived at my station for a live programme.
“Usually, when guests are billed for an interview, the presenters will be properly briefed so they can prepare, but this case was different. I just got to the office and heard about the interview. I now recalled the Saturday meeting at Addrex Hotel and knew there was a “coup”

“Somehow it was as if the universe was not kind to me that day, My co-presenter was not available. Yours truly was alone with three management staff of Abia Polytechnic who came prepared for me. Those who listened to the program can testify. It was a terrible outing. They called me a saboteur, liar, unkind, sponsored by the opposition, lots more. Just because I spoke the truth about the situation in Abia Polytechnic.
“Fast forward to a few days ago. Abia Polytechnic sadly lost accreditation over the same issue I talked about. I felt really sad. Perhaps, if they had focused on the message and not the messenger, things may have turned out differently.

“The interesting part of this drama is that two days ago, the Commissioner for Information released a statement and blamed the Management and Board for all the problems in Abia State Polytechnic. I have been vindicated.”
From all indications, therefore, the afflictions of Abia State Polytechnic are multifarious, to say the least. Their predicament includes the Abia state government, all the past and present Management of the institution, the staff and even the students union who have shown no interest in demanding or protecting their own rights.
Suffice it to say that just as the Christian Holy Book says in Psalms 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all,” it is also obvious that many are the afflictions of Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, but who will deliver it?

Read Previous

Lagos unfolds training partnership with Temple Group, Unilag, Henley Business School

Read Next

Insecurity: Reps push for ‘silence the guns’ implementation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *