The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the Federal University of Lokoja, Kogi State, Senator Chris Adighije, a former don, in an interview with a cross-section of journalists speaks about the process of appointing a new Vice-Chancellor for the university, the challenges and the activities of the Council so far. JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM was there
Could you mention some of activities of the Governing Council to enhance the development of the university since its inauguration?
Well, we have been doing our best, as a Council since we came on board. We have had our inaugural meeting, but due to the situation in the country, many members could not attend and this was due mainly to the protracted indefinite nationwide strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike.
Also, the university has held its Senate election where their four members of the Council were elected and now the Council is complete. One of the first tasks inherited by the Council is the process of recruiting a new Bursar and the University Librarian. The process was initiated by the former Governing Council and I can tell you that now the Council under my leadership has employed a Bursar and Librarian for the university.
Of course, you will also realise that the tenure of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of the university will expire on February 21, 2021. And, by law and convention we are in the process of selecting a successor and in doing that, we are insisting on due process. It is taking a lot of our attention and the applications closed on October 16.
Shortly after that, we will embark on proper compilation of applications based on the Local Government Area, age and academic qualifications of the candidates, and other requirements which would be done according to the advertisement. In fact, the selection team has already compiled that as supervised by a member of the Council. We have about 80 applications and we will soon be in the process of short listing.
A date has been fixed for that and a five-man Committee is saddled with that responsibility. After that, we will now go on to the main selection process of the candidates for the job.
There is a selection committee that would be made up of two external members of the Council, two members of the Senate who are not members of the Council, and the Committee would be chaired by the Chairman of Council. There will be five members of the selection board.
The plan and proposal that the Council had already accepted and put in place is to ensure that the new Vice- Chancellor would emerge by December 4, this year. This will create room for a proper transition since the incumbent Vice-Chancellor will leave office by the middle of February, next year. More importantly, you should also realise that the process of relocating the university to its permanent site and poor funding are some of the major issues confronting us as a new university, but we have to do what we are doing to reposition the institution. In view of this, the Council and the university management have been collaborating and working together, so as to see how we can have a seamless process. As I have said earlier, this is a federal university and we have received applications from a cross section of Nigerians who want to occupy the exalted office.
As a federal university, how did the Council handle or involve the issues of federal character, in the appointment of the university Librarian and the Bursar for the university?
Definitely, we had a representative of the Federal Character Commission (FCC), who was there with us throughout the process; they were present and deeply involved in the process to ensure federal character in the appointment.
So far, is the Council facing any challenge or influence in the process of shortlisting the candidates in view of the demand in many instances that since the institution is in a certain location, and so the people we must dictate who will be at the helm of affairs?
Well, as far as I am concerned, you know that there must be side talks, but there has not been any official protest or official petition for that matter. Naturally, people must be saying that since this university is located in our area, it must be staffed by indigenes, but I can assure you that has been well taken care of.
As a university, and a new one for that matter, the issues of accreditation of academic programmes by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and other professional bodies is critical, how is the institution handling this?
Yes, like I said, this is a new university and I must commend the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Angela Freeman Miri, who has been there for the past five years. She and her management team have done very well. In fact, in terms of the other 11 universities that were created at the same time, our university has done very well in the number of courses it runs and faculties. The university is growing steadily, and given the rate in which it is growing, the institution is going to catch up with the older generation universities in another five years.
But, talking about shortlisting of candidates for the Vice-Chancellor position, in which three candidates will finally be shortlisted to the President and Visitor to the university, what are the criteria put in place by the Governing Council to select the shortlisted candidates?
Obviously, universities are all about convention, tradition and law, so the combination of all these are what you saw in the advertisement for application for the post in the national dailies as specified by the extant law of the university.
Therefore, the criteria contained in the advert will be the major document that would be used in our selection and interview process, as well as for shortlisting of the candidates. So, many conditions and criteria, which for instance include the retirement age which is 70 years will be adhered to religiously, and we expect that whoever that would emerge as the new candidate would not have been beyond 70 years within the period of his tenure.
Going by this condition, the Council and Selection Committee expect that candidates for the job will be less than 65 years old by the time they take over office. We also expect that the candidates who are applying should have been professors for not less than seven years; we also expect that such professors should have been in academic activity for some period of about 15 years or more.
All these are well articulated. So, the process of shortlisting candidates would use the criteria spelt out in the advertisement and whatever the Council would come up with as a benchmark that is expected would be in line with the law of the university.
Hence, we hope that the entire selection process would be seamless. And of course, once we are transparent, once we put everything on the table, then we want to assure all stakeholders that God, on our side, the process would go through credibly and, of course, the new Vice-Chancellor would emerge based on merit.