The Committee of Vice-chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVC) has advised against government policy directives capable of denigrating the office of university Vice-Chancellors, saying they are not in the best interest of the country. In a statement issued on its behalf by Professor Michael O. Faborode, Secretary General of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVC), the committee said it learned of the appointment of 13 new Vice-Chancellors for 12 Federal Universities and the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) at the weekend on television.
The Vice-Chancellors said those measures represent a minus for the nation’s university system, and pleaded that they be reversed in the interest of the good intention of President Muhammadu concerning the universities. They explained that apart from the Federal University Oye-Ekiti, the tenure of the Vice Chancellors of the nine federal universities which were established in 2011 was scheduled to expire on Monday, February 15, meaning it was incorrect to say they were being sacked.
“As far as the CVC is concerned there can be no justification for their being sacked, having labored stridently to establish enduring foundations for the fledgling universities,” the committee continued, adding that it congratulated them for ending their tenure on a commendable note. It noted that perhaps the date of the announcement being three days earlier on Friday, 12 February, conveyed the wrong message that the new VCs were expected to assume office on that date, and thereby giving the wrong impression that the outgoing VCs were sacked.
On the contrary, the committee explained, available information shows that all eight VCs had handed over to their respective Ag. Vice-Chancellors (appointed by their Governing Councils) against Monday, Feb 15, in line with provisions of the University Miscellaneous Act. CVC expressed surprise that for the three new Federal Universities at Birnin Kebi, Gashua and Gusau, as well as that at Oye-Ekiti, the VC of which was appointed after the pioneer VC, Prof C. Nebo, was named Minister, new Vice Chancellors are announced to have been appointed, as this does not conform with the prevailing practice in the university system.
“The VCs have an inviolable tenure of 5 years,” the statement said. “The situation is even made worse by the announced appointment of a new VC for NOUN, which is no stranger to the statutory process of appointing a VC. We plead that these Vice Chancellors should be allowed to complete their tenure or proper statutory and transparent procedures be adopted if they are accused of any wrong doings.” CVC pointed out that the power to appoint and remove a substantive Vice-Chancellor, and when the need arises, an acting Vice Chancellor, is vested in the Governing Councils, and that the National Open University currently has a Council in place. The committee said it was now aware that the Councils of the 12 Federal universities were dissolved unceremoniously a day earlier, and the appointment of new ones announced.
“We have said before that though a 4-year tenure was prescribed for Governing Councils, the reality of change of government may necessitate re-constitution of such Councils if the Government feels compelled to do so. In our candid and unbiased opinion, the Minister should have allowed the new Councils to be properly fully constituted and sworn-in, and then take the statutory responsibility of setting the machinery in motion to appoint the substantive VCs for the universities.” It further stated that the now dissolved Councils of the eight universities had actually initiated the process of appointing their Vice-Chancellors and one, Federal University Dutse, had concluded the process and appointed a Vice-Chancellor-designate who has now been assigned to another university in this random process.
“If he is found to be qualified, why not in the same university where the Council had appointed him before the directive from the Ministry of Education to put the process on hold in the remaining 7 Universities?” CVC queried. The committee said it was evident that the system is not oblivious of the right procedure to follow on this matter, asking, “Why then are we incurring unnecessary complications for the universities?” It asserted that the subtle usurpation of the statutory function of Governing Councils by the Minister in appointing the new VCs does not augur well for the integrity and good health of the Nigerian University system. “Quite rightly, the President had expressed concern about the poor ranking of Nigerian universities, but incidentally, good governance is one of the crucial ingredients of attaining world-class university status. Hence, these steps represent a minus for oursystem. We plead that the steps be reversed in the interest of the good intention of Mr. President.”
The Vice-Chancellors recalled that when the 12 universities were established and Governing Councils were yet to be constituted, the Government at that time abridged the process for the appointment of VCs and randomly picked the set of outgoing/out-gone VCs. They said the same procedure was employed again when the “upgraded” Colleges of Education were pronounced as Universities, and that they heaved a sigh of relief when that aberration was reversed. “It is thus inconceivable that such an aberration will be condoned and adopted under the current dispensation,” the statement said. The statement added that, “The enshrined competitive process for the appointment of VCs has immeasurable benefits as opposed to ‘random selection’ of otherwise unwilling individuals, who are NOT aligned with the vision of a university. We are regrettably doing incalculable damage to our education system, by unwittingly demoralizing and demotivating Vice Chancellors, and highly distinguished Pro-Chancellors and Chairmen of Governing Councils.” The Vice-Chancellors underlined that the Nigerian University System has a lot to offer the country in terms of exemplary conduct of governance, and can be properly re-positioned to be relevant to the crucial task of re-engineering the country in line with the change mantra of the current government.
They expressed the view that the best approach to that end calls for greater synergy between all stakeholders. Pointing out that Vice Chancellors are central to that process, they warned that policy initiatives that anyway connote the denigration of that exulted office should be avoided.