11 MONTHS AFTER… Absence Of Governing Councils Worsens Varsities’ Crises

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With the abrupt dissolution of governing councils by the present administration, some federal universities in the country are grappling with institutional governance, stability and academic integrity.

President Bola Tinubu had in June 2023, shortly after assuming office, dissolved the governing councils of federal universities, leaving the running of the institutions to vice chancellors.

Expectedly, the dissolution of governing councils has sparked a power vacuum within universities, triggering internal strife and conflict with different unions at loggerheads with some vice-chancellors over certain decisions.

With no clear framework for decision-making and accountability, universities are left vulnerable to fragmentation and dysfunction, jeopardising their ability to fulfill their educational mission and serve their students and communities effectively.

Presently, 52 federal universities are operating without councils: 42 were dissolved in June last year barely one and a half years to the end of their tenure on June 15, 2025, while the remaining 10, which were established in 2021, are yet to have councils.

LEADERSHIP reports that the atmosphere in at least six federal universities remains tense as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) branches in the respective institutions have clashed with the management over what they term “illegal advertisement” for the position of vice chancellor.

This dispute stems from the dissolution of the governing councils which has left the university in a state of uncertainty and unrest.

Some universities where the unions are currently at loggerheads with management over violation of laws include Modibbo Adama University, MAU, Yola, University of Abuja, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi, and University of Maiduguri, amongst others.

At the University of Abuja, the ongoing discord between the university’s unions and the management has reached a boiling point following the management’s decision to advertise the vice chancellor position without the approval of the dissolved governing council.

This move has sparked outrage among union members, who view it as a violation of established protocols and an affront to the university’s autonomy, triggering an indefinite strike on May 2, 2024.

The chairman of the branch, Dr. Sylvanus Ugoh, told our correspondent that one of the reasons for the strike was an advertorial of the vacancy of the post of vice chancellor without following due process.

The dispute between the university’s academic union and management had intensified in the last few weeks, with the union vehemently opposing the management’s unilateral decision to advertise the vice-chancellor position in the absence of a functioning governing council.

 This is just as the chairperson of the MAU chapter of ASUU, El-Maude Jibreel Gambo, lamented that the minister of education, Professor Tahir Mamman, had mandated some university management staff to write an application seeking his approval to advertise the position of vice chancellor.

He said,  “This singular illegal act not only violates the established norms and/or culture of electing vice chancellors and other principal officers but also threatens the integrity, autonomy and academic freedom of Nigeria’s public universities.”

According to him, the “illegal” dissolution of governing councils of federal universities violates Section 3 (1&2) of Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1993.

However, reacting to the development, the vice chancellor of University of Abuja, Professor Abdul Rasheed Na’Allah, said the advertisement for the position of a new vice chancellor to succeed an incumbent in office was done within the last six months of the term of the current vice chancellor.

According to him, “The minister of education, without the Governing Council, is the supervising minister and has advertised so that the university would not have a vacuum when the current vice chancellor leaves office on June 30, 2024.”

The VC condemned the strike mongers, expressing suspicion that some of them may be fearful of the transition to a new and stronger vice chancellor and want to cripple the University of Abuja.

“How can people who love our dear university give such a reason to close down a university and jeopardise the future of our dear students?

“The gallant actions of our academic staff must be commended in standing for what is right and rejecting the strike mongers who tend to put their own interest above the genuine interest of the University of Abuja.

“Don’t be deceived by their use of the rhetoric, ‘common good;’ there is no truth in anything they say, or any reason they have given to close the campus and stop from continuing its academic activities. They only manipulate daily and they are driven by hatred and crude determination to cripple the great University of Abuja.

“The clique of strike mongers at the University of Abuja are not the genuine ASUU that I know and honour and respect; the ASUU I pay monthly dues to as a member,” he said.

 

 Governing Councils To Be Announced Soon – FG

Meanwhile, the federal government has said the governing councils of universities will soon be announced.

The acting director, Directorate of Public Affairs, National Universities Commission (NUC), Haruna Lawal Ajo, confirmed this via a phone interview with LEADERSHIP.

When asked if there is a timeline for the reinstatement of the Councils, Ajo said, “Yes, the Councils of Universities would soon be announced and inaugurated according to the Honourable Minister of Education. Also, the NUC is pushing for that.”

He further disclosed that there is a plan to appoint a substantive executive secretary of the Commission soon.

“Do not forget that the appointment of a substantive chief executive of any organisation rests with Mr. President, mostly with the recommendation of a minister in charge of that organization,” he added.

 

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