Administrative Foresight and Flexibility in the Management of Academic Institutions

Preamble

 

This paper chronicles the events surrounding series of strikes and riots in Niger Delta University. Starting from the 2016 NDU Engineering boys’ riots which was also referred to as the MPC Law riot. It also takes a branch to look into the idea of universities’ autonomy; with instances of universities giving opportunities to governments’ intrusion into its fold and how such intrusion can make or mar university operations in the short and long run. For the most part, universities has avoided the intrusion of government in academic management for what universities sees as political insincerity on the part of politicians.

 

One thing that adds the coloration of efficient management of universities to an institution is the ability to manage tensed situations. Most times, universities management find themselves at loggerhead with staff and/or the students’ community. Management most of the times tries to wield overwhelming power over the students, attempting to silence agitations rather than looking intently into possible ways of handling emerging issues.

 

 

Recall in 2016, when the Engineering students of the Niger Delta University appealed relentlessly to management to drop its policy on the MPC Law, the Dean and other Heads of Departments then were very obstinate that the Law must stand. The university management then saw no need to quash or play down on the policy. The students’ reply resulted in a riot after all the polite and ethical means to influence managerial decision on the policy failed.

 

Also recall that this riot led management to charge Engineering students of 100 and 200 level N50,000, while 300 level students and above in same Engineering paid N30,000 as damage fees and as requirements to resume with an attestation of good conduct letter.

Guess what? Today, the Almighty MPC Law has been partially brought down by allowing students the opportunity to rewrite/resit one more time for the failed MPC course(s). Now you may want to ask yourself: “what was all those fuss then all about?” I hope the administrative insensitivity that pervades the establishment and strict implementation of the MPC Law then is unarguably visible to all?

 

Introduction

 

As a result of quacks amongst university graduates, many university administrators attempts to make policies that supports the graduation of only capable students, students who can represent their institutions in the labour market afterwards. Consequently, students who are unable to pass several core courses are required to change to other less competitive courses in the same university or leave the university altogether. This is the underpinning principle behind the MPC Law. The MPC Law does not give room for students repeat in the past but to leave the department. This was what led to the MPC riot of 2016.

 

Ranking of NDU in Nigeria: https://www.4icu.org/ng/

 

The MPC Law is not the only law that has plunged students into deep depression. The Faculty of Basic Medical Science (BMS) also has a similar law where BMSites who are unable to pass three basic/core courses which are Physiology, Anatomy and Biochemistry are withdrawn from the department/school as the case demands then. This was initially without options of resit unlike what is now obtained. This is also the same with Nursing in previous years. Nursing students used to probate on the ground of failure of certain courses. All these are policies put in place to give certain courses professional outlook in the committee of academic institutions.

 

On the other side of the coin, political involvement in academics in Nigeria has a very poor history, one that caused the decay of academic facilities and other resources. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) refused to be registered in the Federal Government of Nigeria’s IPPIS Scheme whence ASUU argued that the scheme would not allow for the payment of adjunct and contract staff. More of this will be discussed as the work unfolds.

 

What is MPC Law?

 

Every programme of study have specific requirements which students must meet to ensure they graduate from such programme. One of such requirements is the MPC Law in the Faculty of Engineering. MPC is an acronym for Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. These are three basic/core courses in the Faculty of Engineering. These courses are found in both first and second semesters. The lists of these courses are as follows:

First Semester

MTH105  –  ENGINEERING MATHEMATICS I  –  4 Units
PHY 105 PHYSICS I  –  4 Units
CHM 101 GENERAL CHEMISTRY I  –  4 Units

Second Semester

Course Code Course Titles Credit Units
MTH 106 ENGINEERING MATHEMATICS II 4
PHY 106 PHYSICS II 4
CHM 102 GENERAL CHEMISTRY II 4

 

Major Tenets of MPC Law

 

The MPC law held that if any 100 level student fail any of the three courses (Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry), either in first or second semesters, such student is deemed to repeat his 100 level. Ordinarily in the university, if a student fails a course, such student can still pass to the next level but have to register the failed course in the next upper level. But with MPC, such student has to remain in the same level to re-write the failed course(s) – even if it is one course that is failed.

 

However, in the second year in 100 level, such student is expected to register such failed course(s) again and borrow other related courses to make up the minimum credit units for a semester – 9 units. Students who failed the same course for a second time can also register the course again but where their CGPA is less than 1.00, such student is deemed to have been Withdrawn for Academic Failure (WAF). Nevertheless, where any Engineering student passed 100 level without any MPC problems, such student is not expected to repeat any level again where he/she failed any MPC courses in upper levels. This means that MPC law only holds in 100 level. Any student who fails MPC courses in 200 level and above have no business repeating levels.

 

The Almighty MPC Law in Niger Delta University: What Freshers Must Know

 

According to Williams (2016):

The MPC Law was passed by the Faculty of engineering, Niger Delta University in 2013.

That this rule is otherwise known as the M.P.C law and it states that:

1. effective from 2013/2014 academic session, all students are to pass all Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry else, they cannot progress to the next level. These students will be given another chance in the next academic session and if they fail anyone of the M.P.Cs again, such student will be asked to withdraw from the Faculty.

2. Students in 200 level and above (those who were admitted before 2013/2014) are not affected by this law; it only concerns students admitted from the 2013/2014 academic session.

This law was published in the students’ Faculty handbook and not on the school’s official gazette.

3. This law was unilaterally made by the Faculty of Engineering and not the Niger Delta University.

How the MPC Law Led to the First 2016 Protest/Riot in Niger Delta University

2016 MPC Law Protest (Popularly known as Engine Boys Riot)

 

The MPC Law riot (Also Engine boys’ riots) of 2016 was largely caused by a lag in the implementation of the law in previous years. Students who failed the implicating courses from 2013/2014 academic session were not held to repeat at the appropriate time. They went on to the next classes without issues. It seemed that the Engineering Faculty management has been easy on the students on this law. Hence, some students had found themselves in final year without being WAFfed. When the law came in full force by the then management of the Faculty, it became clear that those who are in final year are illegal students since they are not supposed to be in school again. That same week, the senior students took to the streets and then to the VC’s office peacefully to appeal the decision so as to allow them register the courses again one more time. Being considerate, management gave them soft landing and allowed them.

 

However, seeing that the senior students (300 level and above) were successful in their endeavour, the junior students, i.e., year one and two students engaged in their own protest Friday same week, where they destroyed properties purportedly worth over millions. An incident that forced management to enforced temporary closure of the university for two weeks, two days from 19th February, 2016 till 7th March, 2016 and also enforced damage fee payment upon resumption on the students where senior students in Engineering Faculty paid N30,000 only as damage fee, while junior students paid N50,000 only. However, all students signed Attestation of Good conduct, popularly called Conduct form. This was the major protest and disruption for 2016 which disrupted academic activities for months coupled with non-payment of salaries that resulted in another strike action same 2016. This was the beginning of NDU’s delayed academic calendar till late 2018 – two years later. If you ever heard that the NDU is always rioting and striking and its calendar is backward, this is the very beginning of such stories. Thankfully, the incumbent management, under the leadership of Prof. Samuel Edoumiekumo, has been able to surmount the challenges by bringing the university calendar up-to-date through various responsive and locally oriented policies. Thus, making the university calendar ahead of many other universities which were hitherto ahead of the NDU. Nevertheless, the delay caused by the riots and lecturer’s strike made the resumption date for the next academic session – 2017/2018 – which was supposed to start by November, 2016 extends to April 6th, 2017.

 

The Twist of Events In MPC Law

 

Recall that before the MPC Law riots, students had engaged management on the need to either scrap the policy or allow for a resit. The then Engineering management refused vehemently and enforced it with full force without any form of flexibility. This led to a massive protest where students marched to CHS to destroy properties, from whence they marched on to main campus, stoned and shattered windows and door glasses. Newsite too was not spared as some other set of students had done significant damages to the then growing campus. Academic activities were halted for two weeks, two days, which is from 19th February, 2016 till 7th March, 2016. Resumption of academic activities lasted for one month, three weeks before another ASUU strike sets in on Friday April 29th, 2016 when the university declared another suspension of academic activities.

 

In the wake of the after calm, management had already estimated the level of damage which spanned into millions of naira. As expected, payment of damage became part of the pre-requisite to resume especially for the Engineering boys. As stated earlier, 300 level Engineering boys and above paid N30,000 as damage fees while 100 and 200 level students who spearheaded the destruction paid N50,000 for the same purpose.

 

Today, the policy has been played down partially by the current administration. Students who fail MPC courses are now allowed to resit once at a purported cost of N5,000. Academic administration has become a bit responsive and flexible. You may want to ask yourself: “all those MPC riots, destruction and subsequent payment of damages here and there were for what purpose?”

 

In some advanced societies, the then management would have been sued for pushing students to engaged in riot/protest through its irresponsive policies and at the same time, collecting damage fees from the students – persons who are the foundations and the reason for the firm stand of the institution. Playing down on the MPC Law is a clear indication of non-students friendly policy of the then management and shows that the management was wrong then but failed to understand this. Such level of administrative irresponsiveness should not be found in academic settings – at least, politics could kill itself with Buhari-like front-to-back educational policies, but never in pure academic environment.

 

The responsiveness in the MPC Law is not secluded to the Faculty of Engineering. Other Faculties like BMS and Nursing has witnessed similar changes. NDU Nursing students has reported that courses which used to cause probation no longer holds, rather, an opportunity to resit has been initiated. Also, in Medicine and Surgery, courses such as Physiology, Anatomy and Biochemistry in which failure hitherto caused compulsory transfer from the faculty has now been repositioned to allow students who failed only one or two of the above course(s) to resit for the examination. All these policies are only possible when the right persons are in control of academic operations.

 

Aside the insight and responsiveness of the NDU’s contemporary administration, same is also renown for flexibility in other aspects of students’ academic welfare. Currently, the NDU also runs on what is called amnesty for graduating students where many students who would not graduate ad a result of one or few courses are granted the rare opportunity to resit immediately and do all they can to pass and graduate. When I speak of responsiveness, this is a very good example of what I meant. Today, our leaders think archaic and traditional. They think according to the norm, the standard, the laid down process, irrespective of any possible fact that the process, standard, etc. does not solve inherent challenges. No sense of vibrance, understanding, thought process, manipulations and an insight into local challenges and solving such local challenge with local solutions.

 

It was in sharp contrast to the above that the incumbent NDU administration attempted to solve the NDU backward academic calendar with a local solution – the concurrent semester policy. The concurrent semester, as claimed by Professor Edoumiekumo: “…was my initiative. Following the strikes and the natural disasters and all that has happened in the Niger Delta University, how can we gain back these periods? Let us test run a model, dual semester, that first semester and second semester should run concurrently. You were having maybe 14 courses to do in a session, teach all of them… That was what in those days, America was using. So, for a B.Sc. programme, you may spend 2 years or 2 and a half years…”

 

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Despite the fact that this policy was locally made to solve local challenge, not all saw it, hence, it met with stiff opposition. It was beyond sheer impulse that the administration stood by it but redrafted the policy to 2 separate semesters of 8-weeks each. Today, coupled with other decisions like no breaks in between semesters, the NDU is now ahead of many other institutions which were initially ahead of it. Those who opposed these policies in stiff terms are now the beneficiaries of their own opposition endeavours. This publication is not to laud any administration, else, the listings of the current administration policies that benefits students could go on and on.

 

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Political Involvement in Universities Administration

 

Political involvement in academics is vehemently rejected by academic administrators because of political manipulations and insincerity on the part of government officials. Till date, the United Nations’ educational funding benchmark of 26% of national budget has never been attained by the Nigerian government. Hence, putting academics/universities directly under the manipulations of the typical Nigerian politicians is like handling a basket of fish to the rat. Nothing good will ever “come out of Jerusalem”.

 

Nevertheless, politicians have a differing view of university autonomy. According to the former governor of Delta State, Chief Emmanuel Ewetan Uduagnan, in the 2nd University of Benin Alumni Association Distinguished Alumni (Daf) Lecture of 2018, the governor noted that despite universities wanted autonomy, they are unable to fund themselves. He reiterated that any funded university must have a level of control from its respective funding State/Federal government. In his words, “one other connotation of university autonomy in Nigeria is Privatization. I say this because in business, there is nothing such as ownership without control. So if the universities are to be autonomous and be free from government control then the ownership should be turned over to the various Governing Councils”.

 

The University Autonomy Question By Emmanuel Ewetan Uduaghan

 

The Role of Bayelsa State Government in the Breach of NDU’s Autonomy

 

In the Niger Delta University case, autonomy from the state government has been a longstanding fight by the institutions’ administration. From the time of Prof. C. C. Buseri, the pioneer Vice Chancellor down to Prof. Humphrey Ogoni, the university maintained high level of university autonomy with instances of attempt by the state government under successive governors to pry into the affairs of the institutions without success. The university as perceived by many observers refrained from anything that could put the university under the manipulations of the State. All these successes would later be in vain in a later administration who in collaboration with the state government would rip the NDU of any form of autonomous administration of the university from the State political apparatus.

 

To say the least, the exit of Prof. Humphrey Ogoni, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of the NDU from the institution’s administrative ranks mark the end of NDU’s taste of the term “University Autonomy”. Members of staff in various departments had alleged that Prof. Humphrey along with previous VCs had defied the state government’s call to drop staff and lessen the state government’s responsibility to the NDU. On the exit of Ogoni, the plan of the government were initiated in collaboration with the succeeding administration where many staff were dropped. Till date, nobody has taken responsibility for the 2018 mass sack of about 1700 NDU non-academic staff.

 

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Meet the state government to inquire of who is responsible for the mass sack, you are referred to the school management. Meet the university management, you are directed to the school staff union leaders. Meet the staff union leaders, you are told that the government in collaboration with the VC sacked the staff. Then, reporters were kept in a rotational web of turn-around as no one ever claimed responsibility but workers were sack or say retrenched as the government would want the public to see it. There was a high level of conspiracy, ruse, deceit and manipulations in the mass sack of NDU’s non-academic staff in 2018.

 

NDU workers retired not sacked- Bayelsa govt

 

Now under a new management, the state government fought relentlessly to naked the NDU to its own benefits of manipulation. Prior to this time, the NDU, even though lacking manpower, have the minimal staff to teach, administer and clean the university appropriately. The university was ranked as one of the cleanest amongst south-south universities in Nigeria. By then, any who came to the school can attest to the level of neatness of the university. Although there were allegations of overstaff and ghost workers every now and then, manpower in the NDU was able to handle the affairs of the school adequately.

 

Now naked and unfortunately without academic juggernauts with teeth like jackals to fend off overwhelming political influence on academic institutions (something the university administration {like other universities} had feared from inception), the then state government had the full opportunity and unfettered as access to rape the NDU by reducing staff, adjusting school fees structure and also reducing funding from N494 million to N350 million.

 

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The issue of mass non-academic staff sack which was tagged “retrenchment” by the then state government was one that started years before 2018. It was gathered that the state government had confronted the previous Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof. Humphrey Ogoni, to assist in the retrenchment of some non-academic staff. Nevertheless, the unverified report had it that the then VC rejected the proposal and noted that he will not be involved in such act. Some persons felt that this was the beginning of the rift between the former VC and the then state government. It was also alleged that the state government nurtured the ambition of purging the civil service payroll, removing ghost and unnecessary workers, to create space for more employments.

 

Reasons For Dickson’s Civil Service Reform

 

The Dickson’s government decried that death persons, over-aged personnel, ghost workers amongst other issues were bedeviling the payroll and as such needed to purge the civil service for a reform. The rift between the state government and the former VC continued till the expiration of his tenure as the Vice Chancellor of the Niger Delta University. It was widely held by spectators that the VC is not the favourite of the government since they would often not be in one accord/voice. A staff who spoke to A & U Ng then on the condition of anonymity reported that while the plan was already concocted to take over from him days after his tenure ended, the VC himself called the powers that be to handover to them that his tenure has expired – a story we could not verify. The former VC whose hands is purportedly clean of all anti-autonomous university administration issues is now relaxing peacefully, but the current administration came under severe administrative challenges because of issues from both government, staff, students and members of the public.

 

Dickson and NDU Saga

 

Just as it was stated above, there was a high level deceit surrounding the NDU administration and government operations concerning mass sack of non-academic staff and school fees. It is a case of “the more you look, the less you see”. At a point, it became expedient to stop writing on the school fees issues because it was clear that the then state government and the management was clamping down on those speaking the truth about the issue. But the truth cannot be permanently covered. Like water under oil, it will surely spring up. The Dickson administration used three-pronged policy to rape the NDU:

1. Reduction of University wage bill

 

In an attempt to reduce government responsibility to the NDU, Dickson adopted a plan which reduces the wage bill the university receives from the state government. From N494million which was the earlier wage bill to N350million – a whooping difference of N144 million. It was also reported that the Dickson administration initially propose only N250 million but NDU entered a bargain plea with the government where it was raised from N250 million to N300 before the current agreement of N350 million. Many believed that all these were done to pave way for the growth of University of Africa, Toru-Arua.

 

2. Mass Sack

 

Dickson also purged the civil service by reforming it with NDU as the primary target. At the inception of the current administration, the non-academic staff never knew peace neither did they have any form of rest of mind. This was because the government has through the current managerial structure infiltrated the ranks of the academic community. Everyday, it was either a list of redeployment or retrenched staff was released or protest against one thing or the other. Everyday at work, stories, rumours and news of one thing or the other concerning sack are carried. Their work security was highly threatened. This led to serious series of protest in the local community. The non-academic staff permanently sealed off the main gate, blocked the road leading to Amassoma and carryout a one week burial ceremony for the school management. The old women were seen using the pictures of the Vice Chancellor and the governor to pass through their private parts, swearing, chanting, and singing as parts of the burial rights. Some were even naked while dancing. They even bought a coffin and displayed it around.

 

The truth of the matter remains that the non-academic staff did not really fought against the civil service clean-up. What they fought for was the process. The state government who initially termed it redeployment later sacked them without due benefits, with “only three months salaries in lieu”. According to some staff, if proper retirement process was duly followed, most non-academic staff whose names are not on the list would even want to join the retirement plan. What the public failed to understand then was that these non-academic staff were duly employed and ought to be dully retired. The Dickson Civil Service Reform was a welcome development that every person of goodwill accepted but for its undue and porous process.

 

3. School Fees Increment Saga and Students’ Protest

 

The school fees increment actually started in the 2016/2017 academic session. When allocations to States were on the decreased as a result of the 2015/2016 Nigerian recession, it greatly affected salaries and other payments to the NDU. This made the then school management to increase the school fees. This act was greeted with wild perception but saw no riots as many understood that allocation was low. The protest was not also possible because students’ reps announced that management promised that once allocation rises, the tuition fees would be reduced, and that the fees would not be increased in the next academic session which is 2017/2018 academic session. Everyone swallowed it and managed to continue. Management even came up with a policy of 60/40%. This means that you can pay your school fees twice. You can pay 60% and continue your studies, later you pay the 40% balance before the end of the session. However, this policy never favoured management as many students delayed payment of their school fees.

 

Nonetheless, while many students are yet to pay up their 2017/2018 tuition fees, the management in the 2018/2019 academic session has tampered with the school fees structure again. I used the phrase “tampered with the structure” because the state government and the NDU management do not want to use the word “increase”. In the after period of the ensuing saga, I stopped publishing about the increment because the management and the then Seriake government would not want to hear about anything school fees increment and would attempt to clamp down on persons and bloggers posting about the increments.

 

However, for the most part, while students believed that the school fees were increased, which resulted to massive riots and consequent closure of the university, management and government on the other hand held that there was no increment, neither was any structure tampered. Parents as third parties remained confused as to who was telling the truth between their wards and the school management/government. This story will be left for another day.

 

After the Turmoil

 

Of course, there would be sun again after the rain; and there would always be peace again after the war. This is exactly the case with the before and after of the NDU. The Niger Delta University is now basking in developments, countless students’ friendly policies, swift academic calendar, free internet access for all students, improved IGR, increased students intake, new programmes and faculties, new NDU FM Radio. All of these did not come for free, the university have paid the price for peace at a very great cost and the university participants including management, students, staff, government now understood themselves to the extent that peace has become the language for all. This understanding has resulted in unimaginable peace for the university in recent years.

 

With a responsive administration, set to defy all academic standard just to engender a better academic settings where quality and better operations matters, the NDU is on its toes soaring high than anything that has ever happened to the institution since its inception.

 

It is the earnest prayers of all well meaning actors that the current tempo is maintained to the glory of God, the administration and all under the motherly wings of the university.

 

References

… Niger Delta University holds 2nd thanksgiving ceremony. Retrieved 13th May, 2020 from https://sites.google.com/site/1812260513aa/niger-delta-university-holds-2nd-thanksgiving-ceremony

 

Ahon, F. (May, 2018). Olomu condemns sacking of 1,700 NDU non teaching staff. Retrieved 13th May, 2020 from https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/05/ndu-olomu-blasts-dickson-sack-1700-non-teaching-staff/

 

Augustine, A. E. (2016). The legal perspective of the MPC rule and role of management in the recent students uprising in Niger Delta University. http://revolutionaryyouths2016.blogspot.com/2016/03/re-legal-perspective-of-mpc-rule-and_4.html

 

Folaranmi, F. (May, 2018). NDU workers retired not sacked- Bayelsa govt. Retrieved 13th May, 2020 from https://www.sunnewsonline.com/ndu-workers-retired-not-sacked-bayelsa-govt/

 

Michael, O. J. (Dec., 2019d). Special appreciation. Retrieved 13th May, 2020 from https://admissionsandutme.com/2019/12/23/special-appreciation/

 

Michael, O. J. (June, 2019a). Full report on the VC’s award ceremony. Retrieved 13th May, 2020 from https://admissionsandutme.com/2019/06/22/full-report-on-the-vcs-award-ceremony/

 

Michael, O. J. (June, 2019b). Why we awarded the Vice Chancellor-Michael Jules. Retrieved 13th May, 2020 from https://admissionsandutme.com/2019/06/20/why-we-awarded-the-vice-chancellor-michael-jules/

 

Michael, O. J. (Nov., 2019c). The almighty MPC law in Niger Delta University: What freshers must know. Retrieved 13th May, 2020 from https://admissionsandutme.com/2019/11/11/the-almighty-mpc-law-in-niger-delta-university-what-freshers-must-know-2/

 

UniRank, (2020). Top Universities in Nigeria: 2020 Nigerian University Ranking. Retrieved 13th May, 2020 from https://www.4icu.org/ng/

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