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HomeLatestEDHA In Disarray Over Extension Of AAU Ekpoma SIT's Tenure

EDHA In Disarray Over Extension Of AAU Ekpoma SIT’s Tenure

Lucky Obukohwo, Reporting

Alleged plot to use the Edo State House of Assembly (EDHA ) to extend the tenure of the Special Intervention Team (SIT) of the Edo State-owned Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma has met with a strong resistance following sharp division among members of the House of Assembly who strongly opposed the request to extend the University’s SIT tenure.

Reports have it that the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki had sent a letter to the State House of Assembly requesting for the extension of the tenure of the SIT of AAU, Ekpoma to 31st of January, 2024 amongst other things.

According to the reports, the Governor’s letter on tenure elongation of the University’s SIT drew the irk of some members of the House who strongly opposed the tenure extension plot against the backdrop of an alleged negative activities of the SIT in the University coupled with the fact that the SIT’s tenure had since expired.

Inside sources at the State House of Assembly revealed that the members who opposed the extension plot contended that the State House of Assembly lacks the power to extend the tenure of SIT by fiat and on mere letter of request from the Governor without first amending the Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Law 2021.

The house members maintained that the House cannot make a retroactive law to cover for the extinguished period of the tenure of the SIT in the University as a result of the continuing operations of SIT in the University without the backing of the law.

As a result of the heated debate at its plenary of 27/11/2023 over the legality of the State House of Assembly to extend the tenure of SIT by fiat without first amending the Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Law 2021, and the House was said to have hurriedly referred the matter to its Standing Committee on Education and mandated it to report back to the house on Wednesday, 29/11/2023.

But in swift reaction to unfolding scenario, the University stàkeholders have condemned the attempt to continue to foist SIT on the University against what they described as “disastrous failure by the SIT in the University”.

It would be recalled that Governor Obaseki who is the Visitor to the University was said to have been irked by perceived mismanagement and maladministration in the operation of the University, and caused the enactment of a new Law for the University entitled Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Law 2021, effective May 10, 2021.

It was learnt that by virtue of Section 2(b) of Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Law 2021, the Visitor to the University constituted a 10-member Special Intervention Team (SIT) to exercise all the power and functions of the Council as enshrined in Ambrose Alli University Establishment Law 1999 (As Amended), except with respect to the appointment and removal of Principal Officers.

It was also learnt that by virtue of Part II, Section 5 of Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Law 2021, the period for operation of SIT “shall not be more than one calendar year, in the first instance, subject to extension for another period of six months only”.

The SIT was inaugurated on 4th June, 2021. It was gathered that the SIT has served out the one-calendar-year term and the extension of 6 months, meaning that the continuing operation and activities of SIT in the University, after the expiration of the period allowed by the University’s law, amounts to illegality and lawlessness.

The stàkeholders however advised the House to refrain from illegal extension of SIT in the University to protect the reputation and credibility of the institution.

According to them, the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma is only the known public university in Nigeria that is being managed by a body called SIT in total deviation from the universally accepted norms, laws and best global practice.

In their words, “it is difficult to deny the fact that SIT has failed in its mandate to restore sanity and healthy academic learning in the University as evident in series of protest by staff and students of the University. In fact, SIT has become part of the increasing problems of the University.”

They also claimed that the Visitor to the University attested to the failure of SIT on 16th March of this year at a stakeholders’ meeting on how to resolve the crisis rocking the institution, when he publicly gave 90 days ultimatum to the SIT to wind up its activities to pave way for the constitution of a Governing Council.

The stakeholders insisted that “to continue to retain SIT in the University is not only a violation and gross abuse of the University’s Law but also the height of insincerity to the Visitor’s public pronouncement on SIT tenure.”

“It also represents gross insensitivity to public outcry against the operation and activities of SIT since May, 2021 when it was constituted on June 4th, 2021 and inaugurated and to the present”, they added

It was gathered yesterday that the SIT had continued its operations in the University even after the expiration of its tenure since November last year and one of the controversial activities of the SIT in the University in its period of expired tenure is the recent newspaper advertisement for the positions of substantive Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Bursar in the University on 23rd and 25th of October, 2023.

Irked by the development, the University’s Chapter of ASUU insisted that the said advertisements for the positions of substantive Principal Officers in the University is abnormal given the fact that the University at present does not have a Governing Council.

The Union, in its protest letter dated 1/11/2023 to the Governor of Edo State and Visitor to the University, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, urged the Visitor to constitute a Governing Council for the University first before advertising vacancies for the posts of substantive Principal Officers in the University to avoid going against the University’s law in the appointments of substantive Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Bursar and other Principal Officers in the University.

According to the Union, “it is the Governing Council in consultation with the Visitor to the University that should drive the process for the appointment of a substantive Vice Chancellor and other substantive Principal Officers for the University, including the Registrar and Bursar.”

Dissatisfied with the non-response by the Visitor to the University to its memorandum on the controversial advertisements for the positions of Principal Officers in the University, the Union has proceeded to the Court of law to challenge the Vice Chancellorship race and the process of appointment of other Principal Officers in the University in the Court of law, having viewed the process as a fundamental breach of the University law.

The Union has approached the Court via originating summons with Suit NO HEK/M/9/2023, seeking answers to two legal questions:

“Whether upon the combined interpretation and effect of the Ambrose Alli University (Amendment) Law 1999 and the Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Law, 2021, substantive Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Bursar can be appointed for the University without the constitution of Governing Council for the University.

“Whether the advertisement for the appointment of substantive Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Bursar as contained in the newspaper of Monday, October 23, 2023 and Wednesday, October 25, 2023 respectively without the constitution of Governing Council for Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma is not ultra vires, null and void and of no effect whatsoever”.

The Union in a deposed affidavit in support of the originating summons insisted that the procedure for appointing substantive Vice Chancellor for Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma is copiously stated in Section 3 of the First Schedule of the Ambrose Alli University (Amendment) Law, 1999, adding that appointing Principal Officers for Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma without a Governing Council will violently contravene the Law that established the University as well as the Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Law of 2021.

The Union is, therefore, urging the Court to grant, among others, a declaration that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants lacks the competence to appoint substantive Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Bursar for Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma without first constituting Governing Council for the University.

The Union is also urging the Court to grant a declaration that the appointment of substantive Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Bursar for Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma without the constitution of Governing Council for the said University is null and void and of no effect whatsoever.

The Union is further urging the Court to grant an Order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants from appointing substantive Vice Chancellor, Registrar and Bursar for Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma in breach of the provisions of Ambrose Alli University (Amendment) Law, 1999 and Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Law, 2021.

The suit is filed at the High Court in the Ekpoma Judicial Division, Edo State and the date for hearing of the suit has been fixed for 24th of January 2024.

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