The controversial re-appointment of Dr. Abubakar Dzukogi as Rector, Federal Polytechnic, Bida for a second term of four years without considering his age has been described as an abuse of the Federal Polytechnics Act 2019, as amended, and the extant provisions.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) in separate letters to President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. I. A Gambari, Minister of Education, Attorney General of the Federation and Head of Service of the Federation, said as at the time of his re-appointment in 2019, Dzukogi was 63 years, four months old and was expected to serve for two years as stated in the first letter by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
Falana intimated the minister that Dzukogi’s first tenure ended May 22, 2019 and that Adamu in another letter dated March 4, 2019, conveyed Buhari’s decision to re-appoint him for a second term of four years without considering his age and the Federal Polytechnics Act, which he signed into law in 2019.
He explained that following complaints from ASUP about the illegality, the four year tenure was abridged to two years, which meant that Dzukogi’s tenure would now end on February 15, 2021 when he clocks the statutory retirement age of 65 years.
The counsel to the union said ASUP discovered that another letter beyond the rector’s retirement age was given to him. He said the contentious letter was signed by the Director of Tertiary Education, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Samuel Ojo, who has since also retired from service last month.
Falana said: “Since Dzukogi was 63 in June 2019, he ought not to have been re-appointed as the rector because he had only two years left in service.
“In view of the fact that the law has not made provision for two-year tenure for the rector of any federal polytechnic in Nigeria, we request you to recommend to the president as the appointing authority to reverse the re-appointment of Dr. Dzukogi as the Rector of the Federal Polytechnic, Bida.”
In its petitions to the Chief of Staff (CoS) to the President and the Attonery General of the Federation on the issue, ASUP said the rector approached the National Industrial Court in Abuja to vacate the first directive of the education minister to leave office on the attainment of the retirement age of 65 years.
The National President of ASUP, Mr. Anderson Ezeibe, who signed the petition and copied the Executive Secretary, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), said the re-appointment letter to Dzukogi is a clear breach of the Provisions of Section 8 (2) of the Federal Polytechnics (amendment) Act 2019.
Ezeibe said the new letter did not give any indication of the approval of Buhari, neither was it signed by the minister of education in contrast to the first one, adding, “the letter also runs contrary to the provision in the act for a rector to serve for five years.
He called for the justice minister’s intervention in the direction of observation to due process and rule of law in polytechnics.
ASUP’s letters disclosed that the continued stay in office by the rector after he had voluntarily retired since June 2020 from the service of Federal Polytechnic, Bida was illegal and also an attempt to transmute him as sole administrator, which runs contrary to section 16 (4) of the Polytechnic Act 2019.
The union recalled that the first letter by Adamu conveying Buhari’s approval, stated that his re-appointment was for two years because of his age.
In its petitions to the minister, AGF, CoS and HOS, ASUP faulted the second letter of re-appointment by the Director of Tertiary Education, Mr. Samuel Ojo, which contradicted Adamu’s earlier letter.
ASUP said Ojo’s letter to Dzukogi, dated June 9, 2020, states that his re-appointment is for four years, but with a clause. Ojo asked the rector to retire from the service of the polytechnic and continue in office till 2023.
After the first publication on the subject matter by the Daily Sun Newspaper of August 11, 2020, the minister of education was said to have claimed that he was not aware that the reactor had voluntarily retired from the service of the polytechnic since June, 2020.
The union therefore called on the authorities concerned to, as a matter of urgency, mandate the retired rector to vacate office and hand over to the most senior deputy rector.