By Sameer Yusuf, Muhammad Dalhat, & Muhammad M. Isa
Since it was established in 2011, alongside eleven others, by the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s Administration, the only period Federal University Dutsin-Ma enjoyed administrative stability and relative peace was during the Five-year uninterrupted tenure of its pioneer Vice Chancellor, Professor James O.I. Ayatse (now Tor Tiv).
Even though there were numerous allegations against Professor Ayatse, which included mass staff recruitment without recourse to Federal Character Commission requirements, as majority of those he allegedly employed were mostly his Kinsmen. Some alleged that even positions of messengers and other lower cadre staff which are usually reserved for people from within university communities or catchment areas, were filled up with people from Professor Ayatse’s home state of Benue.
For whatever reasons, even though different petitions were written against Prof. Ayatse’s recruitment policy and other cases of maladministration, almost all prominent sons and daughters of the state who were supposed to look into those allegations with the view of calling the Vice Chancellor to order, in the best and collective interest of their people, who were the ones at the receiving end, chose to look the other way. The Katsina people, especially their royal fathers, intellectuals, critics and radicals, instead, aligned with, tolerated and supported Professor Ayatse to finish his tenure peacefully and successfully.
Following Professor Ayatse’s exit, Professor Haruna Abdu Kaita, a son of the soil from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, who was appointed as the second substantive Vice Chancellor of FUDMA, took over administration of the University with enthusiasm and the feeling that he was there to right all the wrongs perpetrated by his predecessor, and to move the university to greater heights.
Kaita, according to some stakeholders, started by given the young University the required Administrative and Academic leadership. However, within less than one year, he stepped on powerful toes when he tried to sanitize the University with the approval of the Federal Character Commission and other related authorities. He however, started by upturning some of the appointments made by his predecessor.
Professor Kaita who, unfortunately, was not on the same page with his Pro-chancellor, Dr. Marliyya Zayyan, who had a stronger connection than him in the presidency and was closer to the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, did not survive a collusion with the powerful pro-chancellor, who made sure that she mobilized majority of the council members against him, the arrowhead of whom Professor Kaita alleged was the incumbent Vice Chancellor, Professor Armaya’u Hamisu Bichi, who was then Kaita’s deputy (Academic).
To deal with Professor Kaita, the Pro-chancellor, in a query entitled, “Allegations of financial impropriety and maladministration”, dated April 13th, 2017, accused the Vice Chancellor (Kaita) of involvement in 11 different cases of corruption.
Dr. Marliyya accused Professor Kaita of single handedly dismissing 160 staff of the University, majority of who, according to him, were wrongly employed and were not from the state. Professor Kaita said he did that in the name of reform intended to pave way for deserving candidates from both Dutsin-ma and Katsina. However, Dr Marliyya, in the query, accused Professor Kaita for not consulting the Council before embarking on the dismissal mission of the 160 staff, and for unilateral re-appointment of a number of such staff without following due process, alteration of financial regulations and existing practice by making himself and the Acting Bursar the only signatories to the University’s Account.
She further alleged that Professor Kaita used the sum of N23 million to furnish the Vice Chancellor’s office, and that he also awarded his biological son a contract for the procurement of ICT infrastructure at a value of N5million, among several other allegations.
The Pro-chancellor, in the letter, therefore, requested the Vice Chancellor to respond to the above and the remaining other allegations within 24 hours, even as she admitted that EFCC was also investigating the allegations.
According to Professor Kaita, the same letter that was sent to him and dated the same day (13th April, 2017) was copied to the Minister, and while he was responding to the allegations, before the expiration of the 24 hours given to him, a letter, in response to the one she earlier copied to the Minister, was sent to the Pro-chancellor from the Minister’s office, also dated 13th April, 2017, in which the Minister purportedly asked her to investigate the issues raised in her letter to Professor Kaita and to submit her findings to the Minister for further decisions.
Clearly put, Professor Kaita told Education Monitor in an interview that he was queried on April 13th, 2017, the query was sent to the minister on the same April 13th, 2017, the minister responded to the query on the same April 13th, 2017, and while he was trying to respond to the allegations within the 24 hours given to him on April 13th, 2017, he was suspended even before the expiration of the 24 hours given to him by the late Dr. Marliyya-led Council. The way Professor Kaita was queried and suspended in less than 24 hours and without fair hearing, generated condemnation by all discerning and conscious members of the University community.
The embattled Vice Chancellor lamented that before his suspension, the incumbent Vice Chancellor, who was his deputy, was not only deeply involved in his unfair travails, Professor Kaita alleged that he, the incumbent Vice Chancellor, was one of those that sat in the council that recommended and approved his suspension, so, he could take over from him, even as it was clear that the suspension was wrongly effected.
After his suspension, Professor Kaita proceeded to the court to seek for legal redress where two different courts passed judgements in his favour. However, the Government and the Minister refused to effect or obey the decisions of the courts which ordered his re-instatement.
As Professor Kaita was still waiting for the Minister or the Government to do justice to him, the government, through the Hon. Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, went ahead, in complete disregard of subsisting court orders in his favour, to appoint Professor Armaya’u Hamisu Bichi, as substantive Vice Chancellor, without following laid down procedures of appointing Vice Chancellors of Federal Universities.
Before the wrongful and eventual appointment of Professor Bichi, last year, whose letter of appointment was personally presented to him by the Minister himself in his office in Abuja, contrary to the convention, Federal University Dutsin-Ma has had, within eight years, five Vice Chancellors with only two, in substantive capacities.
However, like his predecessor, Professor Bichi has today been also thrown into the court of public opinion, following frightening allegations of corruption and maladministration. But, unlike Kaita who, Katsina elites and the Minister abandoned, the way the US and NATO has literally abandoned Ukrainian Volodymyr Zelensky, leaving him alone to sort out his problems in the battlefield with Russian Vladimir Putin, Professor Bichi, however, despite the arrays of allegations of corruption against him, seems to enjoy the full support of the Katsina elites and the Minister, a reason why he is busy threatening whoever that attempts to publish any report or allegations of corruption against him.
Education Monitor came across a document with series of disturbing allegations of corruption and maladministration leveled against Professor Bichi, sometime in January, which it was immediately forwarded to him to study and respond to in an interview we were planning to have with him at a later date on the allegations, to get his own side of the story, but he declined granting the interview, about one month after.
Before sending the document to the Vice Chancellor, we sent him a message that read, “Morning Prof. Sir, we received a document on allegations against you, which we want to do a comprehensive report on, but want to hear your own side of the story or rebuttal of the allegations. This is necessary for the sake of fairness”.
Below is the document, in italics, anchored by one Dr Yusuf Maikano:
Universities are primarily established for the purpose of teaching, learning, research and character molding. In Federal University Dutsin-Ma, the reverse is the case as the Vice Chancellor Professor Armaya’u Hamisu Bichi has changed the University that was hitherto ranked 14, globally in 2015 as ICT Driven Institution by Professor James O.I. Ayatse (Pioneer Vice Chancellor) to a mere corperate institution where money by all means is manufactured through various dubious means such as sales of appointment letters, admission of new students even when examinations are about to be conducted at the end of a Semester, Opening of Examination Portal after the conduct of Examination to add marks to girlfriends and those who can afford to pay which has polarized the system to the extent that female students feel bold to ask Lecturers to have conjugal relations with them for additional marks and male students offer money to Lecturers for marks.
It is not surprising that, this is happening, as due process for appointment of a Vice Chancellor was not observed during the Prof. Armayau’s appointment as Vice Chancellor, Federal University Dutsin-Ma. If these procedures were followed, he would not have become Substantive Vice Chancellor of Federal University Dutsin-Ma.
It is worthy to note that, Prof. Armaya’u Hamisu Bichi applied for the position of Vice Chancellor in University of Maiduguri and University of Abuja in the last contest. He was shortlisted in the two Universities.
Fourteen (14) Candidates contested for the Vice Chancellor of University of Maiduguri and after the interview Prof. Armaya’u Bichi took 13 position out of 14 candidates while in University of Abuja, he took the last position of 13 out of the 13 candidates that vied for the position of Vice Chancellor.
The procedures in selecting Vice Chancellors are:
1)Advertisement in Two National Dailies
2)The University that is to appoint a Vice Chancellor constitutes a search committee / team with representative from the Senate and Congregation of the University to search for a Vice Chancellor from other Universities not less than three Applications are received and interview is conducted to shortlisted Candidates – three most qualified are recommended to the Council for it to select one for the position which will be forwarded to the Visitor (the President) for accent.
The case of Prof. Armaya’u Bichi was different as the Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu Unilaterally appointed Prof. Armaya’u Bichi as Substantive Vice Chancellor by ignoring the procedures.
This singular act of flouting the laws that established Universities in Nigeria is illegal and calls for all meanning Nigerians to denounce the act and ask the Minister to respect Nigerian laws which made him a Minister in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Why do we need to have qualified, competent, educated and morally sound leadership in our institutions of higher learning such as Universities? Universities are not just mere centers for Teaching, learning and research, they are also Centers where leaders are created through sound morality and character molding. This is the reason why procedures for selecting leadership of the University must be adhered to. Failure to do this always results to the following happenings identified in Federal University Dutsin-Ma:
1)Prof. Armaya’u H. Bichi wrote to the Accountant General a letter Ref FUDMA/VC/AGF/IPPIS/21/I on 15th April, 2021. Received on 4th May, 2021 requesting the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation through the Director, IPPIS to pay Salary Arrears of Staff of the University who were employed in March and August, 2020 and were not captured by IPPIS until December, 2020. A list of 402 staff was attached. When this payment was made to some reasonable members of staff in the list, he then directed the University Payroll Office to deduct these monies from the salary of the beneficiaries of the salary arrears payments (see payslip of deduction attached) and remitted to FUDMA Consult Account for his own use.
2)Office of the Honorable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) Verification on Salary Arrears and Reinstated Staff Claims of MDAs 2020 released the sum of #88 million to Federal University Dutsin-Ma through GIFMIS. Prof. Armaya’u Bichi did not pay any reinstated staff Salary Arrears but use the money (Document attached) for his personal purposes.
3)A Director in charge of GST has to resign his appointment because Prof. Bichi asked him to open portal to add marks to students of his choice (Name withheld)
4)Professors and other PHD Holders are refusing to accept responsibility of Heads of Department to save their personality disposition. Case of Department of Sociology where a Master Degree holder was appointed HOD because the Senior Ones (Professors) refused to accept the appointment.
5)His In-Law gave out fake Contracts while he uses his power to cover up by making it official when Contractors duped by his in-laws raised the issue to avoid court case (case of Sirajo Salisu Vs Nura). Sirajo Salisu is the Contractor (Contact No. 08035879510)
6)Camping of female students in Hotel and rented houses. Case of Bichi’s wife (Aliya) and a female student name withheld in which his wife and Driver went to the house he rented for the student and beat her up. He sacked his Driver Babangida Bako for supporting his wife against his dubious act. Babangida Bakos’ Contact No. 08037286980.
7)Asking IPPIS to stop payments of salaries of those he considered as enemies for 6-8 months without justification. To stop a confirmed staff salaries in whatever disguise of offence, there are procedures to be followed which he boycotted. These procedures are as follows:
When a person is found wanting in his place of work as stipulated in the Scheme of Service of the University, such a person has to given:
(i) Verbal Warning
(ii) Written warning
(iii) Query by immediate Supervisor
(iv) Establishment of Prima Facie Committee to determine whether there is case to answer or not
(v)If the case is established that, the accused staff has committed an offence, the case is referred to Management to forward to Disciplinary Committee (Senior or Junior) as the case may be.
(vi)The recommendations of the Disciplinary Committee will then be forwarded to Council for ratification.
These process among others are not followed by Prof. Armaya’u Hamisu Bichi as he arbitrarily direct stoppage of staff salaries at will.
To say the least, the University is at the level of collapsing if nothing is done by those concerned especially Agencies responsible for investigating these unruly acts like the EFCC & ICPC and in particular, the Government and Good people of Katsina State, the Emirate Council, the University Council, etc should wake up and do something so as to avoid total collapse of the University.
However, several days later, we put a call to him, but he refused to pick. The Vice Chancellor later called to assure Education Monitor that he was going to grant us the interview soon, a day that never came. So, we decided to send him a message to remind him about the interview.
The message read, “…Sir, the issue is we have sat on the report for too long. I am already being accused of compromise. Well, we are still waiting”.
The next thing Professor Bichi sent to our Editor-in-Chief was, “The matter is even in court”. A message we saw as a subtle threat”.
He later sent us the link of a story titled “Summit Post apologizes to FUDMA VC over libelous publication”.
He again sent another statement that was signed by one Isiyaku Yusuf Karofi, anchored by Dr Yusuf Maikano (author of the above initial allegations on the VC) which read,”I, Isiyaku Yusuf Karofi, the source of the write-up “Journalist Hangout Report” with byline Dr. Yusuf Maikono hereby retract the said write-up and also wishes to Apologize to Prof. Armaya’u Hamisu Bichi, his family, friends, Federal University Dustin-Ma and the general public on the embarrassment it may have caused to him and his family. I believe that the said write-up contained false accusation to which I highly regret”.
Seeing this, we felt that the VC was not interested in responding to the allegations, so, we went ahead to work on our story, relying on the documents in our possession. We however, did a promo on the proposed story which we put on our website with the Kicker and riders below:
BREAKING: Tension Soars at FUDMA over Frightening Corruption Allegations:
-VC Orders Arrest, Torture of whistleblowers, Journalists.
-Key Stakeholders Dissociate Selves from VC’s Illegalities.
-Why Dutsin-Ma LGC gave Varsity’s Staff Quit Notice.
As soon as the above went viral, the Vice Chancellor personally sent a disclaimer to the Editor, Education Monitor, which was routed from the Office of the Directorate of Public Relation, Federal University Dutsinma, dated, 14th February, 2022.
The disclaimer which was signed by Isyaku Yusuf Karofi, and seemed to have been written under duress, read: “My attention has been drawn to a Publication in your paper Education Monitor titled: Breaking: Tension Soars at FUDMA over frightening corruption allegations” of which I was not in the knowledge of the publication neither was I contacted for any contribution or input”.
The disclaimer ended by saying “I write to dissociate myself with this publication”.
The contents of the disclaimer came as a surprise to us, because Education Monitor did not really talk to, or interview anybody with such a name. So, why will he dissociate himself from a story or an interview he did not grant, and was yet to be published? But, we later got the information that Karofi, who the Vice Chancellor accused of being responsible for the initial release of the document, was threatened that any further publication of the allegations in any newspaper, whether the document was given by him or not, he is not only going to lose his job, but must be jailed,
However, on receipt of the disclaimer, Education Monitor sent a message to the Vice Chancellor saying, “But, there is no any such publication yet by Education Monitor please. Was he (Karofi) ever quoted anywhere by the newspaper? Why is he apprehensive? what is the wisdom of the message (disclaimer). Can you please tell us?”. Unfortunately, there was no response from him.
However, the following day, his Director of Public Relation, Habibu Garba Matazu, sent us a Press Statement, in which he threatened to take Education Monitor to Court. The Vice Chancellor also sent the same statement to us on the same day.
The statement partly read, “The attention of Management of Federal University Dutsin-Ma (FUDMA) has been drawn to a purported news headline with riders published on 9th February, 2022 by an online media platform, Education Monitor, titled ‘’ Tension Soars at FUDMA over frightening……’’ written by one Muhammad Dalhat in which several frivolous and malicious accusations were raised against our citadel of knowledge. The news headline with a threat by the publishers of the Education Monitor to publish the full text of the so called and concocted exclusive story in their February edition came to the Management as a surprise was not only false, full of lies, baseless, unfounded, misleading and mischievous but a bunch of rubbish orchestrated by the publishers for their selfish interest. The issues raised in the publication are full of lies and a figment of the author’s imaginations that has nothing to do with the
Vice Chancellor Prof. Armaya’u Hamisu Bichi nor the University as a whole. It may interest the general public to note that a similar news platform “The Summit’’ had earlier published same stories but quickly withdrew and tendered an unreserved apology to the University. The Management demands same retraction and apology from same Education Monitor or the University would take appropriate legal action”
The letter further read that, “The public is hereby urged to disregard the purported story as it was completely sponsored by enemies of progress of the Institution and for their selfish interest and to draw the attention of the publishers be it knowingly or unknowingly being used to cause chaos in our peaceful and law-abiding Institution. The University Management enjoined the press to resist publishing unverified stories and rumours and to always verify all issues concerning FUDMA as our door is always opened to meet with any enquiries”.
Education Monitor finds it difficult to understand why the Vice Chancellor is, in the first place, evading granting us interview to simply state his own side of the story, but, instead, he keeps threatening us with court action, even as we gave him ample time to respond to the allegations, before finally going to press.
It is imperative to note at this point that right from 2017 when Professor Bichi took over administration of the university in acting capacity, for initial and constitutional period of six months, which metamorphosed into unconstitutional and illegal period of two years, to 2021, when he was appointed substantive Vice Chancellor of Federal University Dutsin-Ma, several allegations of corruption and maladministration were levelled against him and his fellow comrades in the University’s Council, who, many believe may not be innocent in all the allegations levelled against the Vice Chancellor.
Holders of this belief hinge their conviction on the Council’s deliberate failure to investigate the disturbing allegations against the Vice Chancellor. One other very worrisome development about all these happenings in FUDMA is the way how several petitions by different concerned and patriotic sons and daughters of Dutsin-Ma in particular, and Katsina in general, to all stakeholders, calling on them to investigate the allegations in question with the view of taking action to salvage the university, were not heeded to, either because of the Vice Chancellor’s strong bond or connection with both the Minister and the Presidency, or because he knows how to play his card well to get the entire Katsina state elites on his side.
It is imperative at this point to share with the public that as we were preparing to go to press, someone who refused to identify himself called to warn that, “If you guys go ahead with your planned false and sponsored publication against the Vice Chancellor, then be prepared to face his unimaginable wrath or consequences of your stubbornness”. Whoever that person was, we don’t care, since we are responsible to only but the Almighty God and our great readers, as far as our watchdog responsibility is concerned.