NYESOM WIKE AND THE ENEMIES OF UNIVERSITY EDUCATION IN NIGERIA
The crises currently rocking the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), has taken a new dimension as the National Alumni Association of the school as well as many other civil society organisations have accused the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike of unilaterally suspending the Pro-Chancellor of the Governing Council, Dr.
Emeka Enejere without recourse to President Goodluck Jonathan who is the visitor to the institution.
The feeling in many quarters is that the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike may actually be the biggest enemy of university of education in Nigeria.
Otherwise, one will not have imagined that he would have allowed himself to take any action that will instigate further crisis in any of our universities.
However the Rivers born Minister in the usual do-not-give-a-damn style popular with the current administration went ahead and 'suspended' the Pro-Chancellor.
I say this because after so many months of ASUU strike, the nation got a relief when the university teachers decided to go back to school.
Any patriot and lover of education would have done anything possible to forestall any further crisis, but Wike is a different man, motivated by other things.
It is said that he has even gone ahead to purportedly appoint his associate, Mr Emmanuel Akara(SAN) as a replacement.
I have read the report that was submitted to the Minister by the UNN Governing Council that earned the Pro-Chancellor his 'suspension'.
I will come back to the allegations in the report of financial recklessness, administrative arbitrariness, gross abuse of due process, debauchery and corruption levelled against the Vice Chancellor, Prof Bartho Okolo.
I recommend everyone who wants to look at these matters objectively to first read that report.
The fact is that the action of the Minister of Education by announcing the suspension of the Pro-Chancellor, less than forty-eight hours after receiving the report of the Governing Council, gave him out.
Sadly, it says a lot about his disregard for due process and his disposition towards fighting or abetting corruption in the University system.
That he has been insensitive to the continuous protests of both academic and non-academic staffs of the university, including the UNN Alumni association nationwide as well as the host community, says a lot about what Nyesom Wike represents in our university system.
He was the same one who gave ASUU the ultimatum to go back to work or be sacked, which worsened matters at that time and delayed the strike further.
There are three issues I wish to raise here.
The first is whether the Governing Council acted in line with the powers conferred on them by law or they went overboard.
The former Minister for Education, Prof Ruqayyatu Rufa'i inaugurated the Governing Council of the universities on the 9th of April 2013 and urged them to confront the allegations of poor governance and disregard to due process in the management of universities.
The Governing Council is vested with the powers to have custody, control and disposition of all the property and finance of the university.
This means that it governs and manages the finances, accounts, investments of the university.
As an oversight authority empowered by law, all the activities carried out by the Council as contained in the report is consistent with their mandate.
So where did the Council or the Pro-Chancellor err? For a Council that was just inaugurated in April, is it not praiseworthy that they were able to resume duty and immediately to be able to send in a mid-year report of twenty-five pages of their accomplishments, six months into their tenure.
What about the 20 other Governing Councils of other universities that inaugurated the same day as that of the UNN; how have they fared in their duties? Should we therefore be thinking of commending the Governing Council of UNN for work well done or punishing them? The second is try to find out why the Ministry of Education has not resumed investigations on the weighty allegations levelled against the Vice Chancellor of the University since the report was submitted in December.
There are many nagging questions that need to be raised.
For instance, who owns Syndicated Construction and Commercial Services Limited and Ferotex Construction Company Limited? How come these two companies have been awarded most of the jobs in the university worth almost 280 million naira and 135 million naira respectively? How come they were almost fully paid for these jobs even though many of the older jobs awarded to them remain uncompleted? What about the alleged accountability deficits in the management of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), allocated to the university and the six billion naira intervention fund, as well as the internally generated revenue by the university, by its management? What about the issues of opaqueness in recruitment and admission processes into the university? The revelation of the report that two individuals, Dr Christiana Oriola and Miss Chioma U.
Onyenwe, were appointed on contract unilaterally by the Vice Chancellor as ICT Director and Alumni Coordinator respectively, and paid monthly salaries of two million three hundred and thirty seven thousand six hundred (N2,337,600) and five hundred thousand naira (N500,000) respectively, should not be swept under the carpet.
The third issue is how the disclosures have pointed clearly into the rot in the University.
It is easy to guess that what is allegedly happening in the University of Nigeria Nsukka must be a pattern in other government-owned universities in Nigeria.
True? That could be the reason why the Governing Council of the University of Nigeria Nsukka was penalized for going against the pattern.
Now if the Professors in our ivory towers are this corrupt, then what is the hope for Nigeria? Why did the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) have to go on strike and then distract the psyche of Nigerians for this long? Why are we always pointing accusing fingers at politicians as if they do not have collaborators among us? How can Nigerians be confident that the 200 billion naira already approved for ASUU upon which they suspended their strike will be utilised? Who are those who will manage the monies approved for the university teachers? Are they not the same set of people who have shown themselves as incapable of doing anything clean? Is Nigeria not headed for doom? I sought the permission of the fiery activist Okechukwu Nwanguma to paraphrase his comment on the UNN saga thus: 'Nyesom Wike in his characteristic lawlessness and in exercise of powers he does not have, purportedly suspended the Pro-Chancellor of UNN.
President Jonathan who appointed him has said nothing despite the widespread outrage, condemnation and demonstration against Wike's action.
It is appalling that he is implicitly endorsing Wike's illegality and recklessness.
By his silence the President is further lending credence to the allegations that his body language is condoning and promoting corruption in Nigeria.
' Now let me ask you this question: Are Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike, Prof Bartho Okolo and their co-travellers not enemies of University Education in Nigeria? Written By Uche Igwe