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Polls: As FG Shuts Universities, VCs and ASUU disagree

The Academic Staff Union of Universities has criticized the National Universities Commission’s directive to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities to close universities so that students can vote in the upcoming general elections.

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In a letter sent to all vice-chancellors and directors of inter-university centers on Tuesday, the NUC issued the directive.

The panel said that Adamu Adamu, the minister of education, asked for the instruction.

“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,” reads one portion of the letter.

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“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 are suspended between February 22 and March 14, 2023. This is in light of the foregoing and concerns expressed about the security of staff, students, and property of our respective institutions.

“As a consequence of this, this circular requests that Vice-Chancellors and Chief Executives of Inter-University Centres close their respective institutions from Wednesday, February 22, 2023, to Tuesday, March 14, 2023.”

However, in an interview with The PUNCH, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, National President of the ASUU, stated that universities had never been closed due to elections and that it was the Senates of universities’ prerogative to do so.

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He stated, “Vice-Chancellors have no authority to close universities.” The Senates of the universities have sole authority to open or close schools.

“They are citing security because things have gotten so bad in this country, and for this reason, we, as a union, had to watch. Have we ever closed polytechnics and universities during any of the previous elections? So, what is the problem? Why are we so desperate? Why are Nigerians being punished? We must inquire of Nigerian leaders because we are attempting to make up for lost time and you are now closing universities.

However, Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, Secretary-General of the CVCNU, disagreed with the ASUU President and stated that Nigeria had always closed universities during elections.

He stated, “It is nothing new; the majority of public universities shut down during elections because many of them have polling units, and universities and their communities always vote on campuses.”

“During elections, universities are closed for two reasons: to prevent people from exercising their voting rights and to provide those who registered outside of the university with the opportunity to vote. Universities have been doing this for as long as I can remember; thus, this is not novel.

The instruction comes from NUC, our regulatory body; The VCs will internalize it, while universities will determine how to manage it.

In addition, Mr. Anderson Ezeibe, National President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, stated that the regulatory body for polytechnics, the National Board for Technical Education, had not yet issued a directive.

However, he maintained that institutions’ Senates were responsible for making decisions regarding their closure and opening.

We are awaiting a decision from our regulatory body, but they have not made one. They cited security for NUC, and they are best positioned to disclose the security information they possess. However, I remain of the opinion that the universities’ Senates, not the NUC, should decide whether to close or not.

The NUC’s directive, according to Usman Barambu, president of the National Association of Nigerian Students, is welcome.

That directive is the result of our efforts, he stated. When rumors started to spread that schools would open during the election, we met with the Minister of Education. We were informed by the minister that directives would be issued to the relevant agencies and that schools would not be opened.

“Not only would universities be closed, but polytechnics, colleges of education, and all tertiary educational institutions would also be closed. You would begin to hear from them very soon.

 

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