The Academic Staff Union of Universities has condemned the directive of the National Universities Commissions (NUC) to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) that universities should be shut to enable students to participate in the forthcoming general elections.
The NUC gave the directive in a letter on Tuesday addressed to vice-chancellors of all universities and Directors of Inter-university Centres.
The commission noted that the directive was based on the instruction of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.
The letter partly read, “As Vice-Chancellors of all Universities and Directors/Chief Executives of Inter-University Centres, we are quite aware the 2023 general elections have been scheduled to hold on Saturday, February 25, 2023, for the presidential and National Assembly election and Saturday, March 1, 2023, for the governorship and states Houses of Assembly elections.
“In view of the foregoing and concerns expressed about the security of staff, students, and properties of our respective institutions, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has, following extensive consultations with the relevant security agencies, directed that all universities and Inter-University Centres be shut down and academic activities be suspended between February 22 and March 14, 2023.
“As a result, Vice-Chancellors and Chief Executives of Inter-University Centres are requested by this circular to close their respective institutions from Wednesday, February 22, 2023, to Tuesday, March 14, 2023.”
However, in an interview with The PUNCH, the National President, ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, explained that universities had never been shut down because of elections, saying that the closure and opening of universities were the prerogative of universities’ Senates.
He said, “Vice-Chancellors do not have the right to close universities. It is purely the prerogative of the universities’ Senates to either open or close universities.
“Things have gone so bad in this country that they are citing security and for this reason, we, as a union, had to look on. In all the past elections, have we ever closed the universities, polytechnics? So, what has gone wrong? Why the desperation? Why are they punishing Nigerians? We need to ask Nigerian leaders questions because we are trying to meet up with lost time and here you are shutting down universities.”
But the Secretary-General, CVCNU, Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, disagreed with the ASUU President, saying Nigeria had always closed universities during elections.
He said, “It is nothing new, most public universities get closed during elections because many of them housed polling units and universities and their communities always vote on campuses.
“Two reasons why universities are shut down during elections are so as not to disenfranchise the people and to give opportunity to those who registered away from the university to be able to vote. It is something universities have been doing as far as I can remember; so this is not new.
“The directive is coming from our regulatory body, NUC; it is for universities to see how they can manage it and it is the VCs that will internalise it.”
Also speaking, the National President, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Mr Anderson Ezeibe, said the polytechnics regulatory body, National Board for Technical Education, had yet to come up with any directive.
However, he maintained that the closure and opening of institutions were decisions to be taken by institutions’ Senates.
“We are waiting for our regulatory body but they have not made any pronouncement. For NUC, they cited security and they are in the best position to tell us the security information they have. But I still hold the view that the Senate of the universities are to take the decision of closure or no closure, not NUC.”
On his part, the President, National Association of Nigerian Students, Usman Barambu, said the directive by the NUC was welcome.
He said, “That directive is a product of our efforts. We met with the Minister of Education when the speculations were spreading that schools would be opened during the election period. The minister assured us that schools would not be opened and told us that directives would be issued to relevant agencies.
“It is not only universities that would be shut, polytechnic, Colleges of Education and all tertiary institutions of learning would not be opened. Very soon, you would begin to hear from them.”