Head, Department of Mass Communications, University of Lagos, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye
By Uchechukwu Nnaike and Tunde Sanni with agency reports
Those who thought students’ protests will erupt in the private universities whose licences were suspended recently by the National Universities Commission (NUC) might be disappointed, as the students in the affected universities seem to care less about the import of the NUC’s action. The operational licences of seven private universities were suspended by the NUC last week.
THISDAY checks showed that normal academic activities as well as the social life of the various campuses did not suffer any disruption since the suspension was announced. The affected universities include: Lead City University, Oyo State; Caritas University, Enugu State; Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Ekiti State; Achievers University, Ondo State; Obong University, Akwa Ibom State; Tansian University and Madonna University, both in Anambra State.
The NUC had suspended their licences citing the alleged violation of its guidelines on physical facilities and academic programmes.
The suspension of the licences stipulated that there will be no further admission of fresh students until the licences are restored. But last week, one of the affected varsities in the South-west ran advertorials on national television stations inviting students to write qualifying examinations for admission into degree programmes in the university.
Although the commission did not state the particular ‘sins’of each of the universities, but the breaches ranged from lack of uniform academic programmes at some of the institutions; inadequate facilities, especially hostels; and non-compliance with specified carrying capacity, among others.
A student at the Elele Campus of Madonna University, who simply identified herself as Ada, confirmed that the development did not disrupt activities at the institution.
She said the proprietor of the university had reacted to the news by assembling the students to re-assure them that the management would do its best to resolve the issues as soon as possible.
She said some faculties are currently writing their second semester examination, while others just concluded their first semester examination. This, she added, was not the reason for the suspension of the institution’s licence.
Another student of the university, who preferred anonymity, said the suspension of the operating licence might be attributed to the parlous state of things on the campus. He noted that the issue of a flooded campus as well as the insufficiency of hostel facilities, for instance, were sufficiently embarrassing to the status of a university campus.
Though some structures are under construction, the student said that the university was either over populated or lacked adequate facilities, which could be noticed in the hostels.
A student of Caritas University also said the management assured them that the problem would soon be sorted out, as examinations went on as scheduled.
While reacting to the action, many of the affected universities had said that the commission did not inform them of any wrongdoing before making its decision public.
The registrar of Madonna University, Mr. Theophilus Ugwoke was quoted to have said: “…It is a big surprise to us. The university is not being mismanaged by anybody. Our transcripts and certificates are issued promptly. Everybody knows that issuance of a transcript is based on request and that is what we have been doing. We also release our results promptly… We want to find out where we went wrong, until we clear from them, we won’t take any decision.”
But while other varsities were a little conciliatory, Lead City University queried the authority of the commission to suspend its licence, stressing that its licence was intact, pointing out that the NUC had no power to suspend universities’ licences. It maintained that the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which is the only authority that could grant or suspend licences, “has not and is not in the process of suspending the licence, as being peddled in the media. The university has the full accreditation of the NUC in all its courses and would not be due for re-accreditation until 2014, as clearly stated on the NUC website summary accreditation report for 2009/2010, page 73.”
The university had appealed to the National Assembly to rescue it from the seeming high handedness of the NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olufemi Onabajo, was reported to have said that the new wave of attack on the institution by NUC was aimed at killing it by instalments, alleging that Okojie had once issued him a veiled threat on the phone.
Vice-Chancellor of Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Prof. Sola Fajana, in a telephone interview, said the institution was currently in touch and discussing with NUC and that the licence would soon be restored.
He said the institution does not have any problem with infrastructure, but was faulted for not following due process in the operation of its part-time programmes.
All attempts to get the reaction of the other universities proved abortive, as some of the officers contacted by phone did not pick up, while others bluntly declined any comment.
Stakeholders remarked that the suspension of operational licences of the universities, most of which were issued in 2007, has again shown that most of the institutions did not meet the requirements before the licences were issued in the first place.
Commending NUC’s decision, the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) said that the move was aimed at sanitising the education system.
Head, Department of Mass Communications, University of Lagos, Prof. Ralph Akinfeleye, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said NUC’s action was to ensure quality control in private universities. He said it was disheartening that some universities were established without adequate facilities and lecturers because of selfish interests.
“I commend NUC for the suspension of the seven universities, but I will recommend that their licences be withdrawn permanently if they fail to meet standards,” he said.
Akinfeleye urged the commission to allow current students of the affected institutions to complete their studies and to disallow the admission of fresh students.
Also, Head, Department of Psychology, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Prof. Toba Elegbeleye, said the NUC’s action was in order. He added that it was mandatory for people planning to set up universities to meet regulated standards before establishing them and admitting students.
“NUC accredits from time to time and any institution that falls short of standards should be sanctioned. It is not about the students, they can be allowed to finish or be transferred to other institutions to complete their courses,” he said and advised students of the affected institutions to sue the managements for exploiting them.