WHO WANTS TO DESTROY UNIPORT?
The tenure of the VC Uniport, Prof. N.E.S. Lale, will end on July 12, 2020. He proceeded on accumulated leave June 12, 2020 following a letter by the Education Ministry which also directed him to handover to the DVC Admin., who is currently Acting VC. The letter was clear that the DVC Admin/Acting VC should oversee the affairs of the University until a substantive VC is appointed in line with the provisions of the University of Port Harcourt Act and the Univeristies (miscellaneous provisions) Amendment Act, 2003, also known as the University Autonomy Act No1, 2007.
Six months ago the process for the selection of a new Uniport VC started but couldn’t be completed before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Rather than work out a way to proceed and conclude the process which has reached the final stage- interview and appointment of the best candidates as VC- the government dissolved the University Council without reason. As if this action which is a clear infraction of the University Autonomy Act and other enabling laws, the government further appointed one Prof. Steve Okodudu as Acting VC for a period of six months starting July 13, 2020.
The law clearly states that Univeristy Councils can only be dissolved for incompetence and/or corruption. Only the Council can appoint an Acting VC on the recommendation of the University Senate. The reason for all of these illegalities? Some political actors in Rivers State want to take hold of the University for reasons of their visionless politics. Now the University has been dangerously polarized and the implications for the health and proper functioning of the University are dire.
However it is apparent that the public is in the dark but needs to know about happenings in Uniport and to weigh in to save the University from avoidable political whirlwinds that will do no one any good.
Some of the questions that beg for quick answers are: 1) Why was the Council dissolved without any reason and contrary to the law? 2) Why is government flip-flopping on the appointment of Acting VC and acting in utter contravention of the law on that? 3) What qualified Prof. Okodudu a complete outsider in the University hiererchy to be appointed an Acting VC, when there are statutory officers of the University to oversee the affairs of the University in the event that the VC is absent for whatever reason(s)? 4) Why did the government not immediately reconstitute the Council to avoid a vacuum in the governance of the University and to prevent a situation where a VC or Acting VC becomes a Sole Administrator? 5) Why should the membership of a political party be a condition for becoming a VC in any University? 6) What are the implications of this state of affairs for stakeholders in Uniport, nay the education sector at large? Should the government be making and breaking our laws at the same time?
A stitch in time saves nine!
Port Harcourt based Public Affairs Analyst.