BY DAYO ADESULU
The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie has sensitised the Committee of Pro-Chancellors (CPC) of Nigerian universities on various policies, guidelines and their roles in university administration.
Addressing the Pro-Chancellors in Abuja, Professor Okojie said that the universities needed people who had vision to move it forward, especially those who would avail the system of their experience and knowledge, to actualise the transformation agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Okejie who expressed displeasure over the growing trend in the universities said: “Some academic staff had multiple appointments on full-time bases in more than one university.” He described the practice as unethical adding, “It diminishes the quality of graduates as a result of lack of adequate supervision of the students. Although the Federal Government had granted autonomy to its universities, this should be with responsibility,” he said.
He maintained that for academic staff to be alive to their responsibilities in their positions as Heads of Department, Deans of Faculties as well as members of the Senate and Councils of the universities, the role of Pro-Chancellors is paramount. According to him, the NUC Act provides for it to negotiate the conditions of service of all staff unions of federal universities with the Federal Government.
He said that the system needed to be sanitised to restore a high sense of discipline and responsibility among the staff, arguing that the academics were also products of the same system which was not traumatised in their days. Okojie who expressed regret that mentoring and mentorship which were sacred traditions in the system, were gradually disappearing. “Some academics had become Professors without supervising any PhD which is injurious to the Nigerian university system,” he added.
Professor Okojie, who recalled the golden era of the ivory tower, which was known for academic stability, useful research output, competitive spirit, among other numerous developmental activities, expressed worry over the disappearance of these virtues. He decried the situation where some academics in Nigeria relocate to Ghana and other African countries in search of greener pastures, under poorer conditions of service. He urged academics to redeem the image of the Nigerian university system through relentless service and sacrifice.
The Executive Secretary reminded the Pro-Chancellors of their responsibilities in university administration, saying that they were empowered by law, as an eye of the Government, to be watchful of all university dealings in terms of expenditure, capital grants, execution of projects, contracts, among others.
While urging them to contribute their quota to make the universities centres of excellence, Okojie said it was their responsibility to carry out oversight functions and ensure accountability and transparency. He, therefore, advised them to interact with their Management teams to move the sub-sector forward.
The Executive Secretary stated that the Federal Government was taking measures to promote research and development in the universities as well as other sectors of the economy through the introduction of the Presidential Special Scholarship for Innovation and Development (PRESSID) and NYSC Scholarship Awards, aimed at building the needed capacity for the actualisation of its transformation agenda.
He recalled that Government recently received the Needs Assessment Committee’s report that determined the needs of every public university in the country, noting that all the items in the agreements between the Federal Government and staff unions had been adequately addressed.
In his contribution, the Pro-Chancellor of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Professor Ango Abdullahi, said that the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) and NUC had critical roles to play in the tertiary education sub-sector, especially in the regulation of the university system, saying that the Nigerian university system needed total overhauling, particularly the rehabilitation of dilapidated infrastructure and bringing the facilities at par with their foreign counterparts. He emphasised that university administrators should be prudent in managing funds allocated for projects, as stipulated in the operational procedure. He appealed to the FME and NUC to ensure that all universities strictly comply with the guiding policies and urged his colleagues to always look at the universities’ laws and use same in running the universities.
In a similar vein, the Pro-Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Professor Roland Ndoma-Egba, said that the CPC needed to adopt a holistic approach in handling their duties, especially on matters of university autonomy. He added that the Pro-Chancellors needed to know the full and technical meaning of autonomy, to aid decision-making in the universities. He noted that politics had polarised activities in the university system, hence posing a great challenge to graduate output.
Present at the meeting were the Chairman, CPC and Pro-Chancellor, University of Uyo, Professor Kimse Okoko, several other Pro-Chancellors and NUC Deputy Director, Industrial Relations, Mr. Boniface Odum.