PREMATURE DISSOLUTION OF GOVERNING COUNCILS (3)

“It would appear, that the Federal Government is quite aware of the error inherent in its dissolution of the Governing Councils of Universities for on the 1st August 2015, the Government announced that the Governing Councils of Universities had been granted an exemption from the dissolution earlier announced on the 16th July 2015”.

Over the course of two weeks I have been discussing the decline in standard of education in Nigeria with particular reference to how certain conduct of government over the years, such as the constant premature dissolution by successive governments has contributed to the instability in the sector and therefore contributed to the decline in standard. My discussion was particularly precipitated by the dissolution of the Boards and Councils of all government parastatals and agencies by the Federal Government which was announced on the 16th July 2015.

However I subsequently 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 correctly by the dissolution. One of the provisions to which my attention was directed was Section 2 of the Act which reads as follows:

Section 2A. “Tenure of Council”

The Council so constituted shall have a tenure of four years from the date of its inauguration PROVIDED that where a Council is found to be incompetent and corrupt it shall be dissolved by the Visitor and a new Council shall be immediately constituted for the effective functioning of the University.”

MY RESPONSE

After an examination of the law, the provisions of which were, given my years of service as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman  of the Governing Council of the University of Lagos and the Chairman of Committee of Pro Chancellor of Nigeria not new to me I sent the following response, which I wish to share on these pages, to the reader:

“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 a 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 University’s 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 competent 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

I have not received a response to the above. In any event, it would appear, that the Federal Government is quite aware of the error inherent in its dissolution of the Governing Councils of Universities for on the 1st August 2015, 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. He has by this reversal or exemption demonstrated that his administration is truly prepared to take a clean break from the ills of the past. I however urge that the change must not stop there. There are other areas of concern in issues bothering on the role and tenure of Governing Council, one of the most prominent being composition of the Councils themselves. This is why next week I will proceed to discuss why there must be a change in the method of composition of Governing Councils which at the moment is skewed towards political reward and patronage.

                                                                                                To be continued

AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON

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