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Absence Of Governing Councils In Federal Tertiary Institutions: How Tinubu Created Demigods, Outlaws In Universities, Others – InterSociety Reveals

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The International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (InterSociety); a leading research and investigative Human Rights and Democracy Advocacy Voice in Nigeria since 2008, has strongly condemned, and in an unequivocal terms, the absence of the duly and lawfully constituted Governing Councils in the Federal Government controlled (Federal) Universities, Polytechnics, Monotechnics, Colleges of Education and other Degree Awarding Institutions.

Accordingly to the InterSociety, presently, there are at least 203 Federal Government controlled Degree Awarding Institutions in Nigeria including 92 Monotechnics, 43 Universities, 41 Polytechnics and 27 Colleges of Education.

The rights group noted that those Degree Awarding Institutions numbering at least 203, above, have been without ‘duly constituted Governing Councils’ since June 2023; a period of 10 months, following the Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu led present Central Government of Nigeria’s unilateral dissolution of Boards and Councils of Federal Agencies, Parastatals and Institutions including the Governing Councils/Boards of all Federal Government-controlled Degree Awarding Institutions.

“It is also totally despicable and condemnable for the Government of Nigeria to have unilaterally and dictatorially sacked the Governing Councils of the affected Federal Government Degree Awarding Institutions without recourse to their prescribed office tenures provided in the laid down statutes (.i.e. the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1993 as amended in 2003 and 2012) and other rules and regulations governing such Degree Awarding Institutions”, the nongovernmental organisation said in a statement on Friday.

The statement was signed by the principal officers of Intersociety, including Emeka Umeagbalasi, Criminologist-Researcher and Board Chair; Chinwe Umeche Esquire, the Head, Democracy and Good Governance Program; Obianuju Igboeli Esquire, the Head, Civil Liberties and Rule of Law Program; and Chidinma Udegbunam Esquire, the Head, Campaign and Publicity.

The rest of the statement reads:

The present Government of Nigeria under Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu is hereby called upon to duly constitute the Governing Councils of the affected Degree Awarding Institutions.

This must be done as a matter of uttermost immediacy and inexcusability.

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The Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu led Government of Nigeria must also purge itself of dictatorial tendencies and inclinations and conduct its public affairs strictly in line with the international democratic best practices including at all times adhering to due processes and procedures under the UN System which must include use of merit and avoid resorting to discrimination and segregation (structural violence) in all federal office appointments and postings.

The reconstitution of the Governing Councils of Federal Universities, Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Education and other special Degree Awarding Institutions in Nigeria (.i.e. Army, Navy and Air Force Universities, etc) must also be carried out in full compliance with Sections 14 (3) and 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended; which command “all authorities and persons” under Federal Tier of Government in Nigeria to steadily ensure ‘geopolitical (regional) and sub-national (states) balancing’ in all federal appointments and postings as well as prohibiting such appointments and postings from being discriminated or segregated upon and layered in biasness.

The referenced Government of Nigeria must ensure that due and diligence processes are followed and adhered to in the appointment of new and substantive VCs as replacements for the outgoing ones and attempts to imposed stooges of the former or outgoing ones thwarted and reversed.

Vice Chancellors, Rectors And Provosts Now Demigods And Outlaws

Shockingly and alarmingly, the absence of the duly constituted Governing Councils in the above named Degree Awarding Institutions controlled by Nigeria’s Federal Government has turned their Vice Chancellors, Provosts and Rectors into demigods and outlaws; to the extent that they have been reported to have engaged, unchecked, in different types of illegalities and immoral conducts with reckless abandon in addition to dictatorial tendencies, imposition of unlawful and extortionist levies, promotion of favoritism and nepotism, contract inflation and kickbacks and inauguration of white elephant projects; inordinate ambition including the imposition of successors to their office posts and unlawful appointment of faculty deans, departmental heads and provosts of colleges of medicine, etc.

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Usurpation Of Powers And Duties Of The Governing Councils

The absence of the duly constituted Governing Councils in the Federal Government controlled Degree Awarding Institutions across Nigeria in the past ten months has further paved way for the Vice Chancellors, Provosts and Rectors to mindlessly usurp and appropriate the laid down oversight powers and duties of the Governing Councils or Boards-headed by ‘Chancellors/Pro Chancellors’ in the Federal Government controlled Universities and their counterparts in other Degree Awarding Institutions. Such powers and duties of the Governing Councils/Boards are clearly spelt out in the Nigerian Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act of 1993 as amended in 2003 and 2012) as well as other laid down rules and regulations.

Such powers and duties now recklessly and indiscriminately usurped, appropriated and abused by Vice Chancellors, Provosts and Rectors include award of contracts, approval of new fees, staff employment, and appointment of new vice chancellors, among others.

By clear provisions of the Universities Miscellaneous Provision Act 1993 (as amended) 2003 and 2012, for instance, its section 3 subsection 1 and 2 states: “Where a vacancy occurs in the post of a Vice Chancellor, the Governing Council shall advertise the vacancy in a reputable journal or a widely read newspaper in Nigeria”.

Section 2AA of the Act also states: “The power of the Governing Council shall be exercised as in the law and statutes of each University and to that extent establishment circulars that are inconsistent with the law and statutes of the University shall not apply to the Universities”.

In other words, the Governing Councils and no other organ are vested with the duties and powers to initiate the process of appointment of new Vice Chancellors when such vacancies exist.

Available reports have continued to show that attempts are being made by some outgoing Vice Chancellors of federal universities to catch in on the absence of their Universities’ Governing Councils to impose their stooges as “Acting Vice Chancellors” so as to cover a plethora of baggage of the outgoing ones.

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At least, six Vice Chancellors of Federal Universities will be retiring between June and July 2024 and they include those of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, the University of Abuja and the Shehu Othman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, etc.

The tenure of the Vice Chancellors of UNN and UNIZIK will end in first week of June 2024 while that of UNIABUJA and Dan Fodio University, Sokoto will end by July 2024; likewise tenures of some Provosts and Rectors of Federal Colleges of Education and Polytechnics.

Some professors spoken to by Intersociety at UNIZIK, Awka had accused the outgoing Vice Chancellor of appropriating and abusing the powers of the Governing Council including unilateral increases in students’ school fees and imposition of strange fees such as “PECULIAR Levy” during which the student union leaders were allegedly compelled to sign the schedule for the payment of the new fees.

The “PECULIAR Levy” and its payment schedule were reported to have been introduced for faculties and departments soon after the dissolution, alongside others, of the University’s Governing Council in June 2023 which ranged between N15, 000 and N30, 000 per session. The levy was forced to be suspended at threats of students’ unrest.

Other accusations leveled against the outgoing Vice Chancellor including employment of staff without the Governing Council, non- capturing of hundreds of staff employed since three to four years ago by IPPIS leading to nonpayment of their remunerations and nonpayment of the remunerations of the University’s physically challenged staff; non-advertisement of the vacancy position of the University’s next Vice Chancellor-barely three months to the end of the tenure of the outgoing VC.

Others are attempts being made to impose the University’s DVC-Admin as the outgoing VC’s successor; etc.

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