More trouble looms over the suspension of the vice chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Professor Ndowa Lale, as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of the institution, has issued a five-day ultimatum for the decision to be rescinded.
This was, however, a sharp contrast to the stand of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), which want stiffer penalties for the embattled vice chancellor and three other principal staff of the institution.
Following the violent protest staged by the students of UNIPORT, on April 11, 2015, over the proposed “No fee, No examination” policy and which led to the killing of one student, Peter Ofurum, the Governing Council of the institution set up a panel of enquiry to look into the crisis
The panel, headed by Mr Okechuckwu Ajunwa, submitted its findings to the institution’s council, which eventually suspended Professor Lale, on June 6 and appointed Professor Anthony Ibe, (DVC, Administration), as the acting vice chancellor.
However, the UNIPORT branch of ASUU said the decision should be rescinded by next week Monday and described the action of the council as alien to all known procedures for the removal of a vice chancellor.
Addressing a press conference in Port Harcourt, on Wednesday, chairman of the UNIPORT branch of ASUU, Dr Austen Sado, said the governing council was not empowered by law to appoint an acting vice chancellor without due recommendation from the senate of the university.
However, NANS Zone B, called for stiffer sanction for the suspended Professor Lale and three others, even as it called on President Muhammadu Buhari to allow due process in resolving the crisis bedeviling UNIPORT.
NANS Zone B, comprising of Nigerian students in the South/South and South-East bloc, made the demand in a statement issued in Port Harcourt, on Wednesday.
The association, in the statement signed by its coordinator, Chibuzo Obi, said the other officers should include the Dean of Students, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) and the chief security officer of the institution.
He said the decision asking that the suspension be lifted was taken by the union after a congress was held on Tuesday to review the events that led to the violent students’ protest of April 11 and the eventual suspension of the vice chancellor.
“The Ajunwa-led council committee set up to investigate the students’ protest and issues related to it amounts to usurpation of the powers of the University Senate as it is the responsibility of the senate to handle such issues.
“The ‘suspension’ of Professor Lale did not follow the procedure for the removal of a vice chancellor from office as states in the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Act 2003, as amended.
“The points to note here are that ‘suspension’ is alien to the procedure for the removal of a vice chancellor from office and that council is not empowered by law to appoint an acting vice chancellor without due recommendation from the senate of the university…
“The purported suspension was meted out without due process, investigation and establishment of culpability of Professor Lale.
“There was no known petition against him, no query, no report or recommendation by the council or any committee properly constituted for the purpose of investigating the alleged misconduct of Professor Lale.
“A pertinent question to ask at this juncture is: On which report did the council act to suspend the vice chancellor on June 6, 2016, having nominated its representatives on the joint Council/Senate Commttee on June 6, 2016, while the senate nominated its representatives on the same committee on June 10, 2016?
“The action of the council in this wise is ultra -vires its inherent powers as granted by the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Act and thus it is inconsistent with and repugnant to the rule of natural justice and the Act from which the Council derives its powers…
“Congress demands that the purported suspension of the vice chancellor-Professor Lale, as well as the purported appointment of an acting vice chancellor by the Council be rescinded forthwith on or before Monday, 27 June, 2016 to maintain industrial peace and harmony in the university.
“It is hoped that Council and all parties involved in this conflict will allow reason to prevail within this time frame”, he said.