• It is unconstitutional and against the spirit of Federal character
  • I can’t accept the appointment, Najatu Muhammad tells Buhari

Federal government’s
recent dissolution of the governing
councils of 12 federal universities,
including the National Open
University of Nigeria, NOUN,
and the process of replacing
disengaged vice chancellors of
the affected universities has been
interpreted by a cross section
of Nigerians, especially the
academia, as an affront to the rule
of law and best practices.
The Minister of Education,
Mallam Adamu Adamu, had in
a short statement made available
to newsmen last Wednesday
announced the disengagement of
the Vice Chancellors of 12 new
federal universities established
by the erstwhile administration
of President Goodluck Ebele
Jonathan and that of the National
Open University of Nigeria.
The statement also formally
announced the dissolution of the
governing councils of the affected
universities and went on to roll
out names of those purported
to have been handpicked by
President Mohammadu Buhari as
replacement.
The statement which simply
said the President has approved
the appointment of new vice
chancellors for the 13 universities
and dissolution of their governing
councils gave no reason for the
action taken in absolute disregard
to the laws establishing these
institutions and their governing
councils.
It is, therefore, the illegality
of these executive actions that
is currently causing disquieting
around the academia and
generating so much uproar and
confusion among the citizenry,
the Bar Association and Coalition
of Civil Society Groups, CCSG,
among other groups, have
blatantly condemned this
illegality.
Though, the tenure of nine of
the vice chancellors ought to have
ended officially on Monday the
15 of this month, but the Minister
of Education announced their
replacement Saturday the 13
without recourse to the laws of
appointing a VC or dissolving
the governing councils, but
government, in what resembles
a military fiat, announced their
disengagement, even the VC
of NOUN whose tenure is still
running.
Buhari deliberately skipped
the process of first, reconstituting
the governing councils of the
affected universities, which has
the power to appoint or remove
a sitting VC with the approval of
the Visitor to the University, and
instead handpicked replacement
for heads of the tertiary
institutions without recourse to
the governing councils which is
pure travesty and rape of extant
laws establishing and guiding
the activities of these citadel of
learning.
Investigations show that
such laws, i.e. the appointment
and dissolution of members of
governing councils of any federal
institutions are not subject to
the whims and caprices of the
executive power players, there are
procedures that must be followed
under a democratic dispensation
and the laws of the land. The
governing council can only be
dissolved if there are established
facts of incompetence and/or
corrupt practices among members
with overwhelming evidence.
Under normal circumstances,
the Visitor to the universities
sends a visitation panel to
investigate reported cases of
misconduct and/or corruption
in universities where such
reports emanate from like the
committee set up last December
to investigate such issue in 10
federal institutions comprising
of seven universities and three
polytechnics, the report of which
is yet to be made public. It is
based on such recommendations
by members of the committee
after thorough investigation that
the Visitor to the universities or
polytechnics acts, not on impulse
on the advice of a vested interest.
Ironically, one of the handpicked
appointees, a female activist,
Hajia Najatu Mohammed, also
a staunch supporter of Buhari,
rejected her appointment as the
chairperson of the governing
council of the Federal University,
Dutse. It would be recalled
that the Minister of Education,
Adamu Adamu, had announced
her appointment and that of 12
others while reconstituting the
governing councils of 12 federal
universities.
In the letter entitled,
“Reconstitution of the
governing councils of 12 Federal
Universities”, Mrs. Muhammad,
who is also a politician from Kano
State, said she was not consulted
before the announcement was
made in the media. The activist
also said since her appointment
was made in the media, she
decided to use the same media to
reject it.
“I, Najatu Muhammmad,
wish to thank you so much
for considering me worthy of
being appointed chairperson
of Dutse Federal University.
It’s, however, unfortunate that
I was not consulted before the
announcement in the media. I also
regret that I have to use the same
medium to announce that I can’t
accept the appointment for some
personal reasons…” she said.
Other critics point to the fact
that of the twelve (12) newly
appointed Vice Chancellors, four
(4) are from Bayero University
Kano, an appointment which in
anyway does not justify equity,
as well as the principles of
federal character as spelt out by
the act establishing the federal
character commission. Adding
that government, as a matter of
fairness and equity, adopt the
principle of federal character,
rather than hand picking some
loyalists even when adverts were
not even published to test their
competence and credibility.
A human rights organisation,
Coalition of Civil Society Groups,
also protested against the sack
in a letter to President Buhari,
demanding the reversal of the
decision, in which the NOUN VC
was replaced with Prof. Abdalla
Uba Adamu of the Department
of Mass Communication, Bayero
University Kano.
The CCSG in its protest
letter to Buhari signed by its
president, Etuk Bassey Williams
and secretary-general, Ibrahim
Abubakar, said the action
contravenes the provisions of
the Universities (Miscellaneous
Provisions) Act No.11 of 1993 (as
amended) by decree No.25, 1996
and further amended in 2003
and 2012 respectively and other
agreements as contained in the
2009 FGN staff union agreement.
The petitioners said that four
out of the 12 newly appointed
vice chancellors are from Bayero
University, Kano, an action they
said was a clear violation of the
federal character principle.
“While this does not come as a
surprise owing to the influence
of one of the Special Advisers
to the Minister of Education in
orchestrating the appointments
of his friends and cronies without
following due process, we are
however concerned about the
constitutional breach and the
resultant litigation battle this
action may cause, which in
turn may generate unnecessary
distractions to your focused
administration”, the coalition
said.
The petition reads, “We are
compelled to call your attention
owing to the illegality in the
removal of Vice Chancellors
of 13 Federal Universities
including the National Open
University of Nigeria and the
hasty appointment of friends and
cronies in place of those illegally
removed from office.
“While we are not unmindful
of the fact that you would have
acted on the recommendation
of the Minister of Education in
approving their removal, it is
pertinent to know that in the
pursuit of ambition driven by
unguided passion and greed,
impunity becomes inevitable
as the end irrespective of the
means is all that matters and in
this case, the removal of these
vice chancellors and sacking of
the governing council of these
universities is the outcome of an
unguided passion and greed by
the minister of education and his
special adviser.
“The constitution is quite
clear on the procedures to be
followed in the appointment and
disengagement of vice chancellors
and the governing council of the
universities and none of these
procedures were followed in the
above case.
“The appointment of vice
chancellors is a tenured
appointment, which presupposes
that every appointee is expected
to serve the prescribed number
of years as stipulated by the Acts
governing the institutions.
The organisation regrets that
none of the vice chancellors were
allowed to complete their tenures
and were all removed without
following due process of the law.
The CCSG said in the event
that a vice chancellor was to be
removed from office before the
expiration of his tenure, it is the
board of the governing council
that is empowered to recommend
or effect that removal of an
erring vice chancellor before the
completion of his term in office.
The group said, “In the above
case, the Minister already
dissolved the board of the
governing council with the
statutory powers to recommend
or effect the removal of a vice
chancellor from office thereby
making the removal of these Vice
Chancellors illegal, null and void.
“In appointing new vice
chancellors or any public officer
for that matter, it is an offence and
a breach of the federal character
principle for one third of the
total appointees to come from a
particular state.
“The action of the Minister
is greeted with sadness as it
is considered a breach of the
provisions of the University
Amendment Act or legislation
and to a large extent a gross
violation of the laws of the
Federal Republic of Nigeria
which guarantees universities
autonomy in Nigeria.”
According to a legal practitioner,
Barrister Nelson Nwachukwu,
‘Nigerians wouldn’t have
complained if the exercise was
done in good faith, the tenure of
some of them had come to an end,
and the proper and logical thing to
do was to place an advertisement
so that credible candidates can
fill the vacuum and allow the
institutions governing council
to select its best candidate and
forward such name to the visitor
for approval; rather than just
handpicking some people and
super-imposing them on the
institutions whether they are
qualified or not only encourages
mediocrity’.
Another legal practitioner,
Barrister Obiora James, said the
present ‘tsunami’ to flush off
appointees of the immediate
past administration only shows
that this administration is not an
inclusive one and not ready to
abide by the rules governing this
land.
Stakeholders are calling on
President Buhari to reverse his
decision and follow due process,
except he is poised to demonstrate
his disregard for the rule of law.


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