EXCLUSIVE: Crises rock Atiku’s university as staff accuses management of snooping on them (photos)

– Some staff of the University has accused the interim president of AUN, Le Gene Quesenberry of snooping on their laptops and other devices – The university is owned by former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar

NAIJ.com has been informed of the snooping of laptops and other devices of key faculty and staff of AUN.

Sources in the school who reached out to NAIJ.com on the condition of anonymity, for fear of intimidation, accused the interim president of AUN, Le Gene Quesenberry of carrying out a vendetta on staff and faculty who were close to her predecessor, Margee Ensign.

Ms Quesenberry assumed office on Saturday, February 25 after the voluntary resignation of Ms Ensign.

“Since the interim president was appointed, she has been harassing faculty and staff who were close to the former president, Margee Ensign,” one of the sources told NAIJ.com.

“She has directed Mr. Chaming to recall computers and other devices issued to some faculty and staff without telling them why such actions are taken. “We are also told that they now monitor telephone conversation of people and try to find out who they have been contacting on phone and on emails. It is so scary because we don’t know what they are looking for. “We hope they don’t temper with academic freedom, which is applicable to universities and citadels of learning all over the world.”

NAIJ.com also gathered that the newly elevated Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the university, Francis Chaming, has been allegedly charged with the responsibility of providing details of emails, phone conversations and other online activities of targeted faculty and staff.

As part of the assignment, Chaming has temporarily recalled computers and devices from some targeted faculty and staff.

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NAIJ.com reached out to a Lagos-based lawyer, Barrister Uduak Ekott to seek a legal interpretation on the issue.

”Further to this, Section 12 of the Cybercrimes Act 2015 makes it unlawful to intercept computer data without authorization. The form of authorization contemplated here would be for a wider discourse. ”That being said, it is pertinent to note that the combination of both laws is to promote freedom of expression (such as academic freedom in the University as in the instant case) among other things. ”However, it should be noted that this law is not absolute. An employer may claim it has a legitimate right to protect the workplace and the systems being used as claimed in this case.”

Barrister Ekott said: ”A person’s right to privacy has been guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Section 37. This provision seeks to protect a citizen’s affairs from intrusion and unsolicited interference. This provision would also cover communications including emails and computer systems.

Apart from snooping on phone and devices of faculty and staff, Ms Quesenberry is said to be deficient in qualification to handle the job of interim president of the university.

She is said to have a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Juris Doctor degree, which is not an equivalent of a Ph.D under the Nigerian university system.

Based on her profile, Ms Quesenberry obtained her first degree from the Washington State University, and later the JD from Gonzaga University School of Law, Spokane, Washington, USA.

NAIJ.com checks however indicated that based on the circular issued by the National Universities Commission (NUC) which regulates Nigerian universities, including the AUN, Ms Quesenberry is not qualified to rise to the professorial position.

In a circular with referenced: NUC/ES/138/Vol.59/98 and dated July 24, 2012, the then Executive Secretary of the commission, Professor Julius Okojie, had put to rest the controversy on who can rise to the position of a professor under the Nigerian university system.

The circular was titled: “Doctorate Degree (Ph.D) As a Pre-Requisite for Progression to the Professorial Position.”

In it, Professor Okojie noted that the acquisition of a doctorate degree is a prerequisite for progression to the professorial position.

“Vice Chancellors should note that the Ph.D. must not only be from a recognized university but must be cognate to the specific discipline. “However, in the interim, only the Fellowship of the National Postgraduate Medical College (or its equivalent) as it relates to Medical and Dental Clinical Teachers is accepted by the National Universities Commission as a suitable alternative to the Ph.D, until the framework for Ph.D. for Clinical Medical and Dental Doctors has been finalized.”

“The National Universities Commission hereby reiterates that the acquisition of doctorate degree (Ph.D) is a pre-requisite for progression to the professorial position,” the circular reads in part.

The circular advised vice chancellors to adhere strictly to the requirement and to seek clarification from the NUC in the event of doubt.

This shows that Ms Quesenberry does not meet the NUC’s requirement having failed to obtain a Ph.D. in a cognate discipline.

Under the Nigerian university system, JD is not considered an equivalent to a Ph.D.

READ ALSO: This is how to check if your National ID card ready for pick up ”Incidentally, the last AUN Board of Trustees meeting in February 2017, which announced my interim presidency, has categorically directed that there should be no staff or faculty lay-offs until an ongoing board audit committee completes its work and recommends that to happen. ”This audit of facilities, personnel and finances is still underway. During this meeting, the AUN board contracted KPMG to undertake a thorough audit of the university. The AUN community of faculty and staff are fully aware of this ongoing audit exercise. ”Part of this audit process requires random retrieval of computers from personnel by the auditors to serve the purpose of the auditing process. This can be confirmed from KPMG. It is likely that this task, which is currently ongoing, is what is being insinuated as having been used to stifle certain faculty and staff.”

Responding to NAIJ.com’s inquiry on the allegations levelled against her, Ms Quensenberry in an email to our correspondent, sent on her behalf by the head of public relations at AUN, Mr Abba Tahir, denied the claims.

Part of her email read: ”It is not true that the CIO at AUN has been unusually recalling computers assigned to faculty and staff. This can only happen after a faculty or staffs are leaving the university finally.

She stated that it is within the university policy to retrieve computers and any other university tool, facility or equipment from staff or faculty who are leaving the university for any reason.

”However, since AUN has a fully-fledged IT department headed by a CIO, it is outside the president’s schedule to personally order any such retrieval,” she added.

She expressed surprise that she was accused of harassing and intimidating faculty and staff especially those close to her predecessor, because she was personally hired by Dr Ensign to serve as provost.

”Dr. Ensign was my first contact about and into AUN,” she said.

”My mission as interim president is to continue from where Margee stopped, by moving AUN to the next level, working towards providing highly qualitative leadership that will propel a globally competitive American education for our students,” she affirmed.

”As an American, I did not know whether by law, such appointments should also be placed before a regulatory body for vetting before an appointee can be confirmed. And even if that is the case, I am not sure it is my responsibility to ensure that happens, before I could pick up the appointment to join AUN in any capacity. ”AUN is an American University approved and licensed in May 2003 by the National Universities Commission to operate a typical American curriculum in Nigeria. American educational traditions recognize JD in Law as an equivalent to any PhD in other fields of study. ”The AUN Board of Trustees, which ratifies senior administrative appointments, is made up of globally distinguished academic and business leaders from around the world.”

On the issue of her non-qualification for the position of AUN president, Ms Quesenberry said she went through all the required processes before her emergence.

She wrote: ”Before my appointment as provost, my qualifications and accomplishments were placed before the Board of Management, which was headed by former President Margee Ensign; the Internal Search Committee; and finally ratified by the Board of Trustees.

AUN is a private university in Yola, Adamawa state that offers American style higher education programs at the undergraduate, graduate and professional levels.

Founded in 2004, it is accredited by the NUC and the only American style university in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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