Legal luminary and Founder, Afe Babalola University Ado-Ekiti Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) and the Alaafin of Oyo, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, have berated the Federal Government for ordering the closure of tertiary institutions nationwide, following the coronavirus pandemic.
Both of them stated that government mistakingly assumed the role of the university’s Senate which, according to them, is empowered by law, to give direction about academic matters in universities.
They spoke on Saturday during the commissioning of four projects by Afe Babalola University Multi-Systems Hospital, as well as the launch of two books- ‘The elusive search for nation Nigeria’ and ‘ABUAD: Pioneering educational renaissance at the university premises.
The projects are 16 modern dialysis machines; state of the art blood bank and transfusion services; helipad to ease transportation of patients and clients to the hospital; as well as a new building for military base to further enhance security.
Federal Government on Thursday directed schools from primary up to tertiary levels to shut down for one month beginning from Monday next week.
Reacting to the closure, Babalola said he received a memo by the National Universities Commission on Thursday, which complied to an earlier directive from the Federal Ministry of Education to close down schools nationwide.
Babalola said ABUAD’s Acting Vice Chancellor, Prof. Smaranda Olarinde immediately summonsed the university’s Senate and the Students Representative Council over the matter.
Babalola lamented that the students were midway into their second semester examination, adding that others are on different postings.
He said:”The one month closure would have adverse effect on the predictable academic calendar of private universities and reduce them to the level of public universities where four-year programmes are not completed in eight years.
“The Senate (of the university) is of the view that education is a delicate issue. Universities are not like parastatals of government like railway or Bank of Industry. Even the President who is the Visitor to public universities has no right to dissolve the Governing Council, remove Registrar and dabble into other academic affairs.
“The Ministry of Education knows that it has no right to close universities; that was why it wrote a letter to NUC to close down universities. The NUC also knows that the power to close down universities under Section 22 of Education (National Minimum Standard) provides that it must afford the proprietor of the institution an opportunity to make representation for consideration within 70 days before it can close down a university.
“It seems to me that when NUC receives the letter from the Ministry of Education, it ought to have invited proprietors of universities to an emergency meeting to discuss the letter from the Ministry of education.”
Babalola said the 10 year-old institution has been diligent over the coronavirus pandemic, ensuring staff and visitors alike are thoroughly scanned, while hand washing items and hand sanitisers were put at various strategic locations in the university.
Though not an academic, Oba Adeyemi recalled his era as a former three time chancellor of Uthman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, a designation he said afforded him deep knowledge about university operations.
“The recent announcement by the Federal Government closing all schools including private universities, is absolutely unnecessary.
“This is because the closure of any university is the responsibility of the Senate of that university. The different university laws state expressly the duties and functions of a Visitor, Council and Senate. Like it is under the dictate of Separation of Powers, none of these three bodies has the right or power to assume the functions and duties of any of the other two.
“The instant situation as it concerns the private universities is particularly worrisome in that the Federal Government did not consult the private universities before asking them to shut their doors and release their students, some of who are getting ready to write their end of session examinations, to go home for a month,” Alaafin said.
Oba Adeyemi he was warned by members of his family not to attend the event amid the spread of coronavirus.
However, Oba Adeyemi said he had to stake his life, by embarking on the journey as a means of paying back for the risk Babalola took on his behalf in 1988 when Babalola ignored all warnings and threats to his life and went to court to defend the late Moshood Abiola, when some fifth columnist protested his appointment as the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.
“Do you know what Afe said?. He said If indeed I die and that would be the end of the matter. Like Afe did in 1988, I told my people if I die, I die i n the process of coming here, and that would be the end of the matter. It is not in me to develop cold feet because of Covid-19. He has used his forensic advocacy in law to assist me in several times in the past,” Oba Adeyemi said.
Earlier, the Acting Vice Chancellor Prof. Smaranda Olarinde, described the launch of the facilities and books as part of Babalola’s continuous contribution to education and providing valuable reading materials for the public.
“Having read through the books, I am enthralled by the depth if the scholarly work that has gone into them, to the extent that I believe that they will make a compelling read for many who are hungry and thirsty for knowledge and ready to drink from the great Aare Afe Babalola’s fountain of knowledge,” the Acting Vice Chancellor said.