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Group Wants Buhari to Call Education Minister to Order over Varsities Autonomy

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, has been accused of systematically destroying the foundation of tertiary education in the country.

A civil society group, Education Awareness Support Organisation, specifically accused the minister of arbitrarily tinkering with the set rules governing tertiary institutions.

The group has therefore, petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him to call the minister to order.

In the letter dated 19 July, 2016, the group specifically faults the action of the Minister of Education in trampling on the autonomy of universities to self-regulate.

One of the accusations against the minister is the policy annulling the conduct of Post-UTME test by respective universities.

Also, the group frowns at the arbitrary manner the minister has sacked the governing councils of both Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and the University of Port Harcourt.

“Federal universities in Nigeria are creations of law. Two legal provisions provide the framework for federal universities in Nigeria, which are the enabling law establishing each university and the universities Miscellaneous provisions Act 2012 as amended.

“These two provisions of the law do not give any minister or a representative of the federal government rights to meddle arbitrarily into how a federal university is run.

“Flowing from these statutes, any federal university in Nigeria controls the right to administer its own admission procedure. The Minister of education has no right to set the standard of how it manages its admission process.

“The new sections introduced by the universities miscellaneous provisions act clearly proclaim the autonomy of a university through its governing council.

“This provision gives the governing council of a university the autonomy to discharge its functions and exercise for the good management, growth and development of the university. The purpose of these provisions is to insulate the university from unnecessary external influence.

“Under no condition whatsoever does the minister have the right to arbitrarily dissolve the governing council of any university before the expiration of its tenure.

“According to Section 2A of the Federal Universities Amendment Act, the governing council of a university shall have a tenure of four years, starting from the date of its inauguration, provided that where a Council is found to be incompetent and corrupt, it shall be dissolved by the visitor and a new council shall be immediately constituted for the effective functioning of the university,” the stakeholders state.

The group therefore is accusing Mallam Adamu Adamu of illegally dissolving the governing councils of the University of Port Harcourt and the Obafemi Awolowo Univerisity, Ile-Ife, on the account that the neither of the two council had exhibited any act of incompetence in the running of the universities and nor is there any allegation of malfeasance raised against them.

“Rather, in the case of the governing council of the Obafemi Awolowo University, the governing council had performed its role creditably in the way a new Vice-Chancellor was employed for the institution.

“Every institutional parameters of due process was carried out with the procedure the governing council of the OAU went about employing a new vice-chancellor for the university and it is shocking that rather than acknowledge the good work done by the council, the minister abruptly announced the dissolution of the council, “the group queries.

The group stated that it was more disturbing how the Minister of education unilaterarily suspended a validly appointed vice-chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University and appointed an acting vice-chancellor in replacement.

“Under law in the administration of universities in Nigeria, the governing council of a university is wholly saddled with the responsibility of employing a vice-chancellor for respective university.

“In the case of the Obafemi Awolowo University, not only had the governing council observed all the parameters of the law in carrying out its duties in the employment of a vice-chancellor, the Ministry of Education and the Federal Character Commission also issued certificates of due process to the council on how is successfully carried out the task of employing a new vice-chancellor for the university.

“Mr. President may please refer to a memo from the Ministry of Education on this subject-matter referenced FME/ME/CU/3A/T/128 dated 18 May, 2016. The letter reads thus: Please refer to the deliberations of the last Governing Council meeting held between 6 and 8 April, 2016 on the above subject

“Kindly recall that the activities of the Joint Council/Senate Selection Committee for the appointment of a new VC were suspended due to the protest of SSANU and NASU unions. However, the Ministry requests you to forward detail report on the appointment process of the new Vice-Chancellor as soon as it is concluded.

“In the light of the above, you are not to allow Unions to take law into their hands. Council must also ensure that due process is followed and must be transparent enough in the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor for the University.”

Also refer, Your Excellency, to another letter from the Federal Character Commission: “Having satisfactorily complied with the provisions of our circular letter titled: Procedure  for Recruitment into the Federal Public Service reference FCC/CHM/S.18/1c dated 1st September, 2014, consequently I am pleased to issue this Certificate of Compliance in your favour as authority to issue letter of appointment to Professor Ayobami Taofeek Salami, as the substantive Vice-Chancellor of the University.

“This certificate covers only the current exercise with the candidate whose name is contained; and for any future exercise, a separate Certificate of Compliance has to be obtained.”

The petitioners therefore query the rationale behind the action of the Minister of education to dissolve the OAU governing council and the suspension of the VC employed by the Council even after the Ministry of education had acknowledged the strike action by non-academic staff unions in the university, and had given the Council the go-ahead with the selection process of the new VC.

Further investigations revealed that owing the violent nature of the industrial action by the Unions, the selection proceedings for the new VC could not be carried out on the Obafemi Awolowo University campus, and it was in the acknowledgement of this development that the Ministry of Education gave instructions to the university governing council to go-ahead with the selection process and to ensure that the protesting unions on campus do not take the law in their hand.


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