‘there is no law in Nigeria that prohibits or declares Buccaneers as an illegal body or organisation’ – Nigerian Judge
The rector of the Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro in Isoko North council area of the state has shared how a Nigerian judge indirectly empowered Buccaneers to operate on campus. Dr. Jacob Oboreh, in an interview Austin Oyibode of NAIJ.com, explained how his administration has reduced cultism and sexual harassment on campus.
First of all let’s know whether there are evidences of cultism on this campus
We use to have that in the past but we have reduced them to the barest minimum. We have an intelligence unit whose members are not known to staff and students, they collate information and as soon as we confirm those information to be true, those involved in the cult activities are expelled. There was a time we published their names in the newspapers. That has reduced cultism to the barest minimum on campus. Basically, it is the campus aspect that concerns us, more especially when many of our students are not resident on campus.
The total students resident on campus are very few, may be 10 percent. We cannot control what is happening outside. Sometimes we hear rumour that there are cult clashes in town but we have not been able to pin it down whether they are our students or not. It’s unfortunate that there are young ones who are in secondary schools but being initiated into cultism.
So, when this happens in the town, I have cause to interact with the DPO, he told me severally that these ones that create problems in the town are not our students. Their activities are not on campus, that is the beautiful aspect of it. Sometimes, they come from Ughelli or Kwale to meet their counterparts in town but not on campus.
That is to say since you resumed as rector there has not been incidence of cult clashes on the campus
I said we use to have minor reports of cult activities on campus. That was far back in 2012. We became very proactive, there was a time I had to buy metal detectors for security men at the gate. Those devices actually paid off. We were able to apprehend a students coming in with rifles and ammunition, already loaded with cartridges and he was apprehended at the gate.
The gun was retrieved from him. The student was arrested and handed over to the police. That case is still in court. That made us to establish the intelligence unit. Those ones we confirmed to be cult members we expelled them. We never spared them. So, even if they exist, they must be very minimal.
In some institutions there are lecturers who serve as mentors to cultists, is there any case like that here?
We have not really pinned down anyone. But before I came in, there were issues of such nature where a lecturer was alleged to be a patron of one of the cults. He was charged to court and his appointment was terminated by my predecessor. The state government took him to court, the case dragged on for many years and he eventually won the case. I wouldn’t want to contest the judgment of the court because they are the wisest when it comes to such issues. But ideally the judgment was not too palatable in my own perspective, not legal perspective because we have social justice and legal justice.
The judge confirmed that the man is a member of Buccaneers but that there is no law in Nigeria that prohibits or declares Buccaneers as an illegal body or organisation. What that means is that the court has given power to Buccaneers to operate. And based on that, the man won the case. Off course, we were not those who took him to court, we could not gone for appeal. We only wrote to the ministry and they took him to court. The next thing I saw was a letter demanding that he be reinstated from the court. And I did. That is why I say I don’t want to question the judges. But, ordinarily, if it were to be the polytechnic versus the man, he cannot win. I would have followed it to the letter. That case was on before I was appointed.
Dr. Jacob Oboreh
Okay sir, has there been incidence of sexual harassment from lecturers to students?
Well, the issue of sexual harassment is very difficult to prove. Because not until you have empirical evidence, you cannot really say a lecturer harassed a student. However, we have two confirmed cases since I came in here. I wouldn’t want to call the name of the young man because we are still in court. A young girl came and cried to this office that a lecturer has been harassing her sexually. I told her to put her case in writing and she did.
I told her to go that not until we are able to get empirical evidence there is nothing we can do. But when results are released and she fails the course and she has strong conviction that she ought to pass the course, then she should come up with another protest letter. Incidentally when results were released the young girl failed the paper. So, the girl now petitioned, with that I called for the student’s scripts, the entire students’ script of about 531. And just browsing through, it was evident that the girl had been victimized. So, I set up an investigation committee. The committee thereafter found the man guilty. It was proved that the man actually harassed the young girl sexually.
While the total score should be 30, he recorded 20 for her. Anybody can count the score from the marks given. Then, the continuous assessment, out of 531 students, it was only the girl that got nil in continuous assessment. In order words, in exam she scored 20, continuous assessment nil and total marks 20, remark “F”. Having been found guilty, the committee referred him to staff disciplinary committee and the committee also found him guilty and recommended dismissal.
Well, the rector does not have power to dismiss, therefore I referred the matter to council. Council in their infinite wisdom decided that instead of terminating the young man’s appointment, who has wife and children, he should be deployed to become a non-academic staff.
He should be posted to where he is not accessible to young girls. But the young man started raking that council and management did not know what they are doing. He said he did not commit the offence after all. In that letter that was very annoying to council, the council now called for his file to determine his appointment.
Community people escaping from violent youth
While that was on, he quickly rushed to National Industrial Court, Enugu, and served a court order and the order was received in the Department of General Studies. When the letter eventually got to me, I discovered that it was wrongly routed, it was addressed to the Provost, Delta State Polytechnic, Ozoro and not rector.
At that point, I called the polytechnic lawyer, and said you lawyers don’t address issues somtimes, you address technicalities. I asked him am I a provost, what am I he said rector, then I said take this letter back. The letter is addressed to the provost, the law establishing the school said Rector, take it back to the National Industrial Court and return it to the Registrar and the Registrar acknowledged it, ‘mail returned, wrongly addressed’.
Before it came back, council had concluded its decision and he was sacked. He now took us to the court proper now. He said there was a court order against his termination but the polytechnic went ahead and terminated his appointment, and that became an issue in court. Our external lawyer argued that there was no court order addressed to the Rector. It was addressed to a non-existing office, there is nobody called provost in the polytechnic. So, after we won that one, we now addressed the issue of termination.
Unluckily for him, the judge was a woman. He was also relying on the fact that the young girl would leave the system after her graduation, so there won’t be prima facie evidence against him, that the girl would not be there to testify. But we quickly realized that and we engaged the girl, we gave her a job, the young girl has to go to court with our lawyers. The day she was examined, the judge wept. When the girl gave the experience of all she went through in the hands of the idiot, it was terrible.
Unfortunately, the judge was transferred to Makurdi, Benue State. Instead of the judge to leave the case, she went with the file to Benue. She said they should be coming to Benue, she want to conclude the case. At the end, in a 42 page judgment, she finished this young man and said he is not fit to be a lecturer. He should remain dismissed. He is roaming about the town now but he has taken us to Appeal Court.
There was also another case where a lecturer took a girl to the hotel and forced her to bed and the young girl cried out. We suspended the staff, then the father of the girl sued the young man to court. But due to much begging, the father decided to renege and collected one million naira from him, that is to save him from going to jail. Then administratively we dismissed him. The man has a Ph.D. That was in 2014. So, sexual harassment is not what we tolerate here. Since then, there has not been confirmed incidence of sexual harassment.
Can you tell us the secret of your successes over these two crimes on campus?
The success is attributed to not having some persons as sacred cows. When you don’t have anybody as sacred cows, you can deal with anybody. But immediately you start having your own boys, they will put you in trouble. On this campus, I don’t have friends. I relate with everybody, at the official level, if you misbehave the hammer comes immediately. I don’t care about it.
Cult initiation in Nigeria
There were some top officers whom I have dealt with. There is none that will misbehave and go free. That’s just the secret. If you fail to do so, it becomes a pointer to others. They will say this person did this but you didn’t do anything, now I did that same thing you are taking action.
In a system like this, the moment you start having boys you are finished, they feed you with wrong information and you begin to act wrongly. I’m old in the system. The moment you start making boys, you cannot discipline them, they mess you up. I won’t allow you to rubbish the system.
There is one that is under cross fire now. I don’t want to mention his name but I know he won’t survive it. He is a lecturer. He is collecting money from students, left, right and centre. He has misbehaved. I have all the empirical evidences against him. In fact going through administrative process is just to pity him, otherwise such a person goes to ICPC and lands in jail
But what do you think must be responsible for well-paid administrators to fall victims of such acts?
The issue is greed. They don’t have self-satisfaction. We understand the needs of man are insatiable but you need to discipline yourself to be able to satisfy your needs. When we started this job, I started with N510 a month as a polytechnic lecturer in a federal polytechnic. When we started moving to our own personal houses, we started with a room. From there to a room and parlour as a married man with a wife. Later the polytechnic gave me a staff quarter of a three bedroom flat.
Pirates on campus
What I’m saying is that there was steady progress. When I eventually bought a car, I bought a second hand car. I bought it for N35,000. It was furniture loan of N30,000 the polytechnic gave to me. I added N5000 to buy the car. What is happening now, the moment you engage a young graduate, he starts looking for a flat. He starts buying fridge, competing with you that have worked for 20 years. He won’t imagine how many years it took you to gather those things. He wants to drive a Toyota Camry which you are driving having worked for many years. Instead of them to start with a small car, they go straight to the top.
So, there is greed. That is where the problem lies. These things are gradual. You must take them gradually, otherwise you run into crisis. You see staff wanting to use the same phone that the Rector is using. They are not satisfied with what they have. You will get there someday but it can’t be now. When they become chief lecturers, senior lecturers, their salaries will be big. But for an Assistant Lecturer earning about N85,000, you want to use what a chief lecturer is using, that is a misplaced priority.
What is the place of Ph.D holders in the polytechnic education?
We have four including me five but I don’t lecture. Essentially, the polytechnic system needs an overhaul academically in terms of manpower. Though some of us also think strongly too that the polytechnic does not need much of Ph.D holders, rather it needs those who are technically biased at master’s degree levels. This is because Ph.D is more of academic and research degree. It’s not a degree that needs be emphasized so much in the polytechnic.
There has been a miscarriage in the polytechnic sector. The miscarriage is that the polytechnic seems to be emphasizing more of academic than professional qualifications as it is done in the university system. In the university, we emphasize academic qualifications. If you don’t have a Ph.D in the university, you are seen as not an academic.
The polytechnic system should emphasize more of professionals. But it’s unfortunate that the polytechnic has started looking down on professional degrees, they look down on masters degrees Industrial Relations, these are professional qualifications and these are what polytechnics highly need. So there is policy misplacement. Professional qualifications are things we need to emphasise, like ICAN, ANAN.
We are training people who will become professionals. So, when you start using academics to train professionals, I don’t know how we can achieve results. When we were lecturing in the polytechnic, we use to have HND with professional qualifications, with ICAN, you are placed higher in the Accountancy Department. But these days, they say ICAN is not relevant. I have asked several questions in several forums, they have been unable to provide answers, even at the national level.
I have asked how do you rate B.Eng, that’s bachelor of Engineering, M.Eng,, they say they are professional qualifications. Do you accept them, they say yes. Because they are qualifications awarded from universities of technology. Then, I asked what do you call MBA? So, there is a vacuum. Master’s Degree in Journalism should be more regarded to teach mass communication students than master’s Degree in mass communication. But the problem is that those in the policy making business, we can’t control them.
Campus students taking oath of allegiance
What do you have to say about the HND/B.Sc dichotomy?
This has been an issue over time. Like I always tell them, success is judged by what we can do, not because you carry a B.Sc and the other carries an HND. That does not define success. Let the B.Sc man and the HND man prove their worth. The employer of labour will decide who he wants on the long run. It’s not because I’m in the polytechnic, the B. Sc holders will soon be priced out of the market. They will soon run into crisis.
We cannot be producing engineers who carry files and seat files and seat in the office. It’s not acceptable. I was invited to an engineering summit in DELSU, I told them that the era where you think you are a B.Sc holder, you do design and you asked the ND or HND holder to implement, these people also do designs, that makes you irrelevant. They will design and implement by themselves. So, where is your place in the system? So, it’s what you can do that matters not the degree you carry.