House of Representatives
The House of Representatives has faulted the National Universities Commission (NUC)over the suspension of the operational licences of six private universities in the country.
The lower chamber of the National Assembly, acting on the report of its Committee on Public Petitions, declared the action of the commission null and void, ultra vires and of no effect.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Petitions, Hon Uzor Azubuike, disclosed that going by judicial precedence in the case of CETEP vs NUC in Suit No: FHC/AB/M/489/06, the commission had regulatory authority over the universities but was not authorised by law to suspend their licences.
The report which was submitted to the House and adopted at plenary before the lawmakers proceeded on their annual vacation, urged the NUC not to take further actions that could disrupt the normal academic programmes of the six universities.
The report however mandated the NUC to carry out a forensic audit of the affected universities and advise the federal and state governments as required by law.
The NUC had suspended the operational licences of six universities namely Lead City University, Ibadan; Obong Nkat University, Akwa Ibom State; Madonna University, Okija; Caritas University, Enugu; Tansian University, Umunnya; Achievers University, Owo and Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Ikeji-Arekeji.
The commission said the licences were suspended because these private universities had persistently violated extant rules and displayed unwillingness to NUC regulations.
According to the NUC, the universities erred when they, among other irregularities, mounted post-graduate programmes and awarded post-graduate degrees before graduating their first batch of graduands in the regular degree programmes.
In particular, the commission accused Lead City University of commencing academic programmes before the issuance the operational licence; establishment of the College of Law without requisite approval and mobilisation of students for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) barely two years after it received approval to operate as a university.
But authorities of Lead City University raised a series of counter arguments, insisting that the institution had complied with all lawful directives of the NUC since its establishment in 2005. It further argued that the NUC had no power to suspend licence of universities.
In a petition to the House of Representatives, Lead City University had accused the Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof Julius Okojie of acting out of “constructive malice” and described the suspension of its licence as a calculated attempt to pre-empt the possible outcome of a suit pending at the Court of Appeal.
In the report, the House Committee on Public Petitions distanced itself from some of the claims in the petition submitted to it by Lead City University but affirmed that the NUC Act Cap N81 LFN 2004 does not empower the commission to suspend or withdraw licences of universities.
The law, according to the committee’s report, only empowers the NUC to investigate and recommend to the government the best way to advance the course of the university system in Nigeria.