APPOINTMENT OF 73 YEARS OLD DR FELIX OBI AS PROFESSOR OF LAW IN RSUST PH---THE IRREGULARITIES & ILLEGALITIES
I act as pro-bono Solicitor to the Law Students Association of Nigeria Headquarters Abuja (hereinafter called my LAWSAN). Permit me a space in your newspaper to draw the attention of His Excellency, Sir Celestine Omehia, Executive Governor of Rivers State, the Commissioner for Education, Pro-Chancellor:- the indefatigable Professor Godwin Tasie, the Vice Chancellor Professor VOT Owuaru, Dean Faculty of Law Professor Osimiri, National Universities Commission and Council of Legal Education to the irregularities and illegalities arising from the appointment of Dr Felix Nwanze Obi as Professor of Law at the Rivers State University of Science & Technology, Port Harcourt. With due respect, I must point that LAWSAN members not only have the fundamental human right to Education but also to quality legal education. This is guaranteed by 1999 Nigeria Constitution, African Charter on Human and Peoples Right 1982 and United Nations Declaration of Peoples Right 1945. Dr Obi’s appointment fell short of quality or standard of legal Education prescribed by the Law and thereby constitutes aberration. He is 73 years old, had his standard six leaving certificate in 1952 at the age of 16 years at All Saints School Asaba and therefore Unemployable under the Laws of Nigeria which make it mandatory for retirement at the age of 65 and contract employment not in excess of age 70 years. He is totally spent. The RSUST Authorities must assure quality in legal education by providing credible and qualitative Professor.
In other to regulate, enhance, arrest falling standard of education pursuant to National Universities Commission (NUC) Decree 1973, Education Minimum Standard Decree 1985, the “NUC” promulgated Benchmarkminimum academic standard in Law 1989 and the consolidation of 2005. As subsidiary legislative instrument, it has the full force of Law as it laid down fundamental criteria for all appointments/promotions of academic staff as safeguard/standard/quality Assurance. It ensures only credible professors are appointed and not promotion of mediocrity under the guise of scarcity/quota Professors. The criteria under NUC benchmark are vivid. Firstly, the prospective appointees must have good honoursdegree in Law. From reliable information from East London College Aldgate London (Now University of East London) where Dr Obi had his education, he passed only LLB (External Degree University of London) intermediate in 1965/1966 and part I finals between 1967/1969. He was unable to complete the LLB part 2 finals owing to financial hardship. In fact, he used his LLB intermediate to gain entry into the Bar finals at the Inner Temples Inns of Court School of Law. In effect, he did not possess good honours degree whether first, second class Upper or lower or third class honours or an ordinary pass degree even though he was called to English Bar in November 1970 at the Inner Temples Inns of Court. He was called to the Nigerian Bar with the second set of the class in October 1980 after attending Nigeria Law School October 1979 to October 1980. Secondly, since he has no Law degree at all, no University in England admitted him for LLM (Master of Law) degree. He did not have LLM or postgraduate Diploma in Law and it is surprising he now parades Doctorate degree reserved for students with first class or upper honours degrees who were/are admitted into PhD programme directly without the necessity of an LLM degree as entry qualification. Thirdly, his doctorate degree titled Docteur d’ University Paris-V, Sorbonne was awarded by the French University of Paris by the Faculte des humanines (Faculty of Humanities) department of history and not faculty de droit (Faculty of Law) raising the irresistible deduction/presumption that the purported doctorate was either honourary degree or probably acquired or issued from the Faculty of humanities department of history. The title of the alleged thesis is “The British occupation of Niger Territories (1830-1914) give credence to the assertion that the doctorate degree was issued by the department of history and not Faculty of Law. His own State institution Delta State University relying on this evidence refused to employ him as a professor or even as a Reader/Associate Professor.
Furthermore, a Professor must have minimum of 10 years teaching experience in a University. If the NUC benchmark of 3 years fallowing periods at every interval of each promotion from lecturers 11, 1, senior lecturer, Reader/Associate Professor/full Professorial chair are observed, the minimum duration may extend between 13-15 years teaching experience. Dr Obi who was with us at Ebonyi State University Abakaliki “EBSU” for just one year did not have even one day teaching experience at higher educational institution comparable to University Status prior to his appointment. Professor Osimiri who was the Foundation Dean of Law at Ebonyi State University between 2000-2003 tenaciously opposed his appointment on the ground that a Professor is primarily a teacher and argued that since he has no teaching experience; he could not legitimately become a Professor at that time. It is surprising the learned Professor Osimiri has now diluted his principles to accommodate quota Professors and give a favourable assessment of Obi’s appointment as a professor of Law at RSUST? As soon as Professor Osimiri left EBSU for his home State RSUST PH, the Vice Chancellor of EBSU was misled to appoint Dr Obi as a professor without sending his research publications to the 3 (three) External Referees required by NUC benchmark; on a contract appointment; on 1 st April 2004. After just one year, VC EBSU who latter discovered his mistake, refused to renew Obi’s contract appointment because of this irregularity coupled with poor attitude to work, arrogance, and poor productivity. In view of the above, one is at a loss why the NUC benchmark, Universities employment regulations etc which prescribed assessments of teaching performances, outstanding teaching ability, records/effectiveness as a University lecturer, eminent/proven teaching ability and satisfactory contribution to the University growth/development-were flouted? One can question Professor Osimiri and his clique at RSUST how, when and through what medium was Obi’s teaching ability/performance and contribution to University development were measured after Dr Obi spent just one year at EBSU.
It is noteworthy to observe that NUC benchmark for appointment promotion to Professorial chair stipulates visible evidence of continued research, demonstration of scholarship, capability for research, exceptional capability for research by considerable academic publications of books, chapters, patents conferences/seminar papers, academic leadership and administrators experiences by headship of academic unit, department, faculty etc. Professorial status is not acquired by political considerations, membership of cult or extraneous matter but by distinction, eminence and academic recognition of the appointee in the particular disciplines. Most Universities in Nigeria specify minimum 25 articles in academic journals of which at least 7 of such articles must be in the journals oversea outside Nigeria. Dr Obi has no single article(s) written in Nigerian and overseas journals. His first book is on history-British occupation of Nigeria territories (1830-1914), the second-legal Monism In utilitarianism:- A definitive context theory of Law & sovereignty, the third Basic understanding of Jurisprudence: A textbook for University undergraduate exams, the fourth- The sociology & philosophical Foundations of Customary Laws of Asaba, Soliloquy of a Beleaguered soul yearning for freedom, Asaba Chieftaincy titled Traditional Festivals, Asaba Historical perspectives are all self publications. In fact, he is the author and publisher. He has registered outfit-Mercury Press Tower of Equity, Felix Nwanze Obi’s Estate, No. 9 Felix Nwanze Obi Avenue Umuoje/Uda Layout Asaba. This is a case of double standard and selective justice because Dr J.F. Fekumo who gave everything he owned for the pursuit of academic at RSUST was denied his Professorial chair because of lack of the required 7 (seven) articles in foreign journals even though he had qualitative books and solid articles in the reputable academic journals in Nigeria. This type of selective treatment is not very good for the image of RSUST and should not be redressed immediately.
Amongst the books, only two of them are on law topic(s). In respect of books centered and produced through self-publishing mediums, there is no evidence that those books underwent or were sent to the refereed blind-peer reviewers to evaluate or give expertise opinion(s) on the quality, publishability or rejection, amendments, updating, refocusing, further spade work etc required to enhance quality and prove evidence of scholarship. The requirements of reputable publishers were flouted again by both EBSU and RSUST? Obi has never headed any academic department, Faculty, unit etc to suffice for academic leadership and administrative experience. The assessment of teaching performance; from 2004 to 2005 just for the one year cannot suffice for outstanding teaching ability and effectiveness contemplated by NUC benchmark.
Finally, in respect of Readers and Professors, the NUC benchmark specify external Assessment by 3 (three) external assessors in the area of specialization of the candidate’s specialization to evaluate research publications before the appointment. From all indications, Obi’s academic publications were neither assessed by the authorities of EBSU and RSUST to qualify him as Reader and Professor in Law. At best, he could be a Senior Lecturer and no more. I was reliably informed that the RSUST Appointment and Promotion Committee (A&PC) who interviewed him did not recommend him for any form of employment whether contract, temporary and permanent. In fact, he failed the interview as we were reliably informed. One is at a loss how come; he was employed as a Professor of Law. The visitor of the University should call for this A&PC interview reports and set up a high powered probe panel to investigate this irregularity and illegality. Dr Obi who attended interview did not produce degrees certificates. He came to the interview with just two textbooks on jurisprudence and customary Law. The members of A &PC should save LAWSAN members the agony of mediocrity quality in Legal Education.
We need more Professors in faculty of Law to promote competition and quality and this has to be done urgently. A situation where you have just one Professor in Law does not portend good omen like RSUST, Universities like UNN, Uyo, Calabar, Abia, ESUT, Ado-Ekiti etc. Some Universities don’t even have one. Others like Imo, Nnamdi Azikiwe Awka, etc have just two. More junior/senior lecturers should aspire to Professorial positions by engaging in productive research ventures rather than frivolities and vindictive propensities to save the situation.
K.M.T.O. ONWE (PRO-BONO COUNSEL TO LAW STUDENTS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA HEADQUARTERS ABUJA)
LECTURER IN LAW EBONYI STATE UNIVERSITY
CHAMBERS-97 GUNNING ROAD ABAKALIKI