Appeal for freedom from military administrators

September 25, 1998

Pressure is mounting on Nigeria's new military head of state to scrap the posts of sole administrator - the government appointees who have replaced vice-chancellors at five universities.

Before leaving for South Africa to attend the summit of heads of non-aligned countries, Abdus-alaam Abubakar announced the lifting of a ban on all trade unions including the Academic Staff Union of Universities.

The trade unions want the government to end the illegal and indefinite dissolution of the governing councils of the universities of Ahmadu Bello, Ladoke Akintola, Edo, Delta and Nigeria in Nsukka.

Despite the end of the ban on trade unions, a substantial pay rise and an end to military intervention by the military in the internal affairs of universities, academics want action to restore academic democracy.

"We are vehemently opposed to the continued existence in some of our universities of militarily- imposed sole administrators with absolute powers. Universities are not military barracks where nobody dares question the absolute authority of the military commandant," said a law professor at the University of Ibadan.

Asisi Assobie, ASUU national president, added: "The new and depressing phenomenon of sole administrators is bad for university culture and academic freedom. It creates an unhealthy air for both scholarship and youth development, and is the latest expression of the unfortunate violation of the nation's constitution, the supreme law of the land."

But Mike Isokun, the sole administrator of Edo State University, defended his job by stating that the undue politicisation of the university system and under-development which led to the creating of the post.

He said: "It is against this background we can best appreciate the imaginative and timely intervention of government by suspending or sacking the structures that have combined to promote the embarrassing state of affairs in our universities and replacing them with the office of sole administrator.

"This development can be amply demonstrated as an indictment of the conventional university system of vice-chancellorship which in its stark reality is not as democratic as many would want us to believe."

Several university teachers have sharply criticised Professor Isokun. Another law professor said: "He fails also to add that only the friends of the military within the academic community can be appointed Sole Administrators."

ASUU's national executive has pledged that it would continue its campaign for a return to legality in the university system and for the restoration of the dissolved governing councils, whose duties and responsibilities are being taken over by sole administrators.

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