President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed concern over the protracted strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) saying this has caused enough devastation in the lives of students and the universities alike, urging university teachers to return to their classrooms.
He has also warned the Pro-Chancellors and Chairmen of Governing Councils of Nigerian universities against violation of due process in the appointment of new Vice-Chancellors leading to the leadership crisis in some of the institutions.
Speaking at the 2020 convocation and 72nd foundation day celebration of the University of Ibadan on Tuesday, Buhari warned that henceforth the heads of the Councils would be held responsible for the outcome of the process.
He said the government was worried about plethora of petitions, many bordering on serious allegations of bribery and corruption as well as disrespect for due process, in the course of selecting new vice-chancellors in some federal universities.
The President who is the Visitor to the University was represented by the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Abubakar Rasheed.
On ASUU industrial dispute, Buhari said the strike has gone on for far too long and caused enough devastation in the lives of students.
He said: “I wish to assure all stakeholders, in the education sector, that the Federal Government will continue to meet its obligations and agreements with all unions.
“I also make bold to say that the Government is not unmindful of the special role of our universities in the upliftment of the socio-economic life of our nation. It is my earnest desire that all unions should shed the toga of confrontation and embrace dialogue, for the sake of our children and the development of our educational system.
“However, it must be noted that Government alone cannot carry the enormous burden of financing education. The private sector must be actively involved in the task of providing quality education for Nigerians.
“It is my expectation that universities will make themselves attractive to the private sector, define their roles and carve out a niche by designing programmes that will progressively assist Government in addressing poverty reduction, improving the health sector, the application of new technologies for the advancement of knowledge, advancing equality, protecting the environment, promoting and sustaining human development as well as sustaining democracy and good governance,” he said.
He warned that government would not hesitate to dissolve or suspend all erring governing councils or university managements found to have fallen short of the standard expected of them.
He said the government has set in motion several mechanisms to monitor the selection process of VCs with a view to taking appropriate measures to ensure that the processes are conducted in an open, fair and transparent manner and that all violators are properly sanctioned.
“Pro-Chancellors, in their dual role as chairpersons of governing councils and chairpersons of the five-person selection committee for the appointment of Vice-Chancellors, must be prepared to bear full responsibility for the management or mismanagement of the process. It is our hope the University of Ibadan, as Nigeria’s premier university, will live up to its billing in this respect.
While stating that government has strengthened institutions such the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, in the fight against corruption, the president said it is not useful to talk of adequate funding of education if universities are mired in crisis, confusion, fraud and lack of institutional vision.
“I am glad to say that these organisations are working relentlessly to tackle corruption in all its ramifications and to promote the well-being of this nation. It is our collective responsibility to work together and stamp out corruption from our society. Government is determined to continue to fight corruption at all levels, including in our tertiary institutions.
Buhari assured the university community that the federal government will continue to meet its obligations to universities and the education sector while noting that government is not unmindful of the special role of the nation’s universities in the upliftment of the socio-economic wellbeing of citizens.
“For this reason, the Government shall continue to give the necessary support to enable the universities to achieve the objectives for which they were established. The universities, on their own part, will need to reciprocate the kind gesture of Government by striving, at all time, to measure up to expectation and to justify the huge investment on them.
The President commended the University of Ibadan for sustaining its reputation as the premier university in Nigeria, describing as a great pride for its ranking among the first 500 universities in the world.
In his remarks, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof Abel Idowu Olayinka, noted that a total of 528 students graduated with first degrees in various disciplines across all faculties of the institution, while 220 persons were awarded Master degrees.
Olayinka also disclosed that 89 postgraduate diplomas were awarded while 37 candidates were awarded Doctor of Philosophy Degrees, PhDs.
He noted that the university was ranked 401 in the first 500 universities in the world by the Times Higher Education for 2021, despite challenges of funding.
The university also conferred honorary degrees and fellowships on Lt. General Theophilus Danjuma, Dr Olaywola Francis, Chief Mrs Comfort Ayodele Idowu and Mr John G.