President Muhammadu Buhari has warned that anybody found violating the processes of selecting vice-chancellors for federal universities in the country will be sanctioned.
The president’s warning came, even as he urged the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to return to classrooms.
Buhari gave the warning during the 72nd Foundation Day and Convocation ceremonies of the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, on Tuesday.
It would be recalled that University of Ibadan has been lately embroiled in a crisis over the selection of a new vice-chancellor, who is expected to take over from the incumbent, Prof. Idowu Olayinka.
Buhari, represented by the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, said that several mechanisms had been put in place to ensure that the selection of vice-chancellors was done in an open, fair and transparent manner.
“Let me add that government is particularly worried about the avalanche of petitions, many bordering on serious allegations of bribery and corruption as well as disrespect for due process in the course of selecting new vice-chancellors in some of our federal universities.
“Government has set in motion several mechanisms to ensure that the processes are conducted in an open, fair and transparent manner and to ensure that all violators are properly sanctioned,” he said.
Besides, the president noted that the strike by the lecturers had resulted in prolonged disruption of academic activities in public universities.
“We recognise the rights of workers to express their grievances through lawful actions, including strikes.
“However, there is a reciprocal obligation on the part of workers and unions to ensure the survival and sustainability of their places of employment.
“Strike tends to compound the problems in the education sector. The current strike by university teachers has gone on for too long and caused enough devastation to the lives of students and the universities alike.
“I urge university teachers to return to their classrooms and seek further accommodation with government from the productive ambience of their campuses,” he said.
The president, who is the Visitor to the university, reiterated his government’s determination to pay utmost attention to the security challenges facing the country.
He stressed that corruption, nepotism, kidnapping and other social vices would be eradicated in the country.
“I want to assure you of my government’s determination to continue to pay utmost attention to the issue of security.
“It is the collective commitment of this administration to ensure that we have a society that will guarantee peace, stability and opportunity for people of different categories and that all Nigerians are given the opportunity to excel in their chosen endeavours.
“Hence, our unrelenting and determined efforts to eradicate corruption, nepotism, kidnapping and other social vices that are threatening to cripple this nation.
“We shall not relent in the war against these evils and with God on our side, we shall prevail.
“Let me say, clearly, that the corporate existence of Nigeria is not negotiable,” he said, adding that efforts would be made to protect the country as a single entity.
Buhari underscored the need to unanimously condemn all divisions, conflicts and violent clashes in the country.
“We must embrace the sanctity of human life and peaceful co-existence. It is only in an atmosphere of peace that our developmental potential can fully blossom,” he said.
In his address, Nde Joshua Waklek, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council of the university, said that the institution would continue to invest in human capital development, while improving on its “gown-and-town” relations.
Waklek, however, solicited the government’s support for the institution to enable it to surmount its financial challenges.
He lauded the efforts of the Vice-Chancellor and the entire university community at achieving seventh position in university ranking in Africa and first in Nigeria.
On the selection of the 13th vice-chancellor for the institution, he promised that a credible candidate would finally emerge through a transparent and fair process.
Also speaking, the vice-chancellor appealed to the Federal Government to increase its support to the university, particularly in the form of special reconstruction and rehabilitation funds.
Olayinka congratulated the graduating students who, he said, had been found worthy both in character and learning.
He wished them resounding success in their respective future endeavours.
The event, which started on Nov. 12 with the UI-SME summit, climaxed with the Foundation Day and Convocation ceremonies.
More than 57 candidates from various disciplines were awarded Doctor of Philosophy degrees, with the Faculty of Education leading the pack.
Besides, 24 candidates of the Pan African University Life and Earth Sciences Institute (PAULESI) were awarded PhD degrees in their respective programmes.
Four prominent Nigerians — retired Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, Dr Layiwola Fatona, Chief Comfort Idowu and Mr John Coumantaros — were also conferred with honorary doctorate degrees.