IN one fell swoop penultimate Saturday, the Federal Government announced the sack of Vice-chancellors of 13 federal universities.
They were immediately replaced. The affected former heads of universities were those appointed when 13 new universities were created by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The action was followed by the removal of 26 directors-general of government agencies. A statement by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, did not disclose the reason for the sacks. Four of the new appointees were from the Bayero University Kano, alone. Already, reactions have been trailing the development with diverse insinuations making the rounds in academic circles and beyond.
By virtue of provisions of acts setting up various universities, the President as the visitor, in the case of federal institutions, is empowered to appoint and remove vice-chancellors on the recommendation of the boards of governing councils. The president’s decision usually flows from the advice given by the education minister or special adviser on education.
Concerned, Coalition of Civil Society Groups wrote a protest letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, complaining that the removal of the affected vice-chancellors and their replacements did not follow due process allegedly because they failed to comply with extant laws governing the universities and provisions of the constitution.
The office of Vice-chancellor has statutory standing that makes it a tenured appointment. It requires strict adherence to laid-down procedure in removing the holder. Most of them were not allowed to complete their tenures.
If the allegation that the boards of governing councils had earlier been summarily dissolved by the Education Minister preparatory to the sack of the VC’s, we call on President Buhari to institute a probe to find out why this was done.
This is imperative because such action may engender distractive and destabilising litigations by some of the aggrieved parties. The minister might have wittingly or unwittingly acted in breach of the provisions of University Amendment Act and indeed may have violated laws of Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantee university autonomy.
While we urge the President to review the appointments with a view to ensuring that excellence and competence are not sacrificed for cronyism, favouritism and nepotism we call for caution in subsequent removals and appointments of public officers.
Besides, the Federal Government has a duty to inform the public why it takes actions such as these since we are in in a democracy.