The Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI) has urged the Federal Government not to bend the rules by re-appointing the outgoing Director/Chief Executive of National Mathematical Centre (NMC), Professor Stephen Onah.
In a petition addressed to the Minister of Education, ASURI explained that the conditions of service under which the Chief Executive was appointed in 2016 stipulates a single term of five years.
In the petition signed by ASURI General Secretary, Dr Theophilus Ndubuaku, the union therefore advised the incumbent CEO to stop nursing the ambition of a second term and prayed the Federal Government to direct the Governing Board to start the process of selecting a worthy successor to Professor Onah.
As an inter-university centre, the chief executive of NMC enjoys the same conditions of service, including remunerations and fringe benefits accruable to vice chancellors of Federal Universities, as well as a single tenure of five years.
The union cautioned that it will not fold its arms and watch the government flout the extant rules in favour of the incumbent CEO whose tenure ends in August.
The petition reads in part, “If the incumbent Chief Executive has enjoyed the remunerations and other fringe benefits as they accrue to Vice Chancellors, he must, of necessity, bow to the other aspect of the conditions of service which stipulates a single tenure like other CEOs of Federal universities.”
The union said it is “convinced that something is amiss because, barely two months to the end of the tenure of the incumbent CEO on 2nd August 2021, the immediate past Governing Council which was dissolved only recently did not deem it fit to advertise the position to pave way for the selection process of the would-be in-coming Chief Executive.”
Relying on the Universities Miscellaneous Act of 2012, Ndubuaku says, “For the avoidance of doubt, although the National Mathematical Centre Act stipulates in section 7(2a) that the Director shall ‘hold office for a period of five years and shall be eligible for re-appointment,’ this provision has been overtaken by the Universities Miscellaneous Act of 2012 which provides for all Principal Officers a single term of five years and no more.
The Explanatory Memorandum to the Act states: “This Act amends the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act No. 11. 1993 by limiting the tenure of principal officers to a single term of five years and increasing the retiring age of a staff in the professorial cadre and non-academic staff in the Universities in Nigeria.” This applies to all universities and inter-university centres since they operate the conditions of service as applicable to universities.
Also relying on the White Paper on the Visitation Panel Report into the Affairs of National Mathematical Centre, Abuja, 2004 – 2010, the union argues that the tenure of the Director/Chief Executive Officer of NMC should be a single term of five years and no more.
The White Paper says in section 9.1.9: “Since this is an Inter-University Centre and the Director enjoys conditions of service equivalent to those of the Vice Chancellor of a Federal University, it therefore implies that the law governing the Vice Chancellors should be applicable, that is, Director should hold office for a single term of five years.”