Debates and controversies have been sparked recently around the country, challenging the honor of professorship awarded to Dr. Isa Ali Pantami, Nigeria’s Communications and Digital Economy minister.
Pantami was promoted to a Professor of Cyber Security by the Governing Council of Federal Univerity of Technology Owerri (FUTO) at its 186th meeting on 6th September, 2021.
Several claims have been established alleging that Isa Ali has not met the requirements to be awarded such title.
One of such claims by Farooq Kperooqi in his weekly column Notes from Atlanta has attacked the Minister from different angles, examining the standards of professorship in Nigeria and raising brows at the integrity of FUTO.
Labelling it ‘Pantamised Fraudfessorship’, Kperoogi argued thus “three criteria are used to promote academics: teaching, research, and service. Pantami’s entire university teaching record is less than 10 years—if you consider that he never taught either at ATBU or at Robert Gordon University (although he lied that he did during his senate confirmation hearing) during his three years of doctoral studies.
“His research output is even more underwhelming. Although he brags about having “over 160 publications,” his actual scholarly output is really thin for someone who wants to be a professor.”
Countering Pantami’s claims on having over 160 publications, Kperoogi published that only three articles and one citation were discovered. Of the three articles, Pantami is the single author of one (which is actually only a 2-page country report) and a distant co-author in two.
He further alleged that all three articles were published between 2018 and 2019 while he’s in government.
Nexus news also gathered from Google Scholar that Pantami has precisely 10 articles and 39 citations there. Out the 10 articles, he is the first or sole author of 5 and a co-author of 5.
“Sadly, at least 5 of his 10 articles are in dubious, pay-to-play, predatory journals that would destroy the academic career of any scholar in a serious country. Most of the articles were accepted and published in the same month that they were submitted!” Kperoogi corroborated.
Revisiting the number of year’s he had spent in the academics, Kperoogi said Pantami didn’t spend up to a year as Lecturer I and Nigerian academics are required to spend at least 3 years in a rank.
“Three years as a Lecturer I, 3 years as a Senior Lecturer, and 3 years as a Reader would give you 9 years. That means he needs to spend at least 9 years in the university after his ministerial appointment—and publish a few more articles— to be qualified for promotion to professor. In Saudi Arabia, it would require at least 8 more years.”
He further pointed out that Pantami acquired a PhD in management, a social science discipline, not in computer science or cybersecurity.
“So, it’s doubly fraudulent that he has been “promoted” to the professorship of a discipline he didn’t study or publish in extensively.” He observed.
In the same vein, similar concerns have been expressed in a column published by This Day, titled: “Issues In Pantami’s Professorship’ on 16 September.
The article critically assessed the procedure of achieving a professorial apex in the tradition of academic discipline, pointing out the specific records of research and publications needed.
Denouncing the failing standards in tertiary institutions, the article decried how Nigerians are being confronted with a new phenomenon of tertiary institutions that literally trades academic honours and positions.
“The most recent consequential instance of such travesty is the much orchestrated ‘promotion’ of Isa Pantami, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to professor of Cyber Security by the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. Pantami has never taught or been on the faculty of this university.
“Even more scandalous is the revelation that there is no evidence that the university authorities observed extant due process before awarding Pantami’s so-called promotion. It remains a matter of semantics whether an institution can technically ‘promote’ a person who was never on its staff to any position.” It condemned.
In reaction to the surging allegations and generated controversies, Federal Univerity of Technology Owerri (FUTO) has come forth to explain why along with some other lecturers of the university, Pantami was elevated to the academic rank of a professor.
Speaking with Saturday Tribune on 18 September, the Registrar of FUTO, Mr John Nnabuihe, said: “The university knows him as Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim based on the documents in his file submitted,” stressing that he was evaluated alongside other internal members who were also appointed as professors.
Nnabuihe upheld the promotion as meriting, asserting it was “based on his qualification which he merited through long years of research works.”
According to Nnabuihe, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim was not “promoted” as reported in some quarters but was “appointed” because he was a Reader.
The FUTO Registrar went on “the only reason why it looks like it is a promotion is because he was a Reader and has not attained such position before. So, he is appointed into a higher position than where he was before.”
“Somebody who is not your staff, you cannot promote him.” Nnabuihe stated that after Dr Ibrahim graduated in Computer Science, he began as a lecturer at the Abubakar Tafawa Belewa University.
According to him, Pantami later proceeded to another university in Saudi Arabia and was afterward appointed as an “Associate Professor,” which was where he stayed for some time until he was appointed as the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) which he said was “like a research institute.”
Meanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has initiated an investigation into the appointment and has authorized its FUTO chapter to assess the conditions under which Pantami was promoted to Professor in the University.
Speaking to Saturday Tribune, the chairman of ASUU, FUTO branch, Mr Christopher Echereobia said the the union was conscious of the development, putting in that the union was already investigating the matter.
He further revealed that the national secretariat of ASUU had directed that “the issue should be investigated to ascertain the true position of the matter”, stressing that the union held its zonal meeting on Wednesday and the issue was discussed.
According to the FUTO ASUU chairman said an investigation was ongoing and as soon as the inquiry was surmised, the union would come out with its stance.
He said ASUU members in the institution had been given a period of two weeks to investigate the matter and come up with their findings.
“I just came back from Awka. We have been meeting and we want to get to the root of the matter,” Echereobia said.
Furthermore, he announced that the union has already reached out to ASUU at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) because they learned that Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim was a one-time staff member there before he went for a PhD and later went to Medina.
Conclusively, he added that the union was also trying to contact the Saudi institution to verify the factual position, whether he was “associate professor” there or not.