There was tension in the Nigerian capital, Abuja following a protest by the Coalition of Civil Society Groups (COCSG) on Wednesday, February 17. The protesters reportedly took to the streets of Abuja protesting against the sacking of 13 Vice Chancellors of Nigerian universities.
Over 2000 protesters barricaded the entrance of the National Assembly, calling for the removal of the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu.
Bassey Etuk, the Director General of COCSG, said the sacking of the VCs and their replacement with people mostly from the north violated the federal character principles.
Some of the protesters were heard chanting: “Adamu must go”, “reinstate the sacked VCs now” and “Nigeria needs a better administrator in the Education Ministry”.
A petition to the Senate president, Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, was received on their behalf by the National Assembly’s deputy sergeant-at-arms, Dennis Maaji.
The group gave the Minister 48 hours to reverse the sack and resign his appointment “because he doesn’t seem to understand the working of University system and administration.”
According to Etuk, the coalition would be heading to court to stop the sack as the tenure of five of the sacked VCs had yet to expire.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari approved the replacement of 13 vice chancellors of Nigerian universities. Twelve from federal universities alongside Vincent Tenebe, the vice chancellor of the National Open University.
The action has generated heated arguments, especially because almost all the 13 institutions were established by the former president, Goodluck Jonathan. Some people also questioned the sacking because the official statement by Adamu Adamu, did not give an explanation for the action.
The minister of education on Thursday, 18 said the federal government had no intention of rescinding its decision on sacking the 13 vice chancellors. Adamu made the statement while kicking off the 2015-2016 yearly school census in Abuja. He further informed that the complaints are currently being looked into in appropriate quarters. He said: “Do you reverse government’s decisions simply because somebody has criticised them? I don’t think it is all government decisions that go down well with everyone in the country. “The ministry has received representation from people who feel aggrieved because their tenure has not expired and we are looking at it.” When asked specifically on the expected court cases that would arise from their sack, he simply said: “They have already written to us and we are looking at their complaints and we will reply in due course.” Speaking on the yearly school census, the minister said that the exercise was informed by the provisions of the Nigeria Education Management Information System (NEMIS) policy of 2007, which provides for the collection of education data starting from the school.
In a related development, a team of policemen dispersed protesting members of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) at the Ministry of Education, Federal Secretariat, Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that policemen manhandled a camera man working for the Africa Independent Television (AIT) and smashed his camera. Mr Tijani Shehu the NANS President and no fewer than five other students, were arrested.
The students who had gathered at the entrance of the ministry protesting the recent sacking of vice chancellors of 13 federal universities, carried placards with inscriptions “ASUU, break the silence against this injustice”, “Sacking of VCs, an attempt to cripple our citadels”, “Say no to injustice”, among others. According to the students, Adamu erred in the appointment of new vice chancellors, which they said, was a usurpation of the duties of universities governing councils.
The NANS president said that the association duly notified all relevant agencies, including the minister of education of its protest and wondered why the minister could not come to address them. He accused the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Students (ASUU) of complicity in the sacking of the vice chancellors as it had been silent on the issue.
Meanwhile, Malam Muhammad Bello, the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) who was at the event, lamented the daily influx of people into the FCT, saying the development was taking unnecessary toll on the facilities and educational institutions. He said sanctions would soon be meted out on private school owners in the FCT who are taking advantage of the situation to fleece parents while offering sub-standard educational services.