Minister warns tertiary institution council members against extravagant interference

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Federal Ministry of Education headquarters in Abuja

Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Tahir Mamman, has issued a stern warning to the newly inaugurated governing councils of tertiary institutions, advising them against extravagant expenses and undue interference in the day-to-day management of their respective institutions.

Speaking at the National Universities Commission (NUC) headquarters in Abuja during the inauguration of new members of governing councils for federal universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education, Mamman emphasized that the appointees are to serve on a part-time basis, not as full-time employees or managers.

He stressed that the emoluments and benefits for part-time employment are clearly defined and should be adhered to.

“I will mention with some hesitation but it’s very important. Councils are on a part-time basis, they operate on a part-time basis not full-time, either chairman or members,” Mamman stated.

“Those that are part-time across the country have defined emolument structure and benefits. They’re clearly defined. So let us be so guided.”

Extravagant Spending Concerns

The minister highlighted reports of previous extravagant demands by council members, such as chartering aircraft for functions and requesting houses in the capital city.

He cited an instance from 2020 when Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Anambra State, spent an unapproved N106 million on Christmas hampers, cows, thanksgiving pledges, and productivity bonuses for board members.

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“We have reports of what happened in the past where some pro-chancellors wanted chartered aircraft each time they wanted to go for functions, whether it’s convocation, or a trip to Abuja,” Mamman said.

“They want to have houses in Abuja. This is a real report. The government has, for a long time, monetised – taken itself out of the provision of houses for staff – except, of course, on the campuses.”

Zero Tolerance for Corruption

Mamman warned the councils to avoid such expenditures, noting that President Bola Tinubu has zero tolerance for corruption and acts decisively on reports of misconduct.

“Please let us avoid these things because we have a president who has zero tolerance for corruption. I can tell you one thing I learned from my president, among other things, if something breaks out in the media and it is negative, you are out the following day.”

Separation of Powers

The minister also reiterated the importance of respecting the clear delineation of roles between university management and governing councils.

He urged the new appointees to refrain from circumventing the university’s establishment and miscellaneous Acts and other relevant laws in appointing principal officers.

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“There’s no grey area in how principal officers emerge. All you need to do is to apply those laws and I tell you you will sleep well. It is when you skip the regulations and the laws that you won’t sleep well because you will be seeing a series of petitions either to you or over your head to us,” Mamman said.

Union Relations

Mamman advised the councils to recognize unions as partners, noting that union activities are a constitutional and international right for both staff and students.

He encouraged periodic conversations with unions to address institutional challenges collectively.

“Don’t treat them as if you have different aspirations. Treat unions as partners. That’s the most important thing to understand. They are partners. Our aspirations are the same as our own. A lot of time the difference is about how to go about achieving the aspirations,” he added.

The minister’s address underscores the government’s commitment to ensuring that the governance of tertiary institutions remains efficient, corruption-free, and focused on educational excellence.

Commitment to Progress

Wole Olanipekun, Chairperson of the Governing Council of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), spoke on behalf of the appointees, pledging their commitment to the progress of tertiary institutions.

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He also appealed to the minister to convey their message to President Bola Tinubu, requesting that institutions be exempted from the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

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