Discipline or Witchunt? Borno Govt Accused of Foul Play in Demotion of School Principal

Baba Alhaji Muhammad, Malam Baba as he was known by everyone in Njimtilo, a suburb of Maiduguri, Borno State capital was posted as the principal of Government Technical Secondary School.

Multiple respondents who spoke to WikkiTimes noted that assume duty with hardwork and dedication for the educational development of the area.

After being accused of duty negligence by the state education commissioner and chairman of the state’s teachers’ board, he was demoted and deployed to a rural school as classroom teacher, his demotion has however become a subject of controversy and debate.

Respondents who spoke to our reporter noted that Baba Alhaji was loved by everyone in the community due to his efforts in reviving the lost glory of educational fortune of the area.

Respondents said to have introduced a cordial working relationship between the teachers and the students on one hand and the school with the community on the other side.

Malam Baba however stated that he  didn’t  know that he would be detained,demoted and redeployed for allegedly not forcing teachers to wait in classes , as students made their way back to their respective classes after breakfast.

Baba’s traumatic journey as a principal started one fateful morning when his school was visited by the chairman of the Borno Teachers Service Board. 

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Multiple sources told our reporter that students were retiring to their classes after breakfast which usually ended around 10:50am, the teachers’ board chairman however was noted to have wondered why teachers were not waiting for students in the classroom, a situation that made him zoom off in anger.

Malam Dahiru, a community member who is actively involved in the school activities told WikkiTimes that up to the time of filing this report, they were not aware of the offence that their principal Malam Baba was punished for and even demoted to a classroom teacher in a remote village.

According to him, the school has witnessed tremendous successes due to Baba’s efforts, wondering why he will be witchunted for no reason and that the impact of what was done to him is still being felt in the school as attendance drop drastically by the students.

“I was there in the school that day when the commissioner came. He didn’t even come out of his car, it was only his boys that went round for some minutes, came back and told him that there are no teachers in all the classes “.

“The following day, the school principal handed to his Vice Admin that he was instructed to by the commissioner. He(Vice) objected but the principal told him that it was an order from the commissioner. He handed over and left. The students upon realizing that their principal has been transferred they started voicing out and some teachers also joined them. That’s what happened but they said he instigated a riot and teachers were detained”, said Dahiru.

Malam Dahiru further said as someone who’s in the picture of happenings in the school since onset, he and his community members are yet to come to terms that Malam Baba’s punishment.

He also alleged that his demotion may not be unconnected with his efforts in reviving the school which was neglected by authorities.

It is not only Dahiru that felt aggrieved over what happened but Baba Audu Njimtilo, who said Baba’s name will be remembered by all for putting the school in it’s shape.

Baba Audu alleged that some persons in the higher authority are not happy with what he is doing and so they removed him for no reason. This feeling was corroborated by Dahiru who said Baba has blocked some persons from diverting science and technology materials meant for the school.

Recounting his ordeal, Malam Baba said he was punished for no reason expect that SS3; students are conducting practicals when the commissioner visited the school after he was instigated by the board chairman that teachers are not attending to their duties in the school. 

According to him, when the commissioner came his aides went round and reported that none of the classes had a teacher and all his efforts to explain to the commissioner were in vain, instead, he was called with all sorts of names by the commissioner.

“So on the 11 of March 2024 that is the first day of Ramadan. The Hon. Commissioner paid us a visit around 11:50am and that day a circular was passed that schools should be closing by 12 noon because of the Ramadan, immediately he came in then SS3 students were at the hall for entrepreneur practicals of soap making, spirit making and liquid that I organize for them from the chemistry dept”.

“Upon his arrival, his aide walk round some few classes and they came back to tell him all the classics have no teacher in it which is not so. I approached him as he is stepping out of his car, the first word that came out of was that “you are a hopeless principal” and I said to him am sorry sir let me explained but he denied me chance to talk, he the pick his phone and call the board chairman. saying”prof. what you have been telling me about GDTSS Njimtilo is true all the sixty(60) classes non has a teacher in it removed the Principal “he then handed over his phone to and said speak with the chairman, I tried to explain the situation to the chairman but the he collected back his phone and ask me to report to the board and going I should hand over to my vice admin I then said to him OK sir as instructed”.

Continuing Baba said  “he drove further to meet some staff and started harassing a staff that said to him she is just coming out of the class at the 2nd floor cos the school has a 2-floor structure and the classroom block we are using has 45 classes and out of that we are only using 38 classes not 60 as he said”. 

Traumatized Baba tried handing over to his Vice as instructed but his Vice objected, instead he later followed him to the board to see if they can convince the chairman

“So went back to the office feeling helpless and I sad to the vice admin what I was instructed to do that I should hand over the school to him and report to the board but the vice admin refuse to take over, then I asked him to come follow me to the board to see the chairman and explain the situation to him, on reaching the board, we are still denied access to see the chairman, only the Director admin came out and tell us to go back and handover”. 

“We then drove back to the school and I drafted a handover note in the presence of the vice admin and the school senior master at around 3:10pm, I gave it to the vice admin to read through which he did and still insist that he need to see the Chairman or any of the board member to explain the situation. So locked the office and gave him the keys and we left the school together with the senior master”, narrated Baba.

However, the story didn’t go well with staff and students as they reported the next day only to be told that their principal has been transferred, this they later protested which drew the attention of the commissioner who instructed security agencies to lock the school after all efforts to calm them down proved abortive.

“The following morning on 12th of March 2024,staff and students turned for their usual duties only to hear about news that I handed over the school to the vice admin. As instructed, they said everyone was shocked upon hearing the news then students and some teachers together with the corp member started crying that led to a protest by the student requesting that their principal should be brought back”.

 “The vice admin can at control the situation and he gave me a call telling me about the situation of the school that they cannot control the student and I need to come back, and I said to him I have already handed over the school try to mobilised the staff and control the students or you call the attention of Board and the ministry which he did that, they were all there but couldn’t control the students, the PTA chairman with the community members were all there and even gave me a called that if I can help show up in order to calm the student they will appreciate that, but to me it only those that directed me to handover can still instruct me to come over because of some implication”. 

“Upon arrival of the commissioner they couldn’t calm the situation, he then invited the security to chase the student out of the school and directed the closure of the school, later on  invited all the staff to his office for interrogation.”

 According to Baba, he was accused of being involved in the protest that erupted after his demotion and subsequent redeployment.h

With allegations of instigating protests, Baba was transferred to a remote area, Izge as a classroom teacher and  not only him but other eleven staff who were also accused of joining him to lead the protests.

Borno Education Commissioner Denies Knowledge of the Incident, Fails to Provide Further Details

When contacted by WikkiTimes, Borno State Commissioner for Education, Engr. Lawan Abba Wakilbe said he is not aware of the students and teachers protest over the removal of the principal.

In short telephone interview with WikkiTimes Wakilbe said “Am not aware of it, am very busy now, please call me after Magrib prayer”, but since then all efforts to reach him prove abortive and Short Message Service (SMS) sent to him had not been responded to as at press time.

Similarly, Ali Kaka Gashigar, the Chairman Borno Teaching Service Board (BTS) said he is not in town but asked that he should be contacted a week later.

“I’m not in town, call me after a week please”, replied Kaka.

It is Illegal Not to Give Employee Fair Hearing When Accused of an Offense-Lawyer

In his views over the incident, Hon. Judge Aliyu Ahmad Yaya Esq, said even though the employer has the right to punish his employees with demotion, such employees have to be given a fair hearing.

Yaya Esq argued that despite the fact that the Labour Act permits punishment with demotion, there are procedures to follow and it can not be effected without the employer consulting the employee.

According to him in the case of Baba’s incident it may be there is provision to that effect under their contractual agreement, but his own side of the story must be heard before being punished and anything outside this is amount to an unfair Labour Practice which can be challenged in an Industrial Court.

“The Labour Act has permitted employers to punish his employees with demotion. However, before an employer  demotes his employee, there are procedures to  follow and it cannot be affected unilaterally by an employer without consulting the employee. An employee should be afforded the right to be heard, as failure to do so amounts to an unfair Labour Practice” said Yaya.

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