Joe Abugu, professor of industrial & commercial law and senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has tackled the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over its stance on the conferment of professorial status on Isa Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy by the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO).
The National Executive Committee of ASUU had set aside the findings by its FUTO chapter which had endorsed the procedure for the conferment of the professorial rank.
In a position paper titled: “Of University Autonomy, Meddlesomeness of ASUU and its War Against Prof. Ibrahim Isa Pantami,” Abugu, a lecturer at the University of Lagos, argued that the local chapter of ASUU did an excellent job in reminding the public that FUTO duly advertised the vacant positions in credible national dailies, and when Pantami applied, the relevant bodies vetted his credentials and gave him the appointment on merit.
He said all over the world and in Nigeria as well, there are no strict general rules guiding the procedure for a professorial appointment that all universities in a country must obey, adding that each institution of learning sets its own rules and that the vice-chancellor also has certain discretionary powers to use when necessary.
Quoting relevant laws guiding the operations of trade unions like ASUU and universities like FUTO, the learned silk said there is even nowhere in the statute books where ASUU is mentioned as an important decision or opinion making body in the procedure of appointing university professors.
“By section 3 of the Federal Universities of Technology Act 1993, the University shall have power to inter alia institute professorships, readerships or associate professorships, lecture-ships, and other posts and offices and to make appointments thereto; and by section 6, the Council shall be the governing body of the University and shall be charged with the general control and superintendence of the policy, finances and property of the University,” he said.
”It is clear therefore, that ASUU has no power to institute or confer professorship. It is noteworthy that the University Council comprises two representatives of the congregation of teachers. Whilst the Congregation is the body of academics in the University, it is not synonymous with ASUU. It can be taken for granted though that through these representatives of Congregation, ASUU may have a voice in the conferment of Professorships but not ASUU as a Union.
“Can ASUU then have the power to declare a Professorship conferred by an institution illegal? The answer may probably be found in the Rule book or Constitution of ASUU. As a registered trade union under the Trade Union Act, its Rule book neither contains any clause conferring powers of certification of academic titles nor the power to declare one, illegal.”
On the issue of whether Pantami was qualified for the appointment while serving as minister, Abugu said the argument is watery and based on ignorance.
According to the professor, while there is no precedent for ASUU or any trade union at all meddling in the internal affairs of universities, there are a lot of verifiable and reliable precedents in the country for ministers and other government officials who got professorial appointments while on study leave or leave of absence from the respective universities where they were teaching.
He, therefore, mentioned other prominent Nigerians including the late Dora Akunyili, Jerry Gana, Muhammad Ali Pate as having benefited from the same privilege for which he claimed Pantami is now being slaughtered for by ASUU.
Stating that Pantami’s professorship rank has been legally and legitimately earned, Abugu said ASUU’s take on the integrity of the procedure has no basis in law, precedent, morality and logic.