It would be recalled that Buhari had apologised for the decision by government to hurriedly terminate the appointments of universities’ vice chancellors, particularly, their governing councils, without recourse to the extant laws.
He did so at a forum in Abuja with All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwarts.
The president had told his party members that government “gave a blanket order which we had to rescind when we said all boards are suspended or dissolved. We had to go back and lick our vomit in terms of universities councils because we found out that according to their laws, they cannot choose vice chancellors unless the councils sit and interview candidates who want to be VCs. So, there is nothing wrong in saying sorry and going back on your decision. So, we said sorry and allow all the universities to continue with their councils. So, please, try to bear with us as we reflect on where we found ourselves.”
However, Senior Special Assistant to the Minister of Education, Dauda Abdulramid, explained that the president’s apology does not translate into reinstating the sacked vice chancellors given that government’s earlier position was no longer reversible, adding further that notwithstanding Buhari’s apology, the decision by government cannot be rescinded by recalling the sacked vice chancellors.
“He did not say that he has reversed the sack, he only apologised. Once government takes a decision, it stands by it. Maybe, subsequently, they will take caution next time. But that does not mean he clearly stated that the sacked Vice Chancellors should be recalled,” he added.
Similarly, Head of Information and Public Relations, National University Commission (NUC), Ibrahim Yakassi, collaborated the position of the minister’s aide, arguing that “the situation is misunderstood; the president was speaking in past tense, go back and read what he said.
“He made reference to the dissolution of all boards in this country. It has nothing to do with the 13 vice chancellors that were recently disengaged. It has no relation to that. The president when he dissolved all boards in this country included all the councils of federal universities then. But he rescinded that decision as he said because the councils needed to be in place to appoint vice chancellors. There was a process then; most universities’ vice chancellors were going then.”
The sack of 13 Vice Chancellors by the federal government has generated controversy and seemed to widen an existing gulf between the government and the university community. Paul Obi writes
Last week, the federal government relieved 13 Vice Chancellors of federal universities of their positions, causing a controversy that is worsening the relationship between the government and the universities. Both parties have returned to the trenches for battle. Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, said President Muhammadu Buhari approved the vice chancellors’ sack. He said it was not the unilateral decision of the ministry. In a statement, Adamu said, “President Buhari has approved the appointment of 13 new Vice Chancellors for the universities.”
Adamu’s statement said the substantive Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State, Professor Mohammed Kundiri, had been transferred to the Federal University, Wukari, Taraba State. Adamu further stated that a former Head, Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Professor Kayode Soremekun, who was said to be on sabbatical at NOUN, was the new Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State. Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, has Professor Auwal Yadudu, hitherto of the Faculty of Law, Bayero University, Kano, as its new vice chancellor. Professor Fatima Batoul Muktar of the Department of Biology, North West University, Kano, was announced as the new vice chancellor of Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State.
A lecturer in the Department of Pharmacy, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Haruna Abdu Kaita, was made the new vice chancellor of Federal University, Dutsin Ma, Katsina State, while Professor Andrew Haruna of the Department of Linguistics, University of Jos, was appointed vice chancellor of the Federal University, Gashua, Yobe State.
Another lecturer in the Department of Pharmacy, ABU, Zaria, Professor Magaji Garba, was made vice chancellor of Federal University, Gusau, Zamfara State, Professor Alhassan Mohammed Gani of the Institute of Maritime Studies, Federal University, Kashere in Gombe State, was elevated to the position of vice chancellor in same university. A lecturer in the Department of Physics, Federal University, Lafia, Professor Muhammad Sanusi Liman, was announced as vice chancellor of the institution. Professor Angela Freeman Miri of the Linguistics Department, UNIJOS, was made vice chancellor of the Federal University, Lokoja.
The Federal University, Ndifu-Alike, Ebonyi State now has Professor Chinedum Nwajiuba of the Post-Graduate School, Imo State University, Owerri, as its vice chancellor, while Professor Seth Accra Jaja of the Department of Management, University of Port Harcourt, is now the vice chancellor of Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State.
However, the Coalition of Civil Society Groups said the decision to sack the vice chancellors was wrong-headed and lacked legal procedure. In a protest letter to Buhari, the group demanded the reversal of the decision, including the replacement of the vice chancellor of National Open University of Nigeria with Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu of the Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano.
The coalition maintained that the sack amounted to the display of naked power by the executive. The protest letter to Buhari signed by CCSG president, Etuk Bassey Williams, and secretary-general, Ibrahim Abubakar, said the action contravened 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, and other items contained in the 2009 agreement between the federal government and the unions.
The group maintained that four of the 12 new vice chancellors were from Kano University, 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 wrote Buhari.