As the acting vice chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt looks deeper into the school’s records to resolve some contentious issues, which attracted serious public condemnation under the immediate past VC, the new helmsman, has been urged to look deeper and address another unwholesome matter, the expulsion of two PhD female students over issues with a self-appointed supervisor.
Prof. Steve Okorodudu, the acting VC recently reversed a harsh law introduced by the former VC, Prof. Ndowa E.S Lale that was strongly resisted by students when suggested, leading to the death of a final year student. Its implementation caused agony for many students who had difficulty meeting up with the regulation that all fees must be paid at due date or lose that year. The policy seriously worked against financially constrained students, many of who lost a year or two academic sessions with some abandoning their programmes as they could no longer meet up with the conditions.
With the reversal by the acting VC, Uniport students have been jubilating, praising the courage of the VC in using his office to alleviate their pain.
Encouraged by this development which they say has brought relief to students who, there are calls for the new VC to check the school’s records and re-appraise more cases of injustice. One such is the expulsion of two female PhD students of the Fine Arts Department, Ndebilie Chinyere and Akpan Ekpe following their complaints against one of their supervisors and the sack of a very senior lecturer in the department, Prof. Frank Ugiomoh, who tried to intervene in the matter.
One of the affected students, Ndebilie Chinyere, has repeatedly written to the school authorities including the former VC, Senate, and Governing Council appealing for reconsideration on their expulsion viewed as victimization for crying out over the supervisor’s high-handedness and complaint by Chinyere, that the supervisor, Prof Chukueggu plagiarized her work.
National Point gathered that rather than investigate the matter to ascertain the truth, the Post Graduate School leadership resorted to intimidation and issuance of ultimatums ordering Chinyere to retract her petition and write a letter of apology to Prof Chukueggu. When the students refused to do their bidding, they were both expelled under the excuse of insubordination to authority. No mention was made of her work, which is embedded in Chukueggu’s CV without due acknowledgement.
Trouble started when the main supervisor, Professor Okeke’s contract with university ended before the presentation of their doctoral seminar and another supervisor was needed to pair with Dr. Pamela Cyril-Egware to conclude supervision of their thesis. According to Chinyere, Prof Chukueggu self-appointed himself their supervisor but rather than continue where Prof Okeke stopped, asked them to start all over again and was levying them each time they had appointment with him.
In the course of researching to meet his demands, Chinyere discovered that the professor had plagiarized her article published in a journal.
Correspondents to the former VC to intervene on the matter were not acknowledged until the Senate terminated her programme in December 2019.
In one of the letters to the VC dated July 17, 2017 calling for his intervention before things got worse, Chinyere stated,
“In all, Prof Chukueggu has not been investigated and my journal article he plagiarized is reflected in the CV which he submitted to my institution, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri where he sought and served in the position of an adjunct professor.”
In a letter to the then VC, Prof Lale, alleged to be a friend of the supervisor, Chinyere wrote:
‘Invariably, my applying for change of Prof Chukueggu as one of my supervisors since March 16, 2017 and stating some of the ugly experiences I had with him between October 2016-March 2017 has been labeled as “Alleged case with PG School” against us by Prof Ogali. The reason being that we refused to yield to all the threats and intimidation from Prof Chukueggu, Prof Ogali, Prof Shaka and Prof Emeji on us to withdraw the copies of petition against Prof Chukueggu from the department and PG School as well as tender apology to him for crying out loud over his misdeeds against us.
“Prof Chukueggu was not officially assigned by the departmental PG Board to supervise us. He imposed himself on us and we accepted him whole-heartedly. It was when he started indulging in unethical activities like constant financial harassment, humiliation, intimidation and embarrassment, contrary, to the expected university supervisory ethics, as well as frustrating our efforts in the thesis to the extent of refusing to collect our chapters 4 and 5 and the corrected copy of chapters1-3, that I realized he is not ready and willing to assist us to complete our programme on time. This prompted me to request for his change as my supervisor”.
Chinyere also wrote to other organs of the school including the Governing Council for help. The easy option appeared to be to kick her out and thus silence her.
These issues demand a re-visitation to ensure justice and absolve the University of Port Harcourt from being seen an institution that upholds injustice with little regard for ethics.