By Nosa Akenzua,
Orient Weekend gathered that the controversial conversion of the institution to a university by the government of Adams Oshiomhole is now causing tension as the host communities, staff of the college and other stakeholders have accused the government of deception.
A source disclosed that Oshiomhole, prior to converting the college to university of education, had promised the people of the area that it would provide the plank for business and socio economic development. However, many years after, the host communities, which include Ekiadolor, Iguedaiken, Isiukhukhu , Evboneka, Iyowa, Iguikhinmwin, Iguoevenmwen, Iguodia, Eko Abetu, Ovbiogie and Iwu, were yet to see the promised turn-around in their fortunes. They have demanded for a return of the school to its former status.
The College of Education, Ekiadolor, founded by Professor Ambrose Folorunsho Alli shortly after he was elected governor of old Bendel state in 1979, has suffered untold neglect over the years. Although, the current state administration promised to revive it, not much development had been seen in that regard.
Besides the developmental problem confronting the College that runs over twenty accredited courses, and was doing academically well, the Ekiadolor host community road was indeed, very deplorable as, very often, staff members of the College were faced with increasing transport fare and serious embarrassment of more often swimming in the pool of water on the pothole-infested road, especially for the pedestrian staffers.
Unconfirmed sources said the community may have been facing untold” spiritual” problems as the one community, among numerous communities in Edo state, that have been under-developed even on the face of a nonfunctional College of Education.
An indigene of the community, Fredrick Osasenaga who spoke to our reporter said” no successive administrations have deemed it fit to develop the Ekiadolor community, a very big community near Benin City; no light, no good road network, we are suffering here. No water even when the College of Education was founded. Obaseki has no time for us at all. We are completely neglected. We don’t know our offences. The only school we have here was converted into university without a license, no staff, no students. All these were the handiwork of Adams Oshiomhole”.
Trouble started sometime in November 2018 when the eleven host communities petitioned the state governor, Goodwin Obaseki, in what they called” Abandonment of College of Education/ Tayo Akpata University, Ekiadolor in Edo Senatorial District”.
In the petition signed by the Odionweres ( elders) of the various communities, the petitioners drew the attention of Governor Goodwin Obaseki to what they described as the abysmal neglect of the College of Education that was established in 1979 under the late Professor Ambrose Alli’s administration, adding that, in 2014, then governor, Adams Oshiomhole, upgraded the College to a University status and named it Tayo Akpata University of Education alongside Edo State University, Iyahmon, after the establishment of both institutions was formalised by the Edo state House of Assembly. Edo University Iyahmon has, since, commenced operations and their first set of students would be graduating in 2019, while both the College of Education, Ekiadolor and Tayo Akpata University of Education have been completely abandoned without a license and not functioning as the appointed vice chancellor, Professor Aduwa Ogiegban, has neither office nor staff to run the university.
Part of the petition reads” the proposed university, till now, has no operating license under Nigerian University Commission (NUC) and cannot be verified in website”, stating that the state government (gave a) directive stopping admission in the College since 2015 with the last batch of students in the College just rounded off, calls for painful development and should be addressed urgently.
While noting that the socio-economic activities of the host communities had been reduced to the lowest ebb as a result of the abandonment and total neglect, the petitioners averred that the three senatorial districts in Edo state were blessed with various categories of tertiary institutions. While Edo Central has Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and College of Education Igueben, Edo North has Edo University, Iyahmon and College of Agriculture, Agenebode respectively, while in Edo South all the tertiary institutions were either closed down or abandoned to be shadows of themselves.
The petitioners, however, appealed to Governor Goodwin Obaseki to return the College of Education, Ekiadolor and allow it commence admission as soon as possible.
Red Omonuwa, chairman of the College of Education Academic Staff Union, Ekiadolor chapter told this paper that Tayo Akpata University of Education was a scam as the school had not really taken off despite government promises and claims. According to him, the former Edo governor, Adams Oshiomhole, made a political gamble with the institution.
Omonuwa said signs that all was wrong with the school conversion emerged when the name of the school was changed to the Edo State University of Education and a bill to that effect was passed by the state house of assembly and signed by Comrade Oshiomhole. “Somewhere along the line, Oshiomhole changed the name to Tayo Akpata University of Education and the law establishing Tayo Akpata University has not been passed which means there is no university. We have been trying to know our status. What becomes of us if you stop intake for NCE course and the university is not kicking off? Oshiomhole left and Godwin Obaseki, who we discovered is the private partner in the Edo University, Iyahmon, succeeded him.
“We found out that the Edo University, Iyahmon, is a PPP kind of arrangement. That the private part of it is Afrinvest, whose managing director then, was Godwin Obaseki (present Edo governor). We have been pursuing it but it has not gotten anywhere. We have met Governor Obaseki many times and he kept making unfulfilled promises. We want our NCE back”.
“On the current status of the school, he said “there was still no license for the university to start operation. The Tayo Akpata University of Education is a lie. There is no university anywhere. As we speak, there is no single student in that school. We are now prayer warriors because the man (Governor Obaseki) can wake up one day and do the unimaginable.
“Initially, we took them to court when they were trying to deprive us of direct membership of the university arrangement. Then we thought that they were serious. So, we took them to court to tell them that we were direct members of the university by the law that says that you must take over assets and liabilities. It is a complicated story.
“Some time ago, Oshiomhole appointed a governing council headed by Thomas Okosun and a vice chancellor, Professor Ogegban, and they came up with a lot of things. He gave them N100 million to play with. They bulldozed something’s there (at the College of Education, Ekiadolor premises) and started to conduct interviews because there was a need to justify the N100 million. They now told us we are not staff of the university. We took them to court.
“Edo state government is not serious about what it is doing. Sometime last year when we protested and met the secretary to the state government (SSG), Barrister Osarodion Ogie, he told us that the university was going to take off in November. Two days later, the governor told us he was taking us to Abudu Campus in January 2019.
The chairman Nonacademic Staff Union of the College of Education, Ekiadolor, Mr, Sam Omoruyi, further disclosed that “two of our staff have died of hunger. Many of us are in hunger, no salary for 12 months now. Governor Goodwin Obaseki has refused to pay us. No students in the school again. The buildings are falling apart. Nobody is listening to us; even all the letters we wrote they sat on them. We are suffering. The road to the school is very deplorable. What is our offence? Obaseki promised to pay our salaries (but), up until now, nothing. We are suffering, and our families too are suffering”
Investigation revealed that vitually all the school buildings are near collapse with the roofs already pulled off while the hostels abandoned by the students have been taken over by rodents and weeds. But the special adviser to Goodwin Obaseki on communication and strategy, Crusoe Osagie, when contacted, said the state government was doing something about the controversial Tayo Akpata University and College of Education Ekiadolor, adding that the governor was committed to the development of the state by providing the basic infrastructure.
Also, the Tayo Akpata University vice chancellor, in a reaction said” the situation has not been too good. I and my driver are the only staff of the university. I am not aware it has no license. I think the state government will do everything possible for the university to function very well. It’s unfortunate that we are faced with many irregularities but, with time, we will have cause to smile. The university is just there; not operative, for the obvious reasons”.
Those in the know said that the situation might be there for a long time as the recently erected building was carried out by the onetime speaker of the State House of Assembly (name withheld,) who claimed to have spent the sum of N100 million on the building.