Noah Ebije and Abdullahi Hassan, Zaria
A major crisis is brewing at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, following the directive of the Governing Council to the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ibrahim Garba, to proceed on terminal leave ahead of the end of his tenure. The action has attracted sympathy for the embattled VC from stakeholders.
Officially, Prof. Garba’s tenure is due to end on April 30, 2020, but the directive by the governing council for him to vacate office ahead of his time is already generating tension on the campus.
However, a source close to the embattled VC quoted him as saying that if the directive for him to leave was borne out of the unofficial procedure, he was not willing to go until the end of his stipulated five years in office.
Also, the ABU Alumni Association has stepped into the matter, pointing out that there was no law which prescribed terminal leave for VCs and asked the governing council to rescind the decision.
A former Law lecturer at the Police Academy, Wudil, Kano, Dr. Mohammed Magaji told The Education Report that, “As an Alumnus of ABU, I am disturbed by the development in respect of the face-off between the VC and the council. I am disturbed because this seems to be the first time we are having a crisis of confidence between the management and the council. If not properly managed it can cause a deep-seated crisis now and in the future.
“Both sides need to observe caution and due process. There are laid down regulations for dealing with such situations in the university regulations. On the other hand, the end of the tenure of the VC is at the corner. Except for serious breaches amounting to criminality let him conclude his tenure. Otherwise, the council can take steps to remove him forthwith”.
It was gathered that even though, the council has not officially given any reason for directing the VC to proceed on terminal leave, the action of the council may not be unconnected with the alleged strong stand taken by the outgoing VC against the choice for a new VC during the selection process.
The staff unions, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), declined to speak on the crisis but some academic and non-academic staff interviewed opposed the directive of the council asking the VC to hand over to an acting VC, and they urged the council to allow Prof. Garba complete his tenure.
Dr. Ibrahim Mustafa, a lecturer in the Faculty of Law, said, “The directive of the council were against the principle of justice and is unlawful. What the council had done is injustice by asking the outgoing VC to proceed on terminal leave without giving any reason; we need to know why he should leave office before the expiration of his tenure?
“Secondly, the VC has not done anything wrong, if he did, there are procedures to discipline him, after all, terminal leave in a political appointment is optional but tenure extension is an offense. So two wrong can not make a right’’.
He said it was also wrong for the council to issue such directive at the crucial period when the VC is round up his tenure, and he, therefore, appealed to the chairman of the governing council to withdraw the directive in the interest of justice.
Speakin also on the crisis, Prof. Usman Lawal, Faculty of Agriculture said, “I think the council wants to create confusion in the system, it is against the tradition of the university to ask outgoing VC to proceed on leave without giving the reason. ‘’
“It is equally, against the University Act to have an acting VC for only two months while there is a substantive VC. This calls for reasoning by common sense. I think it is wrong and we must resist the decision for the interest of peace’’
“Worst of all is the way the council directed the outgoing VC to handover to the Deputy VC (Academic) instead of Deputy VC (Administration). It is really absurd, we cannot have two VCs, one is acting, the other is deputising, all in the transition arrangement’’.
Prof. Lawal described the council’s action as a vendetta and urged it to make further clarifications on its directive to Prof Garba.
“I don’t see any reason why the council did that, let the council chairman study ABU rules on appointment in the university system well before taking or accepting any idea’’.
A senior administrative officer in the university and two professors also backed the VC not to go on terminal leave because none of his predecessors went on leave before the end of their tenure.
At the peak of the crisis, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu asked the governing council of ABU and the selection board to continue with all processes required for the appointment of a new VC for the institution.
Adamu, who spoke through the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono while responding to a request by the Chancellor of ABU, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe for intervention in the disagreement over the selection process, the minister said the selection process should continue as scheduled and in accordance with approved guidelines.
In an earlier correspondence to the ministry, which was also copied the Chancellor, the out-going VC of ABU, Prof. Garba requested the ministry’s directive on how to proceed with the matter, which he subsequently put on hold.
Adamu said, having established that the exercise and procedures adopted in the selection exercise are consistent with the approved guidelines and the University Act, directed that proceedings should be continued to a logical conclusion.
“It is, therefore, the expectation of the ministry that the governing council under the leadership of the chairman, shall take all necessary steps to ensure a successful discharged of this mandate in a prompt, accountable and transparent manner without undue rancour” – the Adamu reiterated.
When the face-off took a new twist, the ministry again called for restraint among warring parties in the leadership transition at ABU.
Echono confirmed that the ministry has been apprised of the circumstances leading to the directive by the council of ABU to the out-going VC to proceed on leave ahead of his terminal date of April 30, 2020.
Acknowledging that it is within the powers and authority of the governing council to direct the VC to enjoy his accumulated earned leave, the ministry considered it unfortunate that this purely administrative matter has been escalated beyond proportion.
Accordingly, all parties to the matter have been advised to exercise restraint in the interest of the university.