After one year of delayed take-off of academic activities due to protracted face-off between the management of Karl Kumm University in Vom, Plateau State, and its host community, the stage is now set for September resumption of full activities in the private institution
Governor: Crisis at varsity does not speak well of our state
Community gives 2-week ultimate to appoint registrar
Musa Pam Jos After one year in limbo and disruption to the take-off of the Karl Kumm University in Vom, Plateau State, following a protracted rift between the university and its host community, respite has now come to the institution.
The university owned and established by the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) and its host community have been ensnared in an unresolved face-off over appointment to the university Registrar. But, with the amicable resolution of the disagreement that had crippled the institution last week, the management and students can now heave a sigh of relief as the private university is now set to reopen for full academic activities in the 2022/2023 academic session.
Regrettably, the lingering misunderstanding between the management of the institution and university host community allegedly delayed and deprived the smooth takeoff of academic activities. The Federal Government through the National Universities Commission (NUC) had on April 8, 2021 issued operational licence and approval to Karl Kumm University, as private university, but was not allowed to commence academic activities by the host community, which insisted that the management should appoint one of their own as the university registrar.
Vwang, the host community, where the university is located, had last year under the Berom Youth Moulders Association closed down the institution following the refusal of the management to honour the various Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) signed with the community following the announcement of the appointment of Dr. Daniel Kim as Registrar of the institution, which was later thwarted.
Members of the host community, it was learnt, were said to have tried desperately in vain to convince the management of the institution to reverse the decision to remove Dr. Daniel Dung Kim, as the Registrar of the budding institution.
To them, the decision to remove him was not only unpopular and reprehensible, but also largely unfortunate and unacceptable. In the recruitment interview conducted by the authorities of the university for Principal Officers of the new institution, the following candidates were appointed; Prof. Nanven Audu Gambo (Southern Zone) was named the Vice-Chancellor; Dr. Daniel Dung Kim (Northern Zone/Host Community) as the University Registrar; Mr. Success Sokyes (Central Zone) was appointed as the Bursar, while Prof. John Mawak from the (Central Zone) was named the Director of Academic Planning.
While the ovation and applause that greeted the appointments across board were yet to settle down, a negative twist was said to have been introduced into the appointment process after the principal officers had already been issued letters of appointments on May 13, 2021, respectively.
Further investigations by New Telegraph, however, revealed that the crisis started after the Governing Council had been inaugurated and had its inaugural meeting on May 12, 2021 with Dr. Daniel Kim as Registrar/Secretary of Council.
Kim, the candidate of the host community, was said to have been appointed in line with the MoU entered into between the community and the church, the owner of the university.
The agreement between the host community and the university management, according to investigation, specified that the community is to produce the Registrar as the basis of the understanding upon which the Vwang community was said to have freely allocated 61.7 hectares of its valuable agricultural land to the church for the university project.
The parcel of land belonged to some individual families, some of who are not members of the COCIN Church, who owned the institution. Meanwhile, worried by the development, the state Governor, Simon Bako Lalong, in his intervention towards the smooth take-off of the institution this year, directed the Commissioner for Higher Education and the Head of Service (HoS) to engage all stakeholders in resolving the crisis that led to the suspension of the licence of the university.
Lalong had expressed displeasure over how the university, which got its operational licence in 2021, could not take off due to disagreement with the host community over the appointment of the Registrar in line with a MoU the parties signed.
According to the governor, the issue must be resolved quickly as the university, which had been in incubation for over 18 years but was approved to operate having fulfilled the conditions of the NUC, only to be truncated. “Plateau State is known as a hub for education and we are proud of COCIN for the contribution of its educational institutions which have produced great minds in Nigeria.
But, the development at the Karl Kumm University currently does not speak well of the state, and must be addressed immediately,” he said. Expressing regrets over the situation, the Pro-Chancellor/ Chairman of Governing Council of the university, Prof. Ochapa Onazi, had told the governor that the unfortunate incident had impacted negatively on the institution, as it had already robbed it one year after its approved licence.
He, however, explained that the issue in question was easy to resolve as the management of the institution acted on truth and justice, saying over 20 years of planning the university, the Church had just secured the Federal Government’s approval.
Meanwhile, in “a new dawn,” for the university, the one-year feud between the management and the host community ended last week as members of the Vwang community decided to open the gates of the institution for academic activities following the Vice-Chancellor’s assurance that the management will consider a qualified candidate from the community for appointment to the position of the University Registrar.
Gambo, who declared this on Monday, July 18, 2022, when Vwang community led by the President, Vwang Development Association (VDA), Da Jonah Gworu; the Berom Youth Moulders-Association (BYM) and other associations amicably resolved the lingering disagreement that has delayed the take-off of academic activities in the institution in the last one year.
The Vice-Chancellor, however, expressed excitement over the action of the Vwang people for opening the gate of the institution, even as he described the people of the community as hospitable, accommodative and trustworthy, promising them that justice would be done to all parties involved. “I want to appeal to the Vwang community. Let us mend the broken trust and as believers, trust is very critical in sustaining harmonious relationships; we must learn to trust one another,” Gambo said.
Speaking on the crisis, the President of Vwang Development Association (VDA), Mr. Jonah Gworu, expressed delight over the intervention of Governor Lalong, who directed the duo of the HoS and Commissioner of Higher Education to wade into the lingering impasse. He, therefore, urged the management of the university to implement the terms of agreement reached with the community for a healthy and mutual relationship.
Also, the Chairman of Berom Youth Moulders-Association (BYM), Emmanuel Mangu, who opened the gate, gave the university a two-week ultimatum to appoint a qualified candidate from the community to the position of the Registrar and honour the MoU signed with the community.
The Vwang community had donated the parcel of land valued at N1.4 billion, which the university was established and a trailer of cement worth N1.5 million to the institution. The Chairman of Vwang Traditional Council and Gwom Rwey Vwang, HRM Da. Gyang Gutt Balak, while making the donations in 2020, pledged the community’s readiness to provide a peaceful atmosphere for the growth and development of the university.
The monarch said: “Being aware that Karl Kumm University is sited in our domain which has become part and parcel of us, and for desirous of ensuring the actualisation of the take-off of the institution, I, therefore, on behalf of the peace-loving people of Vwang community donate a full trailer load of bags of cement for the project.
“I wish to assure the entire Nigerians that the people of Vwang community have a responsibility of providing a conducive atmosphere for teaching, learning and research in the university, once it comes into operation. “We will work with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the provision of maximum security of lives and property.
It is because of the peaceful posture of our people that has led to the establishment of many institutions in our domain.” Da. Balak also noted that the Vwang community had signed a MoU with COCIN towards providing corporate social responsibility initiative in the host community, and urged the management to respect the agreement.
He said the visit also provided the community an opportunity to assess the level of infrastructural development on the 100 hectares of land donated to the university in 2007 by the community and vowed to continue to assist the institution for it to take-off. The former President of COCIN, Prof. Dachollom Datiri, a Reverend, in 2020 expressed gratitude to the Vwang community for partnering with the university, and promised the readiness of the church to ensure mutual relationship with the host community.
“The donation by the Vwang people has demonstrated that they are a noble community, which will not have any trouble with the institution. We are grateful for the support,” he had said.
The Vice-Chancellor recalled how he had earlier visited the Gwom Rwey Vwang, Da Gyang Balak to inform him that the Registrar of the institution had been appointed a Registrar at the University of Jos, and that a suitable candidate from the community may wish to apply once the position is advertised.
He added: “Right now, we are about to conduct an interview for the position of the registrar and we have had four applications from candidates, who are interested in the position, but we will have to shortlist only those who met our criteria and I don’t think the community should entertain any fear for now.
“We are not totally insensitive to our commitment in terms of responsibility to the community; there is what we call Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and that will manifest when we have grown the university to a certain level, and that is when the community will appreciate the university more.
“As a university, we want you to give us the benefits of the doubt that we will do what we have promised by the grace of God. If we believe in God, then we should be hopeful at all times.” The Head of Service of the state, Mr. Sunday Hyat, who represented Governor Simon Lalong at the peace meeting, thanked the Vwang community for listening and heeding the state government’s appeal to open the university’s gate, shut over the crisis.
According to him, the governor had mandated him and the Commissioner for Higher Education to resolve the lingering crisis and ensure that each party gets justice for the smooth take-off of the institution.
Hyat, who stated that they held a series of interfaces with the community members that yielded fruitful results, however, commended the resilience of the youths who insisted on doing the right thing, and assured them that the community stands to gain tremendously if they join hands with the management to grow the institution.
“The governor made a commitment, now that he had played a role in fostering understanding between the university and the community, we will now channel our energy towards the National Universities Commission to ensure that the university’s license that was suspended is lifted now that there is an understanding between the institution and the community.”
Named after the British founder of the Church, Dr. Hermann Karl Wilhelm Kumm (1874-1930), the university was expected to have commenced operation 15 years ago, but was prevented by infrastructural and technical challenges.
This was as the management of the Church objected to take-off on a temporary site, like many of its contemporaries, thus delaying approval. The officials of the National Universities Commission were in Jos several times to inspect infrastructural development at the site of the university ahead of recommending it for approval of licence.