PREMATURE DISSOLUTION OF GOVERNING COUNCILS (4)
“What most governments at the State and Federal levels do is to appoint people based on political considerations. There have been reported cases of council members requesting either contracts or even cash for members of their constituencies in the belief that they were appointed to serve the interests of the said constituencies and not the institution itself.”
As I stated last week, I will discuss the importance of a Governing Council in University administration with emphasis on composition and the need for security of tenure. While I acknowledge that the Presidency has since rescinded its initial decision to dissolve the Governing Council of Universities, I remain of the view that a proper appreciation of the role of a Governing Council will go a long way towards preventing a recurrence of such decisions and bring about an appreciation by Government of the link between a strong University administration and quality education.
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, nor dish out contracts above amount fixed by law. Governing Councils much like Chancellors and Pro-Chancellors owe their existence to the provisions of the various Acts of the Universities. A perusal of these Acts will reveal that the following functions are common to University Governing Councils :-
- 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 to 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 prevent and detect 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 and prevent and detect 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);
APPOINTMENT OF MEMBERS OF COUNCIL
Having served as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the University of Lagos, I find it rather convenient to use that University as a reference point. Article l(i)(a)-(i) of the University of Lagos Act makes provisions for a 23-member Council of the University. These members include the Pro-Chancellor, the Vice Chancellor, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, twelve persons representing a variety of interests, four persons appointed by the Senate from among members of that body, one person each appointed by congregation and convocation from among the respective members of those bodies, the Directors General of the Federal Ministries of Finance and Education, or, in their absence, any members of their Ministries as the Ministers may designate.
The most interesting aspect of the composition of the Governing Council relates to the appointment of the 12 persons who are supposed to represent a variety of interests. The reason why their appointment is not made from among the officers of the university is not far-fetched. It is to ensure that the council represents the interest of the whole country substantially and that Council members are not restricted to the circle of academic and administrative staff only. It is envisaged that when people with different backgrounds, discipline, orientation and interests are brought together, they would be able to make contributions that will propel the university to generating the needed man-power and ideas for national development. As laudable as this is the reality is that Government itself always jettisons the need to have people from diverse backgrounds. What most governments at the State and Federal levels do is to appoint people based on political considerations. There have been reported cases of council members requesting either contracts or even cash for members of their constituencies in the belief that they were appointed to serve the interests of the said constituencies and not the institution itself.
A well organised and functional council is one that will be able to contribute to the growth of the University. It will for one be able to perform its oversight duties very well and ensure that funds which are needed for the provision of infrastructure and other required facilities are not frittered away on unnecessary projects such as the provisions of palatial accommodation for Chancellors and Pro-Chancellors. If allowed to function, the Council will even serve as a Check on the propensity of most Vice Chancellors to abuse their powers in the mistaken belief that they are all in all as far as the administration of the University is concerned.
However to allow Councils to function, government must all play its part. Aside from ensuring that only credible persons are appointed to Councils and also as Pro-Chancellors, Governments must ensure that the Councils are promptly reconstituted the moment the tenure of its current members expire. The situation in which the Governing Councils of Universities will remain unconstituted for several months is not that augurs well for proper administration and accountability. Government must also do away with the habit of arbitrary dissolution of Councils before the expiration of their tenures. Each Council has a tenure guaranteed by law. However it now fashionable for a new Government to dissolve Councils the moment it takes power so as to be able to appoint its own cronies or loyalists into the Councils as a means of reward for their support in the electoral process. Aside from the fact that this development is retrogressive and does not portray Nigerian Universities in good light, it also on the long run discourages well-meaning Nigerians from accepting to serve on the said Governing Councils. Who after all will be willing to accept such an appointment when he is likely, before the expiration of his tenure to face the indignity of having the dissolution of Council of which he is a member announced on the media without any prior notice and without even the simplest appreciation or acknowledgement of services rendered by him.
To be continued.
AARE AFE BABALOLA SAN, CON