By Joseph Erunke
University Vice-Chancellors in the country have tasked Federal and State governments to break the circle of labour unrest resulting from incessant industrial actions by lecturers in public universities. This came as they sought stronger collaboration with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, with a view to discussing local and global best practices in university education. The discussion, they said, also focused on “innovative ways of confronting and managing challenges, and deep thinking on the future of the Nigerian university system. The vice-chancellors made their opinion public when their national body, under the aegis of Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, CVCNU, had an engagement-meeting with Professor Victor Osodeke, President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, to discuss some issues affecting university education in Nigeria. A statement signed by Prof. Edoumiekumo said the meeting took place on Friday, December 17, 2021. Chairman of Committee of Vice-Chancellors and leader of the VCs’ delegation, Prof. Samuel Edoumiekumo said that federal and state governments needed to take the bull by the horn to break the unending circle of university-based labour union unrest that had been going on for more than 30 years by thinking out creative solutions and resolving to implement such solutions politically.
The CVCNU Chairman, who was accompanied by the Secretary-General, Professor Yakubu Ochefu, formally congratulated Prof Osodeke on his emergence as National President and on behalf of the General Assembly of Nigerian Vice-Chancellors, wished him a most successful tenure. He acknowledged the tremendous efforts ASUU has made over the years in championing the repositioning of University higher education in Nigeria. “Professor Edoumiekumo stated that as key stakeholders in the Nigerian University system, it was important that from time to time, both parties meet to discuss local and global best practices in University education, innovative ways of confronting and managing challenges and deep thinking on the future of the Nigerian university system,” the statement read.
The chairman x-rayed some of the current challenges which include very poor funding of public universities such that a gap of 221 billion naira has been incurred yearly from 2018 to 2021; problems associated with the implementation of IPPIS in Federal Universities; Autonomy of Universities, and the presence of several conflicting laws; the current status of the FG/University-based unions’ agreements; the lingering problem with the unions on IPPIS; and the poor state of security on university campuses. He affirmed that Nigerian public Universities would not take their pride of place globally and regionally if the authorities could not guarantee basic things like an academic calendar.
The Chairman presented a report produced by CVCNU on the “Review of 2022 National Budget as it affects Nigerian Federal Universities to the ASUU which highlighted some of their thinking on how to address funding challenges in Nigerian Universities. Professor Edoumiekumo, in the course of the meeting, informed the National President that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors, in its fight against plagiarism and promoting originality in academic research, had developed the EagleScan Plagiarism Detection Software. He stated that like University Transparency Accountability Software, UTAS, Eaglescan was developed by the CVCNU in conjunction with Directors of ICT of six Nigerian Universities and was now fully ready for adoption in all Nigerian Tertiary Institutions.
CVCNU Chairman also shared with ASUU the draft of a Model Intellectual Policy for Nigerian Universities, developed in conjunction with the Nigerian Copy Right Commission and requested to have ASUU’s inputs before the final draft is presented to universities in 2022. National President of ASUU Professor Osodeke thanked the leadership of CVCNU for initiating the meeting and expressed the desire of the Union to work with all genuine actors who would add value and make Nigerian universities better. He lamented that a gulf had emerged in CVCNU/ASUU relations in recent times but was pleased by this meeting which he hoped would go a long way in forging closer ties.
He noted all the issues raised by the CVCNU Chairman and assured that appropriate response would be communicated to the Committee in due course. “He looked forward to a meeting between both bodies in the first quarter of 2022 to discuss the broader issues raised by the CVCNU.
According to him, Vice-Chancellors were very critical stakeholders in the University system, but over the years, many of them had seen their roles and powers eroded by third party bodies leaving them to function as political office holders rather than University administrators. He expressed worry about the politicization in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors and how in some instances, the choice of who becomes a VC is narrowed down to the local government of the state that the University was located.
He expressed deep appreciation for the meeting and looked forward to both organizations working together to reposition Nigerian universities in these volatile, unstable, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) formality.
The meeting was attended by former ASUU Presidents Dipo Fasina, Nasir Fagge, Biodun Ogunyemi and other members of the National Executive Committee.”