FG’s policy inconsistency, nepotism collapsing tertiary education – VCs, ASUU, others

September 11, 2021
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FG’s policy inconsistency, nepotism collapsing tertiary education – VCs, ASUU, others

Posted by News Express | 11 September 2021 | 211 times

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•Minister of Educsation, Adamu Adamu

 

By APATA OYENIRAN

The embargo and seeming bottlenecks placed on recruitment into academic positions, glaring nepotism and bureaucracy in the Federal government universities across the country may signal a dangerous dimension in learning and programmes offered by universities in Nigeria. OYENIRAN APATA writes:

Stakeholders have raised concerns over the increas­ing number of students/ lecturer ratio in what ap­pears to be lopsided recruitment and embargo to fill existing va­cancies that have locked progress in the academic environment.

There has also been an existing mistrust in recruitment patterns, policy and confirmed cases of in­ability of universities to replace and fill academic vacancies occa­sioned by death, retirement and outright exit from the system for greener pastures overseas.

Some lecturers who spoke to Sat­urday INDEPENDENT, and don’t want their names to be mentioned for obvious reasons said that nepo­tism and tribalism in the Ivory Tow­er in Nigeria need urgent attention. They said that nepotism in the cur­rent administration “is a joke taken too far and smells to high heavens. If care is not taken there is possible imminent collapse of academic ex­cellence and the potential of federal universities contributing to Nation­al Development of Nigeria is greatly constrained”.

Some Serious Concerns

Saturday INDEPENDENT inves­tigation at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Federal Univer­sity Oye, Ekiti; University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; Federal University of Technology, Minna; University of Port Harcourt and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Uni­versity, Bauchi showed evidences that support the claim that there is gang-up against the academia in the federal universities located in the south.

A senior lecturer from a premier university in the south-west that spoke to our correspondent said,

“Most universities in the south have not recruited academic staff in the last three or five years. There is a par­ticular university in the southwest that has not been able to replace over 500 staff that have retired, died or left the system since 2015. The workload of the academic staff continues to soar and that explains why the claims of excess workload of the university lecturers.”

Another scholar in his late 50s also lamented on the non-payment of sal­aries of some lecturers engaged since 2019.

“In a federal university in the South-Western Nigeria, some staff members who were recruited in 2019 and up till now have not received a dime in terms of salary. Some of them have departed to other greener pastures. Another university also in the south west recruited academic staff in the last eight months and up till now, they have not received a dime despite the fact that some of them are Headd of Department and are taking more academic load even than their counterparts in private universities.

“In the promotion of academic staff, there is a preponderance of se­nior academic staff in the northern federal universities as there are more young professors than we have in the southern universities. It is notewor­thy that universities have the autono­my to hire staff and to promote staff based on their unique criteria but the criteria for the southern Universities are more stringent than those we have in northern universities.

“The bottom line is that professor­ship in Nigeria is rated equally and they receive the same salary across the universities. This is an econom­ic disempowerment for the southern university academic and empower­ment of the northern university lec­turers,” he said.

As a result, the lecturers noted that federal appointments often go more to northern professors than the southern professors, which is a way to show the outside world that the university professors of the north­ern extraction are better than those in the south.

Another revered don with several laurels through researches in the sci­ences told Saturday INDEPENDENT that the Federal government has not been fair enough to the southern scholars.

“In the international arena, the ones that are promoted to represent Nigeria in the international arena are often used to judge the quality of Nigerian academics.

“But despite the higher numbers of professors in most northern uni­versities, it is necessary to know that a lot of them are not known outside the shores of Nigeria. Some of them have not achieved any major break­through in academics to qualify them for professorship rather the accumu­lation of predatory and substandard publications.

“Despite higher number of pro­fessors in Nigeria, it is unfortunate that universities have not been able to play critical roles in our national development because academic ex­cellence have been thrown into the dustbin and nepotism, tribalism and connections are the primary criteria for people to be recruited into the ac­ademic positions in many Nigeria universities,” the lecturers told our correspondent.

As of 2019, the source of approval for the appointment of an academia has since increased to seven, that is the Federal Character Commission (FCC), Office of Head of Service, Budget Office, Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the National Universities Commission (NUC), the Federal Ministry of Edu­cation (FME) and office of the Audi­tor-General of the Federation.

Besides, a 2020 circular from the National Assembly ordered that no employment interview should be conducted without the approval of the National Assembly.

Experts have established that bas­ing recruitment, appointment, and promotion on the federal character usually discriminate against merit and encourage the selection of medi­ocre that have little or nothing to con­tribute towards organisational goals.

Responding, Dr. Dele Ashiru, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) University of Lagos (UNILAG) Chapter attributed the chaotic recruitment processes put in place by the Federal government to the denial of varsities autonomy that vested such responsibilities on the university.

Besides, he reiterated the bottlenecks and problems created by the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information Services (IPPIS), saying enforcing IP­PIS is an infringement on the right to autonomy.

“The introduction of the IPPIS has created recruitment challenges in universities and this is a viola­tion of the autonomy, which is the hallmark of universities all over the world. Before the introduction of the IPPlS, it was the responsibility of de­partments to assess areas of need in terms of development of curriculum etcetera and recruit competent schol­ars to take up such fields.

“Rationalisation of workers in the system is the thinking of those who think education should be commercialised and privatised. The appropriate thing is to allow the ac­ademic department to develop new programmes in line with challenges in the country, the question of ratio­nalisation of academia should not arise at all,” Dr. Ashiru said.

Ironically, according to our inves­tigation, some state universities are also in these precarious situations. The Chairman of ASUU, Calabar zone, Dr. Aniekan Brown told our correspondent that they are worried.

“It is somewhat of concern that only seven state-owned universities have their laws in conformity with the Universities Miscellaneous Provision Amendment Act of 2012 while 26 are partially compliant. In most univer­sities, the non-demonetisation of the Act gives room for university admin­istrators and governors to trample on the autonomy of the universities by usurping the powers of governing Councils and the Senate.”

Autonomy Need To Be Strengthened

Professor Eyitope Ogunbod­ede, the Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in a me­morial lecture organised by the Uni­versity of Lagos Alumni Association, Lagos State branch, in honour of late Prof. Babatunde Sofoluwe said the in­troduction of the IPPIS has further undermined and encroached on the autonomy earlier enjoyed by univer­sities. He said.

“It is unfortunate that the Vice-Chancellors that used to re­cruit the best of staff for their univer­sities can no longer recruit the most ju­nior staff without authorisation from several agencies of the government.

“Over the four years of my tenure, an external incursion into university administration increased by the day, a dismal signal of the possibility of total annihilation of the so-called autono­my of the universities. I see ominous signs and administrative bottlenecks that not only dampen the morale of Vice-Chancellors and the Principal Of­ficers) but grossly diminish the enor­mous developmental and innovative possibilities in these institutions.”

Gone are the days when vice-chan­cellors used to recruit the best from anywhere in the world.

“OAU or UNI­LAG could not have been what they are today without such opportunities and the genuine autonomy enjoyed in the past,” he added.

Saturday INDEPENDENT also gathered that it is instructive that only Health and Security has the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari for any recruitment due to COVID-19 lockdown.

Given the above, there are indications that the lecturer/student may continue to widen as universities are being populated.

A 2022 global rating by the Times Higher Education (THE) showed that the student/lecturer ratio in Nigerian universities is high. The University of Ibadan had 22:6, UNILAG 19:7, UNI­LORIN 37:9, UNN 12: 2 and OAU 24:8. Conversely, the University of Oxford, the number one university by THE had 10:7, California Institute of Tech­nology 6:3, Harvard University 9:5 and Stanford University rated 4th in the world had a 7:3 student/lecturer ratio.

The Way Out

Femi Subhir, a public commentator said every avenue should be explored to strengthen and improve the cur­rent level of autonomy in the public university system to avoid a complete mess of education at the tertiary level in Nigeria.

Ebube George, a scientist and in­novator, agreed but said that the con­scious action of not meeting ASUU’s legitimate demands by the federal gov­ernment has also continued to make lecturers, teaching staff, Professors and the system extremely vulnerable to corruption.

“What an unpardonable de-rep­resentation of our fertile academic minds and knowledge workers. The culture of owing salaries to lecturers and underfunding of our universities must be criminalised by society and the defaulting political elites penal­ised.

“The notion that the funding of the National Assembly or any form of political funding, is more import­ant than educational funding must be perceived as original sin and those responsible should be banned from holding any political office for life.

“Since the fish starts to rot from the head, economic extortion of lec­turers and our revered professorial/ academic league in the universities, means that there is bound to be rep­licative and consequent extortion of the tutored (students) by the ac­ademic system and its managers, fraud unchecked begets fraud,” he emphasised. (Saturday Independent)

Source: News Express


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