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Published On: Mon, Jun 30th, 2014

New UniAbuja VC: Controversy dogs selection process

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University of AbujaBy Ahmed I. Shekarau & Maryam Garba Hassan

The process of selecting a new Vice Chancellor (VC) for the Unversity of Abuja (UniAbuja) is being dogged by controversy even as a section of the varsity’s Governing Council has picked Professor Michael  Adiku to head UniAbuja as VC.

But the choice of Adiku, who was one of the three candidates nominated to the Council by the VC Selection Board, is being challenged by six members of the Governing Council of the varsity, who have vowed to go to court to challenge the alleged manipulation of the procedure by the Councl Chairman, Brigadier-General Samuel Ogbemudia (rtd).

The selection board had recommended to the Council, three out of the 10 candidates who appeared before it for screening and interview for consideration for the VC slot. They were Professor Garba Dambatta, who came tops in the interview, having scored 86%; Professor AbdulRaheem Adebayo Lawal, who came second with 73%; as well as Prof. Adiku, who emerged third with 64%.

However, before yesterday’s meeting of the Council, some interest groups began to peddle a rumour that Prof. Dambatta had links with Boko Haram, prompting some stakeholders in the university to circulate pamphlets suggesting that a person associated with the violent sect was primed to take over as VC of UniAbuja.

Also, prior to the Council meeting, some members of the Council had moved against the varsity’s Registrar, purporting that he was backing Prof. Dambatta.

But by yesterday, the report of the selection board was read to the Council, and part of the report showed that the Federal Character Commission (FCC), which was represented in the selection process, had cautioned against the appointment of either Prof. Lawal from Kwara state or Prof. Adiku from Benue state.

The FCC’s argument was that it would run against Federal Character principle to have a VC from the North Central since both the university’s chief librarian and its bursar are from the same geo-political zone.

The Council, which had since been polarised along religious lines, shoved aside the FCC report and decided to go ahead with consideration of all three candidates. The Council, therefore, resolved to vote, to determine the chosen candidate.

But just before the voting commenced, some members of the Council drew attention to the need for three members of the Council (names withheld), to step aside since they had applied for consideration as VC of the varsity but were not shortlisted for the screening and subsequent interview.

However, General Ogomudia disregarded the suggestion and passed round papers seeking for nomination from all 14 members at the meeting.

Following their objection of the perceived breach of procedure by the Council chairman, six members (names withheld), decided to boycott the voting exercise, and ultimately vowed to challenged the  alleged irregularities in court.

Meanwhile, Ogbemudia has declared Prof. Adiku as the newly selected VC of the University of Abuja.

Prior to that, and in anticipation of what the lecturers described as “appointment not based on merit but ethnicity and religion”, members of the integrity group of the Academic Staff Union of Universities

(ASUU) in the institution, the UnAbuja chapter of the Senior Staff of Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU),  as well as some stakeholders gathered at the main entrance to the university, carrying placards that read: “We are for merit”.

However, the lecturers were stopped from gaining access into the school by men of the Police Force shortly after members of the governing council of the university arrived the venue of the meeting to decide on the new VC.

A member who didn’t want his name in print said although the university was yet to officially declare Prof. Adiku as the institution’s new VC, by its action, the Council has violated the 2003 University Enactment Act, which emphasised the selection of heads of universities on merit.

 “We are tired of controversies; our students are tired and their time has been wasted due to problems they know nothing about. If merit is not followed in the appointment of the new VC there is going to be another phase of crisis in the school. The tenure of the out-going VC was full of controversies and now the Council’s decision will plunge it into another round of crisis for its own selfish interest”, the source said.

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