Nigeria: Govt Indicts VCs, Begins Reforms In Universities

The autonomy granted Nigerian universities by the Federal Government came under spotlight at the weekend as their vice chancellors were accused of abusing the policy.

Citing various areas the university administrators had erred, the government said they had politicised and embarked on projects that were bringing the schools to their kneels.

Besides turning the institutions into private estates, the government said that the administrators had breached all known norms that had made the schools centres of universal learning.

The vice chancellors were particularly accused of creating unnecessary positions for their friends as aides. The government lamented that the university heads had so manipulated the running of the schools that merit had been sacrificed for mediocrity in the appointments of key officers.

Citing the reports of its visitation panels to 26 federal universities, upon which it had issued a White Paper, the government ordered the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and the Federal Character Commission (FCC) to ensure a faithful implementation of the recommendations.

The White Paper ordered that the universities should henceforth not run diploma and certificate courses, refrain from warding honorary degrees to people with questionable characters, and give automatic jobs as graduate assistants to all first class graduands.

Education Minister, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, who highlighted some salient aspects of the White Paper in Abuja, lamented that the parochial attitudes of most chief executives in the appointments into key positions in their universities were “killing” the schools. She said in some instances, some vice chancellors had localised certain key decisions, especially in matters regarding members of staff deployment.

Rufa’i, who handed over the White Papers on the 2010 Visitation Exercise into the universities and three inter-university centres to their vice chancellors and directors, said the government was determined to ensure that the situation was brought under control.

She accused the vice chancellors of creating bogus political portfolios for their aides, warning them to respect the approved scheme of service for the universities and desist from duplicating the duties of schedule officers.

According to her, their action had put unnecessary burden of wage bills on the schools.

Ahmed also said some VCs had resorted to the creation of unnecessary directorates in the attempt to find duties for their aides or friends in the university administration. “For instance, the creation of the Directorate of Personnel Management, not only distorts the organogram of the university statutorily established Registry Department, it would also undermine the Registrar and all other members of staff who are employed in the first instance to carry out that duty.”

Rufa’i directed the NUC to monitor and ensure that erring institutions revert to approved organograms.

As a prelude to finding a permanent solution to the problem, Rufa’i said the FCC and the NUC have been ordered to ensure that universities comply with the laid down procedures in the appointments and postings of officers.

The government said it was shocking that universities of agriculture and technology are running programmes in law and management. She insisted that universities must focus on their approved mandates of awarding degrees and higher degrees while they leave the award of NCE, National Diplomas and Higher National Diplomas to the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education. Some universities have also veered into areas that are clearly outside their competence; it is foolhardy for a university of agriculture to float programmes in Law and Management Studies. NUC has been directed to invoke statutory powers to ensure compliance.

On the award of honorary degrees, she expressed displeasure that some universities had resorted to conferring the title on undeserving persons. She said: “Without prejudice to the powers of the Senate of universities, there is need to limit the award of honorary degrees to truly deserving persons. The quest to improve the revenue profile of universities must not becloud our selection and sense of judgment.”

Rufa’i also believed that universities must adhere to their approved carrying (absorptive) capacities to ensure standards and avoid overcrowding of classrooms, which put pressure on the available facilities.

In order to inject fresh minds into the system and encourage smooth succession plan, she directed that first class graduates should be offered automatic appointments as graduate assistants and mentored appropriately to stem the tide of braindrain from the sector, but added that where there were many, the appropriate mechanisms should be put in place to select the best amongst them.

To ensure that universities were not defrauded unnecessarily, the minister directed them to discontinue the Payment of Commission on Turnover (COT) on their bank accounts and encourage electronic transactions in their operations.

“It is obvious that most of the rancour and bitterness generated within the university sector arise from lack of transparency in the deployment of resources, especially funds, therefore, as managers of a vibrant sub-sector, all vice chancellors as models must live above board.

“The ineptitude of principal officers and their management will surely not go unnoticed and will, henceforth, attract appropriate sanctions. Let me restate that our Transformation Agenda as clearly defined by the President is on course; our resolve to hold the management and councils of federal tertiary institutions accountable for the use of government resources will not be compromised.

“The era of principal officers who constitute themselves into tin gods is over as the system has now been revitalised with stronger enabling laws to curtail the excesses of overbearing managers. Furthermore, members of the governing councils that have been indicted in these reports will not have a place in our Transformation Agenda as the new policy approved by the President has directed the ministry not to re-engage such persons.

“I therefore use this opportunity to appeal to all stakeholders especially vice chancellors to uphold optimum standards, transparency, accountability, integrity and the rule of law in the administration of the universities.”

Via The Guardian

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