Prof. Attahiru Jega has promised to work with other chairmen of newly inaugurated visitation panels for public universities to produce “excellent reports” to reposition the country’s tertiary institutions. Jega, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was speaking penultimate Tuesday on behalf of other chairmen at the inaugural ceremony for 38 federal universities and four inter-university centres in Abuja. He called for consistency in the constitution of visitation panels for federal tertiary institutions.
Jega urged the federal government to implement recommendations from the panels, while also pledging full commitment of panel members to produce excellent reports. “We shall do our best and produce excellent reports which, we hope, the government will put to good use to reposition the country’s universities. No doubt, a lot of challenges exist in the institutions and the President has offered an opportunity for careful review of the nature of the challenges on which basis recommendations will be made to address them,” he said.
Earlier, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, while inaugurating the visitation panels as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari, charged them to evaluate the policies and laws of the specific institutions. Adamu, represented by Mr Sonny Echono, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, urged the panels to adhere to their terms of reference to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the institutions.
He said that the panels would cover a period of 10 years between 2010 and 2020 and would be expected to present two reports covering 2011 to 2015 and 2016 to 2020. According to him, each panel will have people in academia, someone who knows the financial matters in the business sector, someone with the knowledge of the law and other instrument”. Each panel is expected to inquire into the level of implementation of the white paper on the last visitation reports.
“It will look into the leadership quality of each university in terms of the roles of its governing council, the vice chancellor and other principal officers,” he said. “It will look into the financial management of each institution including statutory allocations and internally generated revenue over the recommendation period. It will investigate the application of funds, particularly the special grants and loans meant for specific projects in order to determine the status of such projects.”
Adamu, therefore, urged the panels to conclude their responsibilities with the best practices within the period of 60 days. The Executive Secretary, the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed said that each of the 42 panels comprised prominent persons who had served the nation in various capacity. He tasked the chairmen of the panels to do their best to reposition the education system for the good of the nation.
We welcome the return of university visitation panels. They very active and popular when the military were in power. Their disappearance, ironically, coincided with the return to civil rule. The consequence is the pervasive rot we see today in the university system. Strikes by university lecturers have been frequent. The latest was the one that began in February 2020 and ended only last January. We trust the new visitation panels to a good job. With the likes of Jega heading them, hopes are high.
However, as the former university vice chancellor and chairman of INEC said, it is one thing to produce “excellent reports” but another thing to implement them faithfully. We hope both the panels and the government will do their part to truly reposition the malfunctioning university system.