Revisiting The Sack Of 13 Vice Chancellors

Listen to article

BEVERLY HILLS, March 05, (THEWILL) – Weeks after the sack of vice chancellors of 13 federal universities, palpable tension still pervades the affected institutions. Key stakeholders, among them, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and coalition of civil society groups, maintain that the sack was unlawful and demand their reinstatement.

According to them, it contravenes the provisions of Nigerian University Miscellaneous (Amendment) Act No 11 of 1993, as amended by decree No.25 of 1996, and further amended in 2003 and 2012. The Act confers the power to appoint and remove VCs on the Governing Councils of respective universities.

But the Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu, has so far refused to budge. Last week, the House of Representatives constituted a panel headed by Hon. Aminu Suleiman, to interface with the Minister on the issue. Asked to justify the sack, he said, “There were no laws backing the establishment of the affected universities in the first place.”

THEWILL is particularly concerned about the case of five of the VCs whose tenures were still running. Adamu's explanation that the universities' establishment was not backed by law is not tenable. The case of VC of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) is particularly intriguing. In his case, a subsisting governing council had duly extended his tenure. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari should therefore not be seen to be breaking the laws that it swore to defend.

It is worrisome that a democratic government would choose an illegal part to solve another illegality. If the universities were not properly set up as the Minister stated, the appropriate thing would have been to put things in order, including constituting governing councils to appoint the VCs.

Education is the bedrock of development and only a system that respects its autonomy can accentuate this dream. It is a common practice all over the world that universities are regulated by governing councils and Nigeria should not operate in difference.

These sacks have been further compounded by the choice of their replacements. To state the least, the new appointments are suggestive of bias, as well as political and sectional interests. For instance, in a country of 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory, it is mind-boggling that four out of the newly appointed VCs are from Kano State alone.

This line of thought had clearly arisen from the Minister's inference, before the House panel that the President, as visitor to the universities, could not wait for the VCs tenure to expire. This he explained to mean the pressure from the “party, states and other sources,” insisting however that the President has right to decide who to appoint as Vice Chancellor.

In the light of this, THEWILL calls on the Federal Government to recall the sacked VCs without further delay. It should also take steps to perfect the laws that established the affected universities. Allowing this culture of impunity to stand would mean going back to the era of military dictatorship. The autonomy of universities is not negotiable, and any action that would lead to a return of the terrible old days, which were characterized by strikes and crisis in the university system, is unacceptable.