UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATION: THE ROLE OF STAKEHOLDERS
I salute the Visitor, the Chancellor, the Pro-Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor, the Academic community, the Administrative staff and all the students of this university.
I pay special tribute to those who have served this university in the past and have bequeathed to us a university we can be proud of.
I congratulate the members of the Convocation Committee who in their discretion decided to invite me to deliver the 21st Convocation Lecture of this great University.
I am a believer in Metaphysics. Over the years, I have found figure 21 to be a lucky number for me. Believe it or not! That you have invited me to address the 21st Convocation of this university is an augury that this 21st Convocation will not only be successful, but will be like no other one before it for good.
In 1980, Dr. Olusola Saraki told the Senate, then sitting in Lagos, that it was alleged in a story published by the Nigerian Tribune and credited to Dr. Tai Solarin that somebody diverted the sum of N2.8Bilion from the Central Bank of Nigeria account in London into his private account in Midland Bank. That was a huge sum of money at that time. Nigerians were angry. The country became tense. The Students’ Union led by the vibrant University of Ibadan branch organized with others to march on NNPC in Lagos and burn it down. The Executive President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, promptly appealed to Nigerians and the students to be calm. He set up an Enquiry. Consequently, the students went back home. I was the lawyer for the Government in the N2.8billion Enquiry. I took the opportunity to demand from the Federal Government that a Federal University should be established in Ado-Ekiti. The Government agreed. The Government led by Chairman of the Party, Chief Adisa Akinloye, came to Ado-Ekiti and announced publicly the decision of the Federal Government to site a Federal University in Ado-Ekiti which would start to operate from October 1982.
When the Leader of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Chief Obafemi Awolowo, saw the public announcement published on the front page of Daily Times, he immediately phoned Governor Adekunle Ajasin of Ondo State and told him that if the NPN Government succeeded in establishing a Federal University in Ado-Ekiti, the UPN which enjoyed full support of Ekitis would loose Ekiti people to NPN. Consequently, he advised Governor Ajasin of Ondo State (then Ekiti was that part of Ondo State) to immediately announce the citing of a State University at Ado-Ekiti. Even though there was no provision for Ekiti State University in the budget for that year, the UPN Government of Ajasin announced the citing of a State University at Ado-Ekiti. Soon after the announcement, Governor Ajasin wrote to Shehu Shagari and informed him that it would be inequitable to site Federal University at Ado-Ekiti because Ekiti Division would have two Universities while the remaining four divisions would have none. I was told that since the State Government is vested with the ownership of land in the state, there was no way the Federal Government would establish a Federal University in Ado-Ekiti without the consent of the Government of Ondo State who in this case was Governor Ajasin of UPN. In reaction, I asked the Federal Government to transfer the proposed Federal University from Ado-Ekiti to Akure. But in doing so, I asked the Federal Government to transfer the Federal Polytechnic at Akure to Ado-Ekiti and add to Medical Centre to it. The Government of President Shagari agreed and announced the transfer of the Federal University meant for Ado-Ekiti to Akure and transferred the Federal Polytechnic, Akure to Ado-Ekiti. The Federal Government also announced that it would build a Medical Centre at Ado-Ekiti.
I later approached the Federal Government and requested that I should be allowed to take over the Chairmanship of Polytechnic at Akure. This I did in order to ensure that the transfer of the Federal Polytechnic Akure was done promptly. Within eight months, with personal supervision and injection of my personal money, I succeeded in putting up buildings for the Federal Polytechnic at Ado and transferred the Federal Polytechnic, Akure to Ado-Ekiti. The Federal University of Technology meant for Ado-Ekiti was transferred to Akure. It took off on the campus of Federal Polytechnic Akure in 1982. Even though we acquired land for the university on Owo Road in 1981, it has not moved to the permanent site up till now. I guess that the pioneer Lecturers of this university and those over 45 years of age present in this hall can testify to this story.
The above is the political history of the evolution of Ekiti State University – a child of political interplay.
INTEREST IN EKITI STATE UNIVERSITY CONTINUES
The fact that Chief Awolowo and Governor Ajasin frustrated my plan to establish a Federal University at Ado-Ekiti did not bother me. My primary objective was to ensure that a University was built in Ado-Ekiti. Moreover, through my persistence, a Polytechnic and a State University were established in Ado-Ekiti. I have been contributing to the development of Ekiti State University as soon as it took off. I played a prominent role the in construction of Faculty of Law Building by Ado-Ekiti Community. Again, when the Faculty of Law was preparing for accreditation, it needed an Auditorium urgently. At the request of Prof. Israel Orubuloye, OON, the then Vice Chancellor, I put up an Auditorium for the university.
APPRECIATION AND TRIBUTE TO EKITI STATE UNIVERSITY
I would like to seize this opportunity to acknowledge once more my gratitude to the authorities of Ekiti State University for the award of LL.D (hc) of this university in 2002. This had been a precursor of numerous Doctorate Degrees which I have received including LL.D of University of London, LL.D of University Lagos, LL.D University of Jos, LL.D of Federal University of Technology, Akure, LL.D, Kogi State University, etc.
TITLE OF LECTURE
I thank the Convocation Committee for giving me the privilege to select the title of today’s lecture. Choosing a title of a Convocation Lecture is not an easy task, but after due consideration and to ensure that the Lecture will provoke debate, discussion and arguments among all stakeholders in education, I chose to speak on “University Administration: The Role of Stakeholders”. The unconstitutional and illegal violation of University Laws by successive governments, (Federal and State), Ministers and Officers of Government makes it imperative that we should examine the role of stakeholders in University Administration.
WHAT IS A UNIVERSITY?
If you ask the ordinary man in the market place or motor park, what a University is, the ready answer will be an “educational institution” in which students study for degrees and where academic research is carried out. However, history reveals the fact that originally the word “university” meant a number, a plurality, and aggregate of persons i.e. universitas vestra which means the whole of you. In a much technical sense, it denotes a legal corporation. Thus, Pope Boniface VIII wrote “universita tibuspopulodicti Regni”. In those days, a body of “all faithful Christian people” was often addressed as “Universitatibusvestra”. As recorded at the end of 20thCentury, the word applied to cooperation of either of masters or students to the newly formed guilds. In the early period, the word University was not used absolutely, the phrase was always “university of scholars”, “university of masters and scholars” or “university of study”. In the Middle Ages, it was used to describe scholastic bodies whether of teachers or scholars. It was not used for the place which such a body was established.
However today, a University is regarded as a place specially set up for higher learning.
To start with, Universities were originally charitable and non-profit organizations. The early universities were corporation of students and masters which were chattered by the Pope and later by Emperors or Kings.
Contrary to what operates in Nigeria, the first universities in the world were private universities established mostly by students who invited knowledgeable people in society to teach them. This was particularly so in Athens, the capital of Greek Empire. History tells us of the existence of great universities such as University of Constantinople sometimes known as the University of the Palace Hall of Magnaura which was founded in the 425AD as well as University of Bologna founded in 1088 and the University of Paris founded in 1150 by the Catholic Church. Like other medieval universities, Oxford 1096, Salamanca, Cambridge, Padua were also founded by the missionaries. When the 13 States of America were founded, private universities emerged. The first was Harvard University which was founded in 1636. Other private universities include Stanford University 1885, Columbia University 1754, Brown University, Cornell University 1865, Princeton University 1716, Dartmouth University 1769, Pennsylvania University 1743 and Yale University 1701 and Johns Hopkins University 1876. Apart from Christian Missionary Universities, there were Degree granting universities established by Islamic organizations such as university of Al-Karaouine in Fez, Morocco which was founded in 859. Al-Azhar University in Egypt is probably the world’s second oldest surviving degree-granting institute. It was founded in 970-972 and serves as a Centre for Arabic Literature and Sunni Islamic learning. Between the 16th and the 20th Century, both Christian Missionary and Islamic Organizations continued to develop more.
The early universities were free to govern themselves provided they did not teach Atheism or Heresy. They financed themselves. They had no permanent buildings. They had only little corporate properties. Education was conducted primarily in Cathedrals, Monastery schools and in private homes of wealthy people.
THE NIGERIAN EXPERIENCE
It is a notorious fact that Universities have existed for over thousand years before Nigeria gave birth to the first university which was established as late as 1948 after the World War II following the Asquith and Elliot Commission Reports which were set up by the British Government in 1943. The University College of Ibadan which was the first university in Nigeria was affiliated to University of London. As a matter of fact, all Universities in the former colonies of Britain were patterned after University of London. Thus by comparison, establishment and administration of a University is relatively new.
GOVERNANCE OF NIGERIANUNIVERSITIES
All Universities in Nigeria were established by Law. Thus the University of Ibadan was established as a corporate body with perpetual succession by University of Ibadan Act of 27th December, 1962.
ESTABLISHMENT OF EKITI STATE UNIVERSITY
Interestingly, what we know as Ekiti State University today was established in 1982 and was named Obafemi Awolowo University. Since then, different names have been given to it at different times.
- 1.In 1985, Obafemi Awolowo University was renamed Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti through an Edict of the State Government issued by the then Visitor, Commidele Otiko, the Military Governor of Ondo
- 2.Ekiti State was created out of Ondo State on 1st October, 1996. Therefore, the University was jointly managed by the Government of Ondo and Ekiti States until asset sharing between the two states resulted to a formal separation and declaration. In 1998/99 session, indigenes of Ondo State relocated from the University to start the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Akoko, being a new institution created by Ondo State Government. The University, Obafemi Awolowo University, came under the jurisdiction of Ekiti State.
- 3. The University’s name was subsequently changed from “Ondo State University” to “University of Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria” through a change of name passed into law by Ekiti State House of Assembly and it was signed on 3rd November, 1999 and which can be found in University of Ado-Ekiti Statute No. 5 of 2008.
- 4. In July 2011, the Ekiti State House of Assembly passed the LAW OF EKITI STATE UNIVERSITY, ADO-EKITI, for the merger, consolidation and integration of the three state-owned Universities, University of Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria,University of Education, Ikere-Ekiti and University of Science and Technology, Ifaki Ekiti
- In November, 2014, the Law was again revised to address the issue of the renaming of the University and to introduce new provisions into the University Law. The Law and its Statute is cited as University of Ado-Ekiti change of name to Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti and merging of other Universities’ Law, 2011.
COMPLEX NATURE OF ADMINISTRATION OF MODERN DAY UNIVERSITY
In the beginning, the constitution as well as administration of a university was not only simple, but easy to understand. Universities were established in cathedral schools and rented houses. The students hired teachers and paid fees. However, both in composition, administration and management, universities of today have become more complex and in some cases, present knotty problems which are turned over to the courts for resolution
The ordinary man is familiar with one man business or registered Limited Liability Companies (Private or Public). We are all used to one man business headed by the family head. They are administered by the Chairman or General Manager. The shareholders merely attend Annual General Meetings for declaration of profit. Most of the time, a Testator establishes a private company and appoints shareholders who are invariably his/her sons or daughters. Unfortunately, most of these companies become bankrupt soon after the demise of the Founder.
This is hardly possible with a University because a university is a unique corporate body with perpetual succession and has over the years evolved a complex system which consists of the following Principal Officers or Bodies:
- The Visitor
- The Chancellor
- The Council
- The Vice Chancellor
- The Senate
- A Body called Convocation
- A Body of all graduates and undergraduates, otherwise known as Congregation.
This unique and complex system ensures not only stability but guarantees sustainability.
In England, the Visitor of most universities is the Crown acting through the Lord Chancellor or the Lord President of the Privy Council. Other Visitors are eminent persons who are either specified in the Charter establishing the institutions or appointed by the Governing Body. Rulings of the Visitors are binding on institutions and the court will only intervene in such matters in very limited circumstances.
The U.K. Higher Education Act 2004 in its Section 20 provides that Visitors of qualifying institutions will no longer have any jurisdiction over student complaints, including complaints about admissions to qualifying institutions as a student. Section 46 of the Act also divests the Visitor of his jurisdiction over staff disputes.
Nigerian Universities also have provisions for Visitors in the Acts establishing them. For instance, Section 13(1) of 2014 Ekiti State Law provides that the Governor of Ekiti State shall be the Visitor of the University.
The office of a Visitor is a creation of statute. He is appointed to visit, inspect, inquire into and correct irregularities of universities vide Section 15 of Ekiti State University Law, 2014. The Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of OLAOFE v. UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN (2001) 10 NWLR (Pt.720) 126 examined the meaning of Visitor and the statutory nature and scope of the office of Visitor. The Court held as follows:-
“A Visitor is a person appointed to visit, inspect, inquire into and correct irregularities of a corporation. Under the Common Law, courts will not inquire into the validity of the domestic laws and regulations laid down by the Founder or other authority of a university. Courts have power to determine whether a Visitor has acted within the scope of his jurisdiction and will prohibit the exercise of visitorial powers by a person having no jurisdiction to exercise them. The office of a Visitor is a creation of statute. Thus a Visitor cannot have more powers than those expressly set out in the statute creating the university.”
Sub section (2) of the section further provides:-
“the Visitor shall as often as the circumstances may require, not being less than once every five years, conduct a visitation of the university or direct that such a visitation be conducted by such persons as the Visitor may deem fit and in respect of the affairs of the university.”
See also Section 8(1) of the University of Ibadan Act and section 15 of the University of Lagos Act.
Where a Visitation Panel indicts an officer of the university, the Visitor has no right to direct that the officer be dismissed.
In David Osuagwu v. A.G. Anambra (1983) 4 NWLR (Pt.285) P.13: Uwaifo, JCA (as he then was) in his dissenting opinion, states that
“(a) Visitor is part of the university community but at the apex of it and in that capacity he acts completely outside the officialdom of government (when he is at the same time a Governor of a State or the President of the country) although naturally, he carries the aura of his high pre-eminent office in Government with him but not, when properly understood, the garb of that office.”
The same point was more poignantly driven home in the case of Okaru v. Ndili (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt. 118) P.700 that –
Where the Head of Government or Head of State or President is the Visitor of a University, he is in one capacity dealing with matters of government or state and in another capacity dealing with the affairs of the university. In the latter capacity, he is a Visitor, pure and simple.
Similarly, the Ministry of Education or the NUC has no legal right to direct the term of appointment or order the Council to act in a particular manner on a matter which is statutorily within the powers of the Council.
In Okeke v. A.G. Anambra State (1992) 1NWLR (Pt.215) 60, the Court held that in taking a decision on a University matter in his position as a Visitor, a Visitor must be guided by the statute, rules and regulations of the University.
See also OKARU V. NDILI (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt.118) and OLAOFE V. UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN (2001) 10 NWLR (Pt.726) P.126.
In DAVID OSUAGWU V. A.G. ANAMBRA (supra), the Court examined the scope of the Visitor’s powers under the Anambra State University Edict No. 20 of 1985 in determining the employment of an employee of the University. The court held per Uwaifo, JCA at page 58 as follows:-
“Where a visitation panel of a University has indicted a member of staff of the University, the Visitor in his comment on the panel’s report would be going too far if he directs that the University Council should terminate the appointment of that member of staff with immediate effect. What the Visitor ought to do in the circumstance is merely to direct the Council to take appropriate action and the Council would then have to comply with the laid-down procedure for relieving the member of staff of his appointment. The Visitor cannot purport to direct the termination of the member of staff in circumvention of the governing statute …”
The University Act in Nigeria provides for a Chancellor. The origin of Chancellors in the University is traceable to the early church when all the universities existed essentially to train clergies and teach religious subjects. The Chancellor of the Cathedral was then given the power to monitor their activities and has since then become an important component in University administration. Today, however, his role is ceremonial and is limited to appearing at the University Convocation. Specifically, University of Lagos Act provides in relation to the functions of the Chancellor as follows:-
“The Chancellor shall, in relation to the University, take precedence before all other members of the University, and when he is present shall preside at all meetings of Congregation held for conferring degrees and at all meetings of Convocation.”
Similar provisions also exist in the Acts establishing other universities in Nigeria.
In Oxford University, the Chancellor who is usually an eminent figure elected for life, serves as the titular head of the University, presiding over all major ceremonies.
Nigeria seems to be following that tradition. As we are wont to abuse things generally, however, universities have gone ahead to provide official residences for Chancellors. These are usually luxuriously furnished apartments truly befitting their status. But as ceremonies involving the attendance of the Chancellors are sometimes not more than once a year, one would think that universities would make a proper use of these lodges so that they could be of advantage to the universities all year round. What we do instead, is to keep them under lock and key most of the time while the facilities in them rot away.
Every office of the university, including that of the Chancellor, has a duty to protect and preserve university property. Regretfully however, some Chancellors have abused their positions in some more ludicrous ways than stated above. There is a particular case of a Chancellor whose in-law died and who asked his university to provide coffin and fund some aspects of the funeral. Some others accommodate their relations in Chancellor’s residence and cause the University to maintain them at great expense to the university. It is my view that Pro Chancellors should check such abuses.
THE PRO-CHANCELLOR AND COUNCIL
Section 8(2) of Ekiti State University Law (2014) lists the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council as among the constituents of the University and as one of its Principal Officers.
Section 6 (a,b,c) of the Act provides for the functions of the Pro-Chancellor thus:-
“The Pro-Chancellor shall, in relation to the University, take precedence before all other members of the University except the Chancellor when acting as Chairman of Congregation or Convocation and except the Deputy Vice Chancellor when so acting; and the Pro-Chancellor shall, when he is present, be Chairman of all meetings of the Council.”
See also Section 3(2) of the University of Ibadan Act and Section 4(2) of the University of IIorin Act.
Ordinance 11 on Council Procedures of the University of London also vests the Pro-Chancellor with similar powers. Statutes 4 and 5 provide for the power of the Pro-Chancellor to order an extra-ordinary or an additional meeting. The meeting, by Statute 5 “shall deal with no other matters without the agreement of the Pro-Chancellor or the Vice Chancellor.”
In urgent business and non-contentious matters, Statute 6 provides:
“The Pro-Chancellor may authorize the taking of action on behalf of the University in any matter being in the opinion of the Pro-Chancellor either urgent (but not of sufficient importance to justify an additional meeting of the Council) or non-contentious. Such action shall be reported to the next meeting of the Council either direct or through the appropriate body.”
Statute 9 provides that in every ordinary and additional meetings of the Council, the Pro-Chancellor shall be Chairman, but the Deputy Chairman shall be Chairman if the Pro-Chancellor is absent.
By Ordinance 17, the Pro-Chancellor also plays a very important role in the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor. In the first place, he is the Chairman of the Selection Board for the Appointment of the Vice Chancellor whose duty is to recommend to the Council the appointment of a Vice Chancellor. See Statutes 1and 2 of Ordinance 17.
Statute 3 provides that:
“The Pro-Chancellor shall consult members in each of the constituencies set out in sub-paragraph 2(2) 2(5) above before recommending to the Council the names of members in each constituency for appointment. In case of urgency and if there is no convenient ordinary meeting of the Council, the Pro-Chancellor shall appoint the members after any further consultation the Pro-Chancellor considers necessary.”
It would be observed that in all of the foregoing provisions respecting the appointment, constitution and functions of the Visitor, the Council, the Chancellor, and the Pro-Chancellor, certain similarities are discernible with what obtains in the London University. The explanation for this is no other than that our universities in Nigeria are fashioned after the University of London and are therefore a replica of it.
It is necessary to emphasize here that the Pro Chancellors need to appreciate the burden on them. The success, failure, peace and order of the university rest on them and they take responsibility for everything, good or bad. They and their Councils must embark on policies that will ensure the smooth-running of the universities especially those that affect the development of the universities, contracts, employment of good quality lecturers, finances, including income and expenditure and auditing of university account.
The Pro Chancellor’s job is not one which the office-holder can take lightly. As the Chairman of Council, his duty is not merely to attend meetings, collect his allowances and thereafter go to sleep. He must think always about the growth of the university and what he must do at all times to affect it positively. He is different from the Chancellor whose duty is to appear on ceremonial occasions only. He must be concerned about the welfare of the university community. He presides at all Council meetings, statutory Sub Committees of the University and also at Sub-Committees set up by Council. At meetings, he is primus inter pares.
Before we go into the nature and functions of the University Council under our own legislation, it is important that we examine how our parent university, the University of London and indeed some others administration.
By virtue of Article 21 of the University of London Act, the Council
(1) shall be the Governing and Executive Body of the university and shall regulate all the affairs of the university but shall have no powers or duties in respect of affairs of the Colleges which are wholly within the remit of the Colleges.
(2) The Council shall:
(a) take all measures as are appropriate, and act in such manner as shall appear to it best calculated, to promote the purposes of the University;
(b) encourage co-operation between Colleges in academic matters and the most effective use of resources.
(3) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the Council:
(a) shall be responsible for obtaining, managing and allocating the finances and resources of the university, and the negotiation of grants from relevant public bodies except in so far as these fall within the responsibility of individual Colleges;
Again, the Council performs the following functions:-
- The Council of the university is responsible for the administration and management of the affairs of the university, including ensuring an effective system of Internal Control and is required to present consolidated Audited Financial Statements each Financial Year.
- The Council is responsible for keeping proper accounting records which disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the university and to enable it ensure that the Financial Statements are prepared in accordance with the university’s statutes;
- Ensure that there are appropriate financial and management controls in place to safeguard public funds and funds from other sources;
- Safeguard the assets of the university and to detect and prevent fraud; and
- Secure the economical, efficient and effective management of the university’s resources and expenditure.
Council is also required to take such other steps as it may consider necessary for the efficient and prudent conduct of the University’s financial business and accordingly to take reasonable steps:
– to safeguard the assets of the university, detect and prevent fraud and other irregularities
– to ensure that income has been applied in accordance with the university’s statutes and its financial memorandum with the High Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and its funding agreement with the Teacher Training Agency (TTA);
– to ensure that there are appropriate financial and management controls in place to safeguard public funds and funds from other sources; and
– to secure the economic, efficient and effective management of the university’s resources and expenditure.
– make judgments and estimates that are reasonable and prudent.
In Oxford University, the Principal policy-making body is the Council of the University, which has 26 members, including those elected by Congregation, representatives of the Colleges and four members from outside the University, Council is responsible for the academic policy and strategic direction of the university, and operates through four major committees: Educational Policy & Standards, General Purposes, Personnel & Planning and Resource Allocation.
The Council is the Governing Body of the university and has the responsibility to control and superintend the policies, finances and property of the university including its Public Relations.
(b) APPOINTMENT OF MEMBERS OF COUNCIL
Section 7 of Ekiti State University Law (2014) Schedule 2 and 3 makes provisions for members of the Council of the University
- (a)The Council of the University shall consist of
- (b)The Council so constituted shall have a tenure of four years from the date of its inauguration.
A University Council is the Governing and Executive Body of the university and it regulates all the affairs of the university either by way of policy making or by executing the statutory powers given to it under the Act. Unlike the Board of companies, corporate governance cannot go on in a university in the absence of the Council. There is statutory limit to what the Vice Chancellor can do alone. He cannot for instance appoint or promote or discipline Principal and Senior Officers of the University single-handedly, or dish out contracts above amount fixed by Councilor law.
DISSOLUTION AND INTERFERENCE WITH POWERS OF COUNCIL
The situation where some Universities’ Councils are dissolved and are not re-constituted soon after, leaves too much to be desired and runs foul of the intent and spirit of the law. I wish to share my personal experience as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of University of Lagos with you. The life span of University Council expired by effluxion of time. In May 2004 by act of omission or commission, because University Councils of all Federal Universities were wrongly lumped together with profit-making Boards and were dissolved by Radio announcement, the Councils were not re-constituted for over 11 months.
A UNIVERSITY WITHOUT A COUNCIL
The effect of this failure was too enormous on the university which lost its steam to progress. All those who were working on university projects under the new policy stopped work because they claimed that there was no guarantee of prompt payment anymore. It was a similar experience in efforts to re-organize income-generating units. The Endowment campaign stopped. The Developers in Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) projects left sites unceremoniously because of loss of confidence. I am also aware that the Vice Chancellor had problems with other areas of administration including but not limited to promotion, appointment etc and request for approvals for critically important actions to make the university function properly. It is my advice that there should not be undue delay in constituting the Councils of Universities.
It has become the norm for successive Presidents and State Governors to dissolve University Councils on assumption of office just as they dissolve those of other Parastatals of the government.
When Alhaji Umar Yar’Adua took over as the President of Nigeria in 2007, he descended on the University of Lagos which was constituted in 2004 and which had one year more in office. The Secretary to the Government announced the immediate dissolution of all parastatals including University Councils. I was the Chairman of all Pro-Chancellors of the Councils. Since I derived no personal benefit from being a Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, I wrote to all members of the Council of Pro-Chancellors and the Council of University of Lagos that I would obey the order from the top. Others urged me to stay and protest because in law, the members enjoyed statutory employment for four years. After all, records show that it was the University that was benefiting from my service and not vice-versa. I did not collect any allowance, rather, I contributed financially in billions of Naira and paid up straight to the university. I never went back. Instead, I decided to found a university which I believe would be an example of how a university is run.
ANOTHER CASE OF WRONGFUL DISSOLUTION OF COUNCIL
On the 16th of July 2015, the Federal Government announced the decision of the President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the Governing Boards of Federal Parastatals, Agencies and Institutions. By this announcement which was itself reminiscent of a similar announcement made by the administration of late President Yar’Adua, the Governing Councils of all Universities were dissolved. This action was one of several taken by successive governments over the years which have contributed to the decline in the educational fortunes of the country. What we have witnessed over the years is a failure of government to link stable university administration to stability in the educational sector. I wrote an article in my Thursday Column in the Nigerian Tribune concerning the wrongful dissolution of Councils.
Subsequently, I received by electronic mail, a copy of the University’s Miscellaneous Provision Amendment Act, 2003 from a reader with some portions of same underlined. After reading it, it became obvious that the said reader was of the view that the President acted ulta-vires by the dissolution. One of the provisions to which my attention was directed was Section 2 of the Act which reads as follows:
“Tenure of Council”
Schedule 2 to Ekiti State Law of 2014 Article 1(b) provides that:
“the Council so constituted shall have a tenure of four years from the date of its inauguration. In the case of Federal University, there is provision for dissolution of Council if found corrupt and a new Council shall be immediately constituted for the effective functioning of the University.”
After an examination of the law, I sent the following response, which I wish to share with you:
“I am aware of the provision in Section 2 of the University’s Miscellaneous Provision Amendment Act, 2003. It reinforces my submission that it is not possible to have blanket dissolution of all Councils the way the President did. The critically relevant clause is “where a Council is found to be incompetent and corrupt”.
The requirement of our constitution and the well-known “rule of natural justice” is that the alleged act of “incompetence and corruption” must be brought to the knowledge of the particular University Council which must be given the opportunity to defend itself. Thereafter there must be a finding of incompetence and corruption.
You would agree that under the said Section, it is a condition precedent that the Council cannot be dissolved unless it has been FOUND to be incompetent and corrupt.
In the present case, there was no allegation much less of finding of incompetence and corruption against any of the Universities’ Council. It is a classic example of illegal dissolution.
I observe you did not disclose your name and the reason why you sent the law to me underlining particular areas. The innuendo is that you believe that the President had acted lawfully by dissolving all University Councils on the ground of incompetence and corruption nevertheless, I thank you for sending me this paper and I hope you will find my opinion useful.
NB: I have read Prof. Oshio’s opinion attached to the mail. Under the caption Tenure of Councils, he stated as follows:
- 1.There is only one ground for dissolution of a Council under this act, i.e. where the Council is found to be incompetent and corrupt.
- 2.The Visitor cannot dissolve any Council without the requirement first resolved and if it does, the suit cannot be at the instance of the aggrieved Council members to challenge the dissolution. I agree.
SUBSEQUENT REVERSAL BY GOVERNMENT
Happily the government became aware of the error inherent in its dissolution of the Governing Councils of Universities for on the 1st August 2015 it rescinded the decision. Therefore, the Government announced that the Governing Councils of Universities had been granted an exemption from the dissolution earlier announced on the 16th July 2015.
The short statement released by the Presidency to this effect on the 1st August 2015 reads as follows:
“President Muhammadu Buhari has approved that the Governing Councils of Federal Universities be exempted, for the time being, from the dissolution of Boards of Federal Government Parastatals, Agencies, Institutions and Government-Owned Companies announced on July 16, 2015”.
All Vice Chancellors of Federal Universities have been informed of this exemption through a circular issued by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Danladi Kifasi.
While this statement does not disclose the reason for the exemption, I believe the decision must have been taken following wise counsel given to the concerned authorities by stakeholders in the educational sector. A situation in which the tenure of Governing Councils of Universities is not secured and the composition thereof is seen as an opportunity to reward political loyalties is not one that augurs well for our Universities. Therefore, despite the fact that the exemption is stated to be for the “time being”, I consider it pertinent to congratulate the President for this step in my Weekly Column in the Nigerian Tribune.
APPOINTMENT AND REMOVAL OF VICE CHANCELLOR
On the 12th February 2016, the Minister of Education announced the appointment of new Vice-Chancellors for 12 Federal Universities and the National Open University (NOUN). This development was reported in the media the following day as the “sack” of the Vice Chancellors of the said Universities. As stated earlier, some eight months earlier, particularly on the 16th July, 2015, the Federal Government announced the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the Governing Boards of Federal Parastatals, Agencies and Institutions.
When the “sack order” was announced, concerned stakeholders continue to question the wisdom of the decision of the government to “sack” the Vice Chancellors and appoint new ones in their stead. These concerns stem primarily from the fact that the responsibility for the appointment of Vice Chancellors, by the provisions of the University Miscellaneous Act, is solely that of the Governing Council of each University. Each University Establishment Act provides this much. For example, item 3 of the First Schedule to the Federal University, Otuoke (Establishment) Act 2015 provides as follows:
“The Vice Chancellor
3. The procedure for the appointment and removalof the Vice –Chancellor shall be in accordance with the provision of the University (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1993 as amended. “
From available information, the tenure of some of the Vice Chancellors had expired and they had as a matter of fact handed over to Acting Vice Chancellors. In a statement on the matter, the Committee of Vice Chancellors stated as follows:
“For the nine Federal Universities established in 2011, except the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, the tenure of the Vice-Chancellors expired on Feb. 15, hence it will be wrong to say they are being sacked…For the three new Federal Universities at Birnin Kebi, Gashua and Gusau, and that of Oye-Ekiti, we are surprised that new Vice-Chancellors were announced to have been appointed, as this does not conform to the extant practice in the university system….The Vice-Chancellor at Oye- Ekiti was appointed after the pioneer Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, was named Minister.
The Vice-Chancellors have inviolable tenure of five years; the situation is even made worse by the announced appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor for NOUN, which is no stranger to the statutory process of appointing a Vice-Chancellor.
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,’’
Given the above, the question is why government has chosen to act in the manner it has in the appointment of the Vice Chancellors. Is the government unaware of the fact that only the Governing Councils of the Universities can put in place the process of appointment of the Vice Chancellors? Obviously, it appears that the position of the law is not lost on the government for it is reported that the Governing Councils of the affected institutions were dissolved a day to the announcement of the new Vice Chancellors. This thus explains the statement of the Government in August 2015 that the Councils had been exempted from dissolution “for the time being”. However, this in itself raises serious questions. Why did the Government not permit the Governing Councils that had begun the process of appointing new Vice Chancellors complete them before the dissolution? Alternatively, the government could have waited to reconstitute the Governing Councils of the Universities so that they could perform their statutory duties of appointment of new Vice Chancellors. What is discernible however from all this is that the President in making these appointments has purported to act in his capacity as Visitor to these universities. It is however my view that such capacity does not empower the Visitor to a university to act outside of its laws.
Since I started legal practice 53 years ago, I have interacted with many people, young and old, literate and illiterate, rich and poor. I thought I knew much about human beings and different characters. However, my experience about man and his character in the last six years when ABUAD was established put together has dwarfed my experience of 47 years earlier. I have had to deal with students from different homes, different background and different orientation, teachers from different environment as well as societal problems which are on the increase every day. Indiscipline which is the problem of this country has crept into universities and has affected both the students and teachers.
In 2002 when I was honoured in Oxford, I asked a Professor when last there was strike in the university. The Professor who looked vacant on the matter asked what I meant by strike in a university. I told him that I meant teachers boycotting class. His answer was that he had never heard of strike in the university. I then asked him whether cultism exists among students. He told me that it was strange to him.
In recent times, there is virtually no public university in the country, where there was no students protest or strike and most were closed down either because of strike or students protest. The question is: Is Nigeria University Law defective or is it that the authorities are not implementing university law on discipline?
Sections 18 of Ekiti State University Law, 2014 contains provisions for the enforcement of discipline in the university. The Sections vest enormous powers of discipline on the Vice Chancellor and the Council.
Generally, Section 16 of Ekiti State University Law, 2014 makes provisions for the removal of the Pro-Chancellor, Chairman of Council of Governors and certain members of Council or Court of Governors. Section 17 deals with the removal of Academic and Administrative Officers and staff.
Section 17of Ekiti State University Law, 2014 deals with the removal of Examiners.
It is clear from these sections that there is no officer of the University who cannot be disciplined. It is the enforcement of law in relation to discipline that has given rise to litigation.
HOW THE COURTS INTERPRETE UNIVERSITY LAW ON DISCIPLINE
In interpreting the powers of the Visitors under sections 15 and 16 of the Act, the Court observed in Okara v. Ndili (1989) 4 NWLR (Pt.118) Pg. 700 that the Visitor of a University could be any person other than the Head of Government. The court held further that:-
“To take decisions in his capacity as the Visitor, such Head of Government is guided by the statutes, rules and regulations of the University. If he needs any deliberations before he deals with the affairs of the University, they are with the Senate or Council as the case may be.”
The court held in this case that if the Visitor does not act within the statutes regulating the affairs of the University, especially in respect of a Visitation of the University, his action as Visitor can be called into question in a court of law. See also Garba v. University of Maiduguri (1986) 1NWLR (Pt.18) Pg. 550. The court held in Garba’s case:
“… the trial of erring students for criminal offences or breaches of the Criminal Code or Penal Code laws are not within the jurisdiction conferred on the Visitor, the purported investigation by the Investigating Panel and Disciplinary Board into allegations of arson, looting, willful destruction of property and indecent assault (all serious criminal offences) and the subsequent expulsion of the appellant as a result cannot stand and are therefore a nullity.”
Regardless of the provision of Section 15(1), where the Visitor has not complied with the demands of the principles of natural justice in deciding even a matter of domestic nature in the university, the courts can still inquire to find out and void his decision.
In interpreting the nature of disciplinary proceedings of University Councils, the Court of Appeal held in the case of BAMGBOYE V. UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN (1991) 8 NWLR (Pt.207) Page 1 that the University Council is not a court of law and its proceedings are not a trial. Therefore, it may decide not to call witnesses. What it is required to do under Section 15 (Section 17 of the University of Lagos Act) is that it must bring the complaints of misconduct to the notice of the officer who is indicted, and such officer must be given an opportunity to answer the complaints. If witnesses who are his accusers are called, he must be present to hear and cross-examine them.
Where an officer of the University is accused of misconduct under Section 17(1) of the University of Lagos Act, the University as his accuser must go through the procedure laid down under that section. See Eperokun v. University of Lagos (1986) 4NWLR (Pt.34) 162.
Section 19 of the University of Lagos Act which is the same as Section 18 of Ekiti State University Law, 2014 provides for the discipline of students. That section, in extensor, provides as follows:-
19(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, where it appears to the Vice Chancellor that any student of the University has been guilty of misconduct, the Vice Chancellor may, without prejudice to any other disciplinary powers conferred on him by statute or regulations, direct-
(a) that the student shall not, during such period as may be specified in the direction, participate in such activities of the University, or make use of such facilities of the University, as may be so specified; or
(b) that the activities of the student shall, during such period as may be specified in the direction, be restricted in such manner as may be so specified; or
(c) that the student be rusticated for such period as may be specified in the direction; or
(d) that the student be expelled from the University.
The “appearance” in Section 19(1) is not arbitrary and must be founded on good reasons. The Court of Appeal in Adekunle v. University of Port Harcourt (1999) 3 NWLR (Pt.181) Page 534 held that once the manner by which the Vice Chancellor became satisfied, or by which it appears to him that a student is guilty of misconduct, is known, then, it becomes a case wherein the data upon which he has come to his conclusion would be examined objectively according to the rules of natural justice and no longer left to subjectivity. The court held that the words “where it appears to the Vice Chancellor” contained in Section 19 import an element of discretion and they mean that the Vice Chancellor has to be satisfied before he can order that a student be suspended. The satisfaction has to be derived from some data.
The Vice Chancellor has to act fairly in good faith and must not act on extraneous considerations. He must also obey the rules of natural justice otherwise the court will interfere with his decision. The court held further in Adekunle’s case that:
“Once the data forming the basis of the satisfaction of the Vice Chancellor are known, he should under the ordinary rules of natural justice, even under the common law, obey the elementary rules of fairness and fair play before he finds against any student or he takes a drastic action to compel the students.”
CONCEPT OF NATURAL JUSTICE
Ladies and gentlemen, we all speak of rules of natural justice. But sadly enough, the expression “natural justice” is lacking in precision. It simply means that a decision should be an outcome of a process that is just. I want to share with you the story of how the Court traced the rule of natural justice to Almighty God.
In 1971, the Vice Chancellor of Keel University in Wales, saw a male student in the female hostel at about 7pm contrary to University regulations. To make it worse, he was naked. The Vice Chancellor was, naturally, enraged. He called the student and told him that he had violated the university rules. There and then, he expelled him from the university. In an action instituted by the student, the court referred to the Bible and quoted how God applied the rule of Natural Justice.
“Even God himself did not pass sentence upon Adam” before he was called upon to make his defence. “Adam”, says God, “where are thou?” Hast thou not eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? But the biblical precedents are conflicting”.
OFFENCES AGAINST THE STATE AND ABUAD EXPERIENCE
Most of the time, universities in Nigeria are shut down following protests by students who vandalized university properties and inflicted bodily harm to students and staff. On resumption, students are asked to give undertaking to be of good behaviour. Each student is asked to pay reparation for damages done university properties.
On the 7th of February, 2016, in spite of the acclaimed modern facilities like constant supply of power, water, good food and well-equipped laboratories as well as very conducive learning environment that abound in the University, a few students of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, went on rampage. They were later found to be students who had low CGPA ranging from 1 to 1.6 with many carry-overs. They destroyed 29 cars, burnt 7 motorcycles, burgled offices, stole money and vandalised properties etc. The incident occurred when students were writing their First Semester examination. The incident was reported to police who later charged them with offences ranging from stealing, burglary, arson, attempted murder and so on. They were remanded in prison custody pending full investigation. Surprisingly, many Nigerians, including NUC and Vice Chancellors, thought that the university actions were wrong.
In the case of University of Ilorin vs. Akinrogunde, (2002) WNLR Part 755, page 626 on the discipline of University students, powers of the Vice Chancellor and University Governing Councils page 104, the court held:
“Where an alleged misconduct involves crimes against the State, it ceases to be a matter for internal discipline but a matter for the court of law to try. It is only after the final determination of the case by a court leading perhaps to a conviction for the offences that the Vice Chancellor can proceed to exercise ‘his disciplinary powers’ and expel the student if he so desires. However, in the instant case, the respondent is charged before the Magistrate’s Court for a criminal offence. There is nothing in the record of proceedings to show that the Vice Chancellor constituted a Panel to look into the Respondent’s alleged misconduct”.
On power of the Vice Chancellor to suspend a student charged with criminal offence pending determination of trial by court, the court held:
“No university admits a criminal under any circumstance as a student. Therefore where a student of a University is charged with a criminal offence, the Vice Chancellor has the right, and is under a duty to ask the student to temporarily keep off the University to avert further breakdown of law and order or destruction of lives and properties pending the determination of the trial against him before a court of law. As this is what was done in the instant case, the issue of fair hearing does not therefore arise”.
See also the case of Garba v. University of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NWLR Pt 18, P.550.
The fact is that most of those who criticised the action taken by ABUAD did not know that the Vice Chancellor has no power over state offences. The question is: What action would society take against young men outside the walls of the university who commit offences like stealing, burglary, arson or attempted murder? Should a student who commits state offences be differentiated merely because he is a university student? In the face of the law, a university is not a sanctuary for criminals.
THE JAMB AND POST-UTME
Before I round off and particularly because of its currency, let me say a word or two on JAMB and post-UTME. On the 2nd June, 2016 the Hon. Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, was reported to have made a pronouncement at the combined Policy Meeting of Administrators of Higher Institutions in Nigeria on the scrapping of the post-UTME examination.
The Minister was reported to have declared that the Federal Government and other stakeholders had absolute confidence in the examinations conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), and that there was no need for other examinations to be conducted by universities after JAMB examination. He was quoted to have stated that:
“As far as I am concerned, the nation has confidence in what JAMB is doing, the universities should not be holding another examination and if the universities have any complaint against JAMB, let them bring it and then we address it.”
But the inaudible ovation that greeted the Minister’s pronouncement had hardly settled down when the Registrar of JAMB, Prof. Dibu Ojerinde, countered that post-UTME has not been scrapped and that the universities would still be free to “screen” prospective students. This, to me, is the rational thing to do as it is done in other climes. Otherwise how will a university be able to screen a student who seeks admission without some form of testing? Is the said screening supposed to take the form of oral interviews alone?
There is no doubt that, the establishment of post-UTME examination has rendered the jumbo marks hitherto obtained by unscrupulous student from JAMB useless. I can predict with 100% assurance that its revocation will pave way for the return of the abominable practice that damaged the image of JAMB.
The combined effect of Section 5(1), (a) and 5(1)(c)(ii) of the JAMB Act is that JAMB is statutorily empowered to set and conduct examinations, appoint examiners and other invigilators for the purpose of the examination set by the Board. It could also be gleaned from the JAMB Act that the guidelines approved by the Proprietor of each university are essential factors in the placement of students. Clearly, the universities are not meant to be mere on-lookers in the admission process.
But the pertinent questions to ask are: Should there be a cancellation of post-UTME and does the pronouncement by the Minister take away the right of individual universities to screen candidates for admission? The answers are simple and straight forward. There cannot be a cancellation of post-UTME because no one has asked for it. Assuming but not conceding that the Honourable Minister can on his own propose the cancellation of post-UTME, the matter must be fully discussed by all the stakeholders including the Founders of the universities, the Pro-Chancellors, the Council, the Vice Chancellors, the Senate and other stakeholders. Furthermore, their decision must be presented to the Federal Executive Council for consideration as it was done in 2003 before the Post UTME was established. It is beyond the powers of a single individual, no matter how highly placed, to single-handedly set aside the post-UTME particularly in circumstances in which a chorus acclamation was procured.
In my view, the June 2, 2016 pronouncement by the Minister of Education is at best his personal opinion and not that of the government. A cancellation of the post-UTME will unfairly and illegally obliterate the statutory right of each university to screen the candidates it wants to admit and deal a fatal blow at the quality of education in this country.
All over the world, every university has the right to screen the candidates it wants to admit. It also has the right to embark on other exercises, whether written or unwritten, to make it and its products stand out. It is for this reason that any student applying to study Law in the University of Oxford is mandatorily required to take the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT), any student applying for Biomedical Sciences must take Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT), any student applying for Chemistry must take Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) while any one applying for Classics must take Classics Admission Test (CAT).
For avoidance of doubt, the Post UTME screening exercise had afforded the universities the opportunity to identify the following:
- Students who have been rusticated from other universities,
- Those who forged their JAMB results,
- Those who have been involved in criminal activities such as cultism, rape, stealing, armed robbery, ritual killings, drug and alcohol addictions, kidnapping and other illegal activities.
- Those who do not have the requisite competence to study the courses they applied for.
- Those who are not interested in their courses but are pushed by their parents.
Obviously the above are not matters which JAMB can identify.
On the strength of the foregoing, I urge the Governing Council of your University to join the Councils of other Universities, Pro-Chancellors and the Senate of other universities to challenge the purported cancellation of post-UTME in the interest of quality education in Nigeria.
In this lecture, I have traced the history and evolution of university which began as corporations of students and masters. In a space of over a thousand years, it has evolved a complex system which guarantees quality assurance in education and character. The truth which must be told is that while universities have existed for over a thousand years in other parts of the world, the oldest of Nigeria universities is still under 70 years. Like our democracy which is a toddler, our universities are not only still toddling, they are battling some teething problems. What any teacher in any overseas university considers to be a Convention arising from long usage, is seen by the Nigeria university teachers as a strange development. The government functionaries who are by law, Visitors, Ministers still have to appreciate that universities are not departments of the Ministry of Education.
Other government functionaries who are statutorily empowered to deal with universities must appreciate that universities are not Government Parastatals. The Vice Chancellor is not a Permanent Secretary and Council Members are not Directors of Parastatals. The laws, the regulations and the series of judgment delivered over the years on the limitations on the powers of the Visitor, the duties, the powers and the obligations of the Visitor, Vice Chancellor, Council of the University must be obeyed to the letters, otherwise, the historical and all important autonomy of the university would be in jeopardy.
As I have said earlier, my aim is to address a topic which will provoke debate, discussion and arguments by everyone. I hope that I have succeeded in doing just that.
I thank you profoundly for the opportunity given me to deliver the 21st Convocation Lecture of this promising university. I hope that I have not bored you too much. If anybody is offended by any of my remarks, I offer no apology as I enjoy absolute privilege to express my opinion under Section 39 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL. D, D. Litt, FCI. Arb, FNSE