Several lecturers at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) have told SaharaReporters that administrators at the university seem bent on protecting Jonah Onuoha, a suspended Head of Department (HOD) of political science who instigated three men, two of them confirmed postgraduate students, to attack Ben Nwosu, a lecturer in the department.
Mr. Onuoha, who holds a PhD from UNN and has taught at the same university for many years, was placed on suspension after SaharaReporters detailed the brutal assault on Mr. Nwosu, a lecturer at UNN who earned a PhD in New Zealand. The assault happened on October 13, 2015, as Mr. Nwosu left the suspended HOD’s office after briefly inquiring about the status of his application for promotion.
The three assailants, identified as Emeka Nwanze, a PhD student being supervised by Mr. Onuoha, Boniface Nwankwo, and a third yet-to-be identified man, accosted Mr. Nwosu, accused him of using his mobile phone to record his conversation with the HOD, and began slapping and punching him to force him to surrender his phone. Our sources at the university said the beating ceased only after Mr. Nwosu handed his phone to the attackers who then gave the phone to Mr. Onuoha. Our sources said they learned that Mr. Onuoha stood calmly watching as the students he instigated attacked the lecturer.
In addition to urging three men to assault a lecturer, Mr. Onuoha and several of his cohorts in the department have been accused by some students of extorting cash from them in exchange for grades.
Soon after SaharaReporters reported on the assault, UNN’s Vice-Chancellor, Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba, ordered the suspension of Mr. Onuoha. In addition, the VC set up a panel to investigate all allegations against Mr. Onuoha and his cohorts. The committee is chaired by K.P. Baiyeri, a professor in the Department of Soil Science, with Micah Osilike, the university’s director of academic planning, Amechi Nicholas Akwanya, a professor of English, and Professor Orosanya of the Mathematics Department as members. Our sources disclosed that the investigative panel, which has six weeks to submit a report, has called on all interested parties to submit memoranda.
Even so, a group of lecturers told SaharaReporters that there were disturbing signs that university administrators may be quietly planning to shield the suspended HOD from the consequences of his grave actions. They pointed to the fact that the acting Head of Department of Political Science, Obasi Igwe, recently listed two courses to be taught by Mr. Onuoha. The courses assigned to Mr. Onuoha are “Third World and Dependency,” a final year course, and “Introduction to International Relations.”
One of the lecturers claimed that when Mr. Igwe was reminded that Mr. Onuoha was on suspension, he just said that the suspended HOD was likely to be back soon. The lecturers said they were also dismayed that the suspended Onuoha was made the chair of the Departmental Committee on conferences/seminars and workshops. “Implicit in this allocation of functions to him is a systematic nullification of Professor Onuoha's suspension,” said one of the lecturers, adding, “There is even no way of being certain that the University is actually implementing his half-salary status which applies to a suspended staff.”
The UNN academics also said they were disappointed that VC Ozumba recently confirmed Aloysius Okolie, a professor in the Department of Political Science and a close ally of the suspended HOD, as the coordinator of JUPEB, a remedial program for prospective students. According to one of the critics, “Professor Okolie has been the coordinator of the program, but in an acting capacity. But the Vice Chancellor now confirmed him, even though he is one of those accused of extortion.”
In addition, the academics said they found it hard to understand why the university had not called on the police to arrest the accused attackers of Mr. Nwosu. “As we speak, Emeka Nwanze, one of the men who attacked Dr. Ben Nwosu, is still attending postgraduate seminars in the department. He attended one seminar held on the 24th of November. It is also a shame that the third attacker, who happens to be an associate of Mr. Nwanze, has yet to be produced,” one of the sources said. He added, “It means the university is less than serious about investigations into this matter.”
SaharaReporters also learned that the police in Nsukka have not taken any action about the assault on Mr. Nwosu, despite the fact that the victim reported the incident to them in mid-October. “The police have been acting in a manner suggesting that they have been compromised by Professor Onuoha and his supporters,” one of the lecturers said.
The academics who spoke to SaharaReporters said they were following the case in order to avoid the further entrenchment of impunity at UNN. “If a HOD can get away with sending students to beat up lecturers and staff, then how can we claim that we are a university instead of a motor park?” one of them stated.
The lecturers told SaharaReporters that they were impressed by the quality of members appointed by the VC to investigate Mr. Onuoha. However, they wondered whether the committee would be able to meet the six-week deadline for submitting a report. “Three weeks have passed since the committee was constituted, but the committee has met only once,” one source disclosed. “They should be given enough time to get to the root of the matter,” the source added.