ASUU warns on lawlessness in universities

Students on a protest

Students on a protest

MADUABUCHI NMERIBEH/Kano

Nigeria’s Academic Staff Union of University, ASUU, Monday in Kano, raised alarm over what it described as high-handedness of Federal and state governments in the handling of issues concerning the welfare and security of students and lecturers in the country.

ASUU leadership expressed concern over the inability of university authorities across the country to ensure conducive environment for learning and as well qualitative education to Nigerian undergraduates and their tutors, coupled with flagrant disobedience to Court Orders.

ASUU National President, Dr. Nasir F. Isa told journalists at ASUU secretariat, Bayero University Kano, BUK, that if the disposition towards arbitrary and illegal conduct among management of some Universities are not checked, more campus autocrats and lawless university managers are likely to emerge.

Nasir called on President Goodluck Jonathan and state governors to urgently intervene in the crisis-ridden universities so as to protect their integrity and save the already battered education sector.

Students on a protest
Students on a protest

Cases cited by the academic pressure group include the killing of students at Nasarawa State University, Keffi, NSUK; leadership crisis at Rivers State University of Science and Technology, RSUST; disregard for court orders at University of Ilorin; release of White Paper on President Goodluck Jonathan’s special visitation to University of Abuja; and the need for reconstitution of Governing Councils for Federal Universities in the country.

The ASUU leadership lamented the wanton killing of students at NSUK on Monday, 25 February and wondered why a genuine and peaceful demonstration by students over lack of water and electricity supply could result into such barbaric attacks and killings.

“The questions begging for answers, however, are: why would the authorities of NSU Keffi refuse to provide basic boreholes that can sufficiently meet the water needs of their students?

“Why would they refuse to respond to the entreaties and eventual warnings of the students before February 25th? Why did the authorities of NSUK ignore the students’ lecture boycott of February 25th? Who invited the military to quell students’ peaceful protest? Who ordered for the shootings and killings of University students?

“The recourse to military intervention in civil matters like student unrest is unfortunate. A more informed university leadership should have known that there is no love lost between students and the armed security services. The killing of Kunle Adepeju at the University of Ibadan in 1971 and the Ali Must Go crisis of 1978 which claimed scores of students’ lives are quick reminders of how worse a militarist strategy to handling students’ riot could go.

“It was this realization that led to the outlawing of police posts on our university campuses in the late 1970s. And this is why it beats our imagination that, under a civilian dispensation, we saw a re-invention of militarism at a young but promising University in Nasarawa.

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“We are requesting the visitor to NSUK to institute an inquiry into the killings of our students. We are warning that unless the immediate and remote causes of the killings are identified and appropriate punitive measures taken against the killers of our innocent students. Our union will leave no stone unturned in our pursuance of justice to all the victims of this madness.

“Never again shall we fold our arms and watch as trigger-happy soldiers and/or police officers murder or students in cold blood. Never again shall we allow such murderers to go unpunished and be unleashed to another set of innocent citizens, to kill again,” Ali noted.

ASUU also condemned, in strong terms, the action of the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who allegedly imposed Prof. B.B. Fakaye for second-term as Vice Chancellor of RSUST without recourse to due process.

“Contrary to Governor Amaechi’s promise to our members and other staffers at RSUST, the visitor connived with the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Hon. Justice A.G.Karibi-Whyte (rtd) to re-appoint Prof. Fakaye initially as Acting Vice-Chancellor and subsequently confirmed him as substantive in utter violation of the laid down procedures.

“ASUU NEC views the situation at RSUST with grave concern. The assault by Governor Amaechi and his agents on our members must come to an end. ASUU condemns the actions of the Governor and the shameless complicity of the University Governing Council. We call on well-meaning Nigerians to call Governor Rotimi Amaechi to order.

“As the Visitor, he must know that he would forever be responsible for whatever negative consequences befall RSUST on account of the unhealthy development at the University. As one of the oldest state universities in the country, RSUST deserves some respect from the Governor so that the modest achievements of the University are not wished away,” Ali stated.
ASUU also accused the National University Commission, NUC, for taking side in the RSUST crisis, for its inability, “to critically and objectively investigate the unhealthy university governance process at RSUST.”

ASUU further took a swipe at the authorities of University of I llorin for non-payment of salaries and entitlement to her members at the University who were ordered to be recalled by a Supreme Court judgment, pointing out that, “the continued disregard for law and legal authorities at Unilorin will not serve the overall interest of the University and the country.

“The President and visitor to the University of Illorin should impress it on the managers of the University to embrace openness and democratic ethos by implmenting court judgments to the letter and allow its staffers to exercise their rights to unionize without let or hindrance.”

Isa, however, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to as a matter of urgency release the White-Paper on the visitation report to University of Abuja and influence the implementation of the recommendations without delay.

“The Union wishes to use this opportunity to draw attention once more to the fact that the tenure of Governing Councils of Federal Universities expired on February 13th, 2013. You may recall that Government had, after reinstating the Councils sequel to their sacking in clear violation of the provisions of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act of 2003, promised not to allow a vacuum in the governance of Universities, henceforth. We are hopeful that Government will honour its pledge by reconstituting the Councils immediately,” Isa added.