By Emmanuel Edukugho
The protracted infighting at the Nigeria French Language Village (NFLV), Ajara, Badagry, an inter-university centre for French studies, between the Director-General, Professor Sam Aje-led management and academic staff has taken a frightening dimension when an investigation panel set up to look into the dispute was allegedly prevented from sitting on arrival.
It was reliably gathered that the panel had already started its meeting on Wednesday September 23, 2009 in which a decision was reached that the contractors who handled projects at the French Village should appear before it on Friday September 25.
Suddenly, the DG came and said the panel should immediately stop sitting since the chairman, Mr. Luke Kwaga, was not present, in spite of explanation by the person mandated to chair the meeting that the chairman was â€œunavoidably absent.â€ But the DG refused to accept, insisting that the Chairman of the governing council would appoint another chairman of the investigation panel who will then announce a new date for its sitting.
Consequently, the NFLV Chief Security Officer, politely ordered the panel to leave the council chambers, venue of the meeting without any confrontation.
As a result of inability to sit, members of the panel were eventually directed by the proper chairman to â€œleave the matter like that and return to Abuja where the next line of action will be decided.â€
Reacting to this development, some of the academic staff who signed the petition against the DG said that the Federal Government should ask him (DG) to proceed on compulsory leave or suspension so that he cannot continue to tamper with the process of investigation of complaints made against him.
According to Mr. Simeon Olayiwola, one of the lecturers who signed the petition to the Honourable Chairman, Nigeria French Language Village Council, titled: â€œBefore The Beginning of The end: SOS Call For Redress and Salvation of Nigeria French Language Village,â€ â€œthe DG should be suspended with immediate effect. He has been threatening both academic and non-academic staff.â€
Among some of the allegations made by the lecturers under the umbrella of University French Teachers Association of Nigeria (UFTAN) were the non-implementation of an Ad Hoc Committee Report which contained recommendations on how the village should be properly run, tackle complaints of staff and arrest the rottenness in the village, inconsistency of policies, not following laid down guidelines in respect of recruitment and promotion exercises of academic staff, including lack of respect of extant rules and regulations on this matter.
Other complaints were on career progression, status of the Nigeria French Language Village, mismanagement and lack of transparency in village affairs, contracts awarded to obscure companies without permanent addresses, payment of staggering amounts to contractors for jobs not executed, inflation of contracts, the controversial ventures and security company by which huge amount of money is being siphoned monthly, unconducive working environment, denial of rights entitlements and allowances, drop in enrolment as many universities and colleges of education are no longer sending their students to the village, severance of NFLV from NUC, frequent travelling and regular journeys from which the DG was alleged to be making an average of N500,000 per month as DTA, poor infrastructures in the village, inadequate water supply, stopping of the fumigation, constituting health hazards to students and staff alike.
Reacting to these allegations, the management of NFLV, said that generally, the atmosphere at the village is conducive for teaching and learning of French Language.
â€œIt is unfortunate that some members of media have turned their profession into cash and carry business without verifying the authenticity of facts. Even in a democratic society the law says everybody should be given fair-hearing.â€
Management explained that the French village ventures was incorporated under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 1990 on the 15th of January, 2007, to help increase the Internally Generated Revenue, and that â€œimproved academic standard and high quality of French education have been the core interest of the management.â€
On decline in student enrolment, the management said that progressively, â€œthere has been an increase in the awareness of NFLV activities to individuals, corporate organisations and government-owned agencies, as seen in their patronage of the village for French Language acquisition, for professional and other needs.â€
As regards awards of contracts, management pointed out that all capital projects and other contracts are duly advertised by NFLV management, prequalifications are evaluated and biddings considered in line with Federal Government tâ€™s procedures.