By Akin Akande, Abuja
Hard times await state universities without governing councils as the federal government has said that it would not hesitate to shut down such universities until they constitute one.
The federal government had last week announced new Governing Council members for 21 federal universities across the country, whose members included two former Speakers of the House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’abba and Salisu Buhari, and the likes of Don Etiebet, Mike Okiro amongst others.
At the inauguration of the new Governing Councils in Abuja today, Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC) Professor Julius Okojie stressed that no university can operate properly without a governing council.
While lamenting that most state universities in the country operate without governing councils, a development he described as unhealthy for the university system, Okojie stated that the council performs oversight functions at the university.
He bemoaned a situation where state governors act as the councils for the states university “where they sit in government house and award contracts as well as appoint Vice Chancellors”.
The NUC Executive Secretary who called on the inaugurated Governing Councils’ members to deploy their wealth of experience to change the fortune of the respective universities they are posted urged them to address many challenges facing Nigerian university system.
His words: “I must tell you that there are challenges within the university system; the issue of relationship between the immediate community and external community, the issue of examination malpractice, selection of students and in some cases the issue of land acquisition. So there are many issues bothering the system.
More challenging is the issue of programmes, most universities run propgrammes that are not accredited.
This time, the President has given us a matching order that any Vice Chancellor who runs any program that is not accredited will go. If the Governing Council makes it difficult for us to fire such VC, we will dismiss the Council and fire the VC.
“The issue of integrity and responsibility is also very important. Yes there are a lot of us going into the university system. Accountability is an issue. I am sure with the background of leaders we have no fear and also most state universities do not have governing council.
“Soon and very soon any university that has no governing council would be closed because there is no way a university can survive without the governing council. We don’t want a situation where the governor of a state will sit in government house and all the contracts go from there and promotions go from there”
While inaugurating the governing councils, Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufa”i urged members of the councils to use their contacts within and outside the country to attract more funds to their respective universities.
She however warned them to be judicious in the allocation of universities’ resources which according to her are very limited even as she challenged the problem of three deputy Vice Chancellors that is currently a norm in the nation’s university system.
“Management of funds remains a major operational constraint in the sector, as it is clear that government cannot do it all alone.
The limited funds allocated by government should be judiciously utilized. You should come up with ideas that will improve their ability to generate more revenue, outside government allocation” she said
Meanwhile, as part of measure to ensure equitable and effective distribution of primary school textbooks and Junior Secondary School library resource materials, federal government has deployed security agencies across the states to monitor the distribution and utilisation of the textbooks.
The Minister of State for Education, Barrister Nyesom Wike who disclosed this said that anyone found to be involved in shady deals would be made to face the wrath of the law.