20 May 2012

Nigeria: Uni-Abuja's Trying Times - A Deadline, A Vice Chancellor and the Fate of 500 Students


These are not the best of times for 500 students of the University of Abuja, whose courses have been suspended on account of an order from the Federal Ministry of Education. The Ministry based its decision on the report of a Visitation Panel, coupled with protests from students who had not been graduated for eight years.

To be sure, the Vice Chancellor, Professor James Adelabu, is not at the root of the students problems, but he is the one sweating under the collar for a problem that began nearly a decade ago, but which was compounded by a previous administration that railroaded the Governing Council to approve the establishment of Faculties that were not on sound footing from day one.

In anger students of the institution stormed the Ministry of Education, but that has not stopped government which has reeled out some orders, which include a marching order for the leadership of the University to deliver on a six month deadline to put things in order to get the desired accreditation from the National Universities Commission and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

That is not all. The Veterinary Council of Nigeria (for Veterinary Medicine) and the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (for Engineering) must also endorse the courses in the Faculties of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and Engineering.

Going by minutes of a meeting held in 2005 under the previous administration, it is obvious that due diligence was not done before the faculties came on stream.

Moreover, the position of the ASUU Uni-Abuja, integrity Group contained in the resolution of its emergency meeting held on 13th April 2012, also point to the division among teachers who are torn between a former Vice chancellor and Adelabu.

"As far as the current situation is concerned, everything is on track to set the University on the road to attaining full accreditation for all its academic programmes, at the moment, the NUC is working with the University according to the Honourable Minister of Education's directive on how to resolve the problems.

The Vice Chancellor has also taken immediate steps to address all the issues at stake. The Senate has also commended the efforts of the Vice- Chancellor, Prof. James Adelabu and passed unequivocal and unalloyed vote of confidence on the Vice Chancellor and Chairman of University Governing Council."

Excerpts of minutes of the 46th meeting of the Governing Council of the University of Abuja, held on Thursday, 20th to Saturday, 22nd October 2005, and circulated by university teachers backing Adelabu who came in July 2009, showed many Council members were not comfortable with plans to introduce the faculties.

One of such was a member given the task of leading a team to do an appraisal of Council's decision on the commencement of the affected faculties, presented his report for deliberation.

He observed that while Council had previously at a meeting held on 3rd and 4th June 2005, approved the take-off of four new Faculties of Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine, Medicine and Engineering, there was cause for concern. "Although it was a collective decision, few pertinent questions were asked before the approvals," the minutes read.

It continued, "The persistence of these worries informed the enquiries on the level of readiness for the programmes.

"In terms of graduating students, the Faculty of Science occupied the fifth position (for two graduating years). When compared to other faculties the Faculty of Science could be adjudged weak."

The University was unable to attract research grants from the NUC and other funders because teaching and research efforts in the sciences were low.

The members noted that approvals were given for the take off of the programmes "at a time the external members of Council had little or no knowledge of whether the approvals could stand the test of time without necessarily over-stretching the facilities of the University." It also pointed out that the science courses: Biology Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics were to be co-ordinated by the Faculties of Science in the two semesters at 100 levels.

Pertinent questions were also raised, according to the Minutes:

"1. Did the Faculty of Science of Science have the manpower (teaching, research and administrative) to co-ordinate these courses for the science-based faculties?

"2. cognisant of the fact that the Faculty of Science building had not been built, where would these students be accommodated for teaching and learning?

"3. Were there enough facilities for the teaching, learning and research process that would meet up with the NUC's standards for accreditation of these faculties in the shortest possible time?"

A member at the Council meeting suggested a way forward: "In view of the foregoing, the member suggested a review of the earlier approval so that two of the faculties should take-off at a time, in order not to over-stretch faculties.

In his response to the presentation, it was noted in the minutes that: "The (then) Vice-Chancellor acknowledged that though the submission was based on assumptions, it was a commendable effort to have shown such a serious concern and interest. He informed Council that admissions into the new programmes had been concluded with only twenty (20) intakes for each of the faculties."

Members of Council and Management were enjoined to critically re-assess the situation so that the collective decision would stand the test of time. "...Council might not have been properly briefed before it approved the take-off of the four new faculties from the 2005/2006 academic session."The member further stated that if 50 students were admitted at 100 level for each of the four faculties, they would add up to 200 students.

This would be in addition to intakes for the existing science departments of Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, Biology Statistics and Computer Science.

Should these departments also admit 50 students each at the 100 level, the total number of intakes for all the core science departments would be 500 students put together. These students would be expected to undertake some core courses together at 100 level, i.e

a) Biology 101 and 102

b) Chemistry 101 and 102

c) Mathematics 101 and 102

d) Physics 101 and 102

All these courses were to be co-ordinated by the Faculty of Science in the two semesters at 100 level. The following pertinent questions became inevitable:

"1. Did the Faculty of Science have the manpower (teaching, research and administrative to co-ordinate these courses for the science-based faculties?

"2. Cognisant to the fact that the Faculty of Science building had not been built, where would these students be accommodated for teaching and learning?

"3 Were there enough facilities for the teaching, learning and research process that would meet up with the National Universities Commission's standards for the accreditation of these faculties in the shortest possible time?

The current Vice-Chancellor, Prof. James Adelabu, before assuming office on July 1st 2009, was a member of Council. He is reputed to be making spirited efforts to redeem the pertinent courses.

But there had been problems just waiting to explode before 2009. As at July up to December that year, the monthly personnel emolument of the University was N162m out of which N109m was subvention for the Federal Government, while the University was augmenting the monthly salary from the internally generated revenue to the tune of N60m.

New salary structure was introduced for various Unions within the University in 2009 by the FG.

"The new salary by implication imposed yet another financial burden on the University as the University augmentation now Jumped to an average of N100m monthly (pls. note that the University was paying extra N100m from IGR to supplement Government subvention)."This state of affairs i.e. augmentation of salary from IGR persisted until April, 2011 when the University subvention was increased to N232million thereby reducing augmentation averagely to N35m per month," a report said. University spent over N600 million in 2010 to augment payment of salary alone. If this amount had been available within the system, it would have been channeled into infrastructural development but salary had to be paid.

On Infrastructural development, Some of the inherited projects as at 2009 had been completed while some are nearing completion.

Among projects inherited and completed are:

-Faculty of engineering building

-Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Building

-Convocation Square.

The present administration reportedly inherited debt of about N900m owed various contractors.

Meanwhile, there has been the movement of Faculties to the Main Campus. They include:

1. Faculty of Agriculture moved in 2012

2. Faculty of Engineering moved in 2011

3. Faculty of Veterinary Medicine moved in 2011

4. Four departments from the Faculty of Science in 2012.

Some insiders in the University told journalists last week that that the politics of Nigeria has crept into the University with ethnicity being the dancing masquerade.

"Do not be deceived, some people from a section of the country don't want Professor Adelabu to succeed, even made worse by the fact that one of his predecessors has been firing at him because he preferred someone else to succeed him. It is the typical etno-religious card we play in the country, and the poor students are in the middle," an insider said.

But in the university's Information and Publication unit, the allegation by a former VC that the radio station he got a licence for did not take off because the present leadership did not pursue it through was discountenanced

So, where is the radio licence? Some say it is misplaced. Interesting!

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