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Relevance of University Law, Conditions of Service, Career Structure and their Applications and Challenges


Author(s): Yusuf Ali SAN, FCIArb



I feel highly privileged and honoured to be invited to deliver this lecture to this audience. Let me confess that the invitation to deliver this lecture left me puzzled for some reasons. The question ‘why me?’ occupied my mind. Was it because the organizers knew that I am the current Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of Osun State University and Chairman of the Committee of Pro Chancellors of State-Owned Universities? Could it be that the organizers knew that I was a student of education in my first year or part one at the then University of Ife now OAU before my vision and destiny propelled me to read law from my part two in the same university? Likely because of my long-standing relationship with this budding University and my Membership of the Board of Trustees from inception. Also, it could be that they surveyed the horizon and decided to invite a lawyer to come and share his perspective on the chosen topic.

Whatever might have informed the choice in calling on me to share this podium with this assemblage of minds, I remain extremely grateful.

The topic of this discourse: “Relevance of University Law, Conditions of Service, Career Structure and their Applications and Challenges” is couched in a manner placing emphasis on three key themes. The first is the University Law, Conditions of Service and Career Structure, the second is their Relevance and Application, and the third are the Challenges. What this portends is that the organizers appreciate that there are problems in the application of the University Laws, Conditions of Service and Career Structure, which must be addressed. I will proceed to the discourse and conclude with recommendations that I hope will help overcome some of these challenges.


The history of university education in Nigeria could be traced to the Elliot Commission of 1943, which culminated in the establishment of University College Ibadan (UCI) in 1948. UCI was an affiliate of the University of London.[1]In April 1959, the Federal Government commissioned another commission the Ashby Commission to advise it on the higher education needs of the country for its first two decades. Before the submission of the report, the Eastern Region government established its own University at Nsukka, University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1960. The implementation of the Ashby Report led to the establishment of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife) in 1962 by the Western region, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1962 by the Northern Region and the University of Lagos (1962) by the Federal Government.

The University College, Ibadan became a full-fledged university in 1962.[2] This meant that UCI, Ibadan and University of Lagos became the first two Federal Universities in Nigeria – the other three remained regional. In 1970, the newly created Midwestern region opted for a university known as University of Benin. The six universities established during this period 1960-1970 are still referred to as first-generation universities. During this period, universities in Nigeria were under the close surveillance of the government. Appointments of lay members of the council, and that of the Vice-Chancellor, were politically motivated.[3]

In the Third National Development Plan (1975 - 1980), the government established seven universities instead of the four proposed in the plan, and also took over the four regional universities in 1975. They were Universities of Calabar, Ilorin, Jos, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt and Ado Bayero University, Kano - all known as second-generation universities. The third-generation universities were established between 1980 and early 1990. They are the Federal Universities of Technology in Owerri, Makurdi, Yola, Akure and Bauchi. While state universities were established in Imo, Ondo, Lagos, Akwa- Ibom, Oyo and Cross-River states.[4] The fourth-generation universities are those established between 1991 and the present date. They include more state universities, the National Open University of Nigeria and many private universities, like Al-Hikmah University.


University Laws and Conditions of Service are meant to promote learning, scholarship, and also the ideals of discipline, respect for human dignity, decency and patriotism in the university.

Objectives and Functions of the University: Part II of the Al-Hikmah University Law (University Law)

(i)       To create an academic environment where competent, qualified enthusiastic scholars, researchers, academics, and professionals shall meet both the national and global educational challenges and demands;

(ii)     To train and transform youths to be patriotic men and women of vision and wisdom so as to be able to develop positive and proper understanding of their environment;

(iii)   To create, evolve and provide a healthy atmosphere and good opportunity for international cooperation, through academic interactions and other forms of research endeavours, for the promotion of national development and international understanding;

(iv)   To complement government effort in the development of a relevant, qualitative and result-oriented University education that would facilitate the technological, scientific and socio-cultural transformation of Nigeria;

(v)     To create opportunities of higher education for the teeming Nigerian and African youth that would enhance their personal development through the fulfilment of their educational aspirations which would make them become employable in order to contribute to national and international development;

(vi)   To undertake practical steps for ideological, moral, intellectual, economic and technological development of principles, ideas and goals in accordance with the stated norms of the National Policy on Education for the development of practical solutions to contemporary issues and problems of the nation;

(vii) To instil or inject in the youths and other groups of individuals the fear of Almighty Allah, self-confidence, self-respect, civic responsibility, identification with natural laws, goals and aspirations for the overall benefit of individuals, the immediate society, the nation and the entire world”.

Section 5, went further to provide that the functions of the University shall include:

(a)        (b)       promoting research and the advancement of science and learning;

(c)        securing the diffusion of knowledge throughout Nigeria and the world at large.”

For carrying out the objects and functions specified above, Section 6 provides that the University shall have the powers, among other things, to:

·        ·        establish such Faculties, Departments, Programmes, and other academic units as may be required from time to time, subject to the approval of National Universities Commission;

·        institute and award fellowships, scholarships, exhibitions, bursaries, medals, prizes and other titles, distinctions, awards and forms of assistance, to this end, the Founder shall have the power to award to any deserved candidate a scholarship at all level;

·        provide for the residence, discipline and welfare of members of the University, hold examinations and grant degrees, diplomas, certificates and other distinctions to persons who have pursued a Course of study approved by the University and have satisfied such other requirements as the University may lay down;

·        demand and receive from any student or any other person attending the University for the purpose of instruction such fees as the Council may from time to time determine;

·        erect, provide, equip and maintain libraries, laboratories, sports grounds, playing fields and other buildings or things (whether in Nigeria or elsewhere) necessary or suitable or convenient for any of the objects aforesaid;

·        make rules, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Law or the Statutes, for regulating the administration of the University;

·        exercise such other functions as are set out in this Law and the Statutes.”

According to Section 8, the Authority of the University shall be vested in the Board of Trustees, the Council, the Senate, the Principal Officers, the Provosts/Deans of the Colleges of the University and such other bodies as may be prescribed by Statute.


Functions of the Council and Senate and Sections 13, 14, 15, 18 and 19 of the University Law

·              The Council is 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, including its public relations.

·              It shall be the general function of the Senate to manage the educational affairs of the University and act for the University in all academic matters, including: the admission (where no other enactment provides to the contrary) of students and the discipline of students; conferment of degrees (other than honorary degrees), diplomas, certificates, and other distinctions; and promotion of research at the University.

·              The Council shall perform such functions, apart from those specified in Statute 5 of the University Law, as are expressly conferred on the Council by the Board of Trustees.

The Visitor, Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor: Part III, Statutes 3, 4, 5, 7 and 28 of the University Law

·              The key officers of the University are the Board of Trustee Chairman/Visitor; the Chancellor; and the Pro-Chancellor, while the Vice-Chancellor; Deputy Vice-Chancellor(s); Registrar; Librarian; and Bursar are the principal officers of the University. Other officers of the University include the Deans/Provosts of Colleges; the Directors of Institutes; and such other persons as may by Statute.

·              The Visitor shall as often as the circumstances may require, not being less than once every five years, conduct a visitation of the University or direct that such a visitation be conducted by such persons as he may deem fit. The bodies and persons comprising the University are duty bound to make available to the Visitor, such facilities and assistance as he may reasonably require and give effect to instructions given in consequence of a visitation

·               The Chancellor shall, in relation to the University, take precedence before all other members of the University, except the visitor and when he is present shall preside at all meetings of convocation held for conferring degrees.

·               The Pro-Chancellor shall, in relation to the University, take precedence before all other members of the University except when the Vice-Chancellor is acting as chairman of Congregation or Convocation. The Pro-Chancellor shall, when he is present, be the chairman at all meetings of the Council and shall be vested, among other duties, with the overall responsibilities regarding the policies and operations of  the University.

·               The Vice-Chancellor shall, in relation to the University, take precedence before all other members of the University except the Chancellor and the Pro-Chancellor and any other person for the time being acting as chairman of the Council.

·               The Vice-Chancellor shall also have the general function of directing the activities of the University, and shall to the exclusion of any other person or authority be the Chief Executive and Academic Officer of the University and ex-officio Chairman of the Senate. He is specifically charged with the smooth running of the University and shall exercise general supervision over discipline in the University, monitoring the efficiency and good order of the University

Power of University to make Statutes: Part VI of the University Law

·                 The University is vested with the power to make statutes. The power of the University to make statutes shall be exercised by the Council and the Senate, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees.

·                 Proposed statute may originate either in the Senate or in the Council, the Board of Trustees or its Chairman and shall require approval at a meeting of the Council by the votes of at least

·               A proposed statute shall also become law once approved at a meeting of the Senate by a majority of the members present and voting.

·               In the event of any doubt or dispute arising at any time as to the meaning of any provision of a statute, the matter may be referred to the Board of Trustees, which shall take such advice and make such decision thereon as it shall think fit and such decision shall be binding upon the Authorities, staff and students of the University.

Supervision and discipline: Statute 29 of the University Law and Clause 8 of the University Conditions of Service for Senior Staff

·               If it appears to the Council that there are reasons for believing that any person employed as a member of the academic or administrative or professional staff of the University, other than the Vice-Chancellor, should be removed from his office or employment on the ground of misconduct or of inability to perform the functions of his office or employment, the Council shall-

(a)         give notice of those reasons to the person in question;

(b)        afford him an opportunity of making representations in person on the matter to the Council; and

(c)         if he or two members of the Council so request within the period of one month beginning with the date of the notice, make arrangements for a joint committee of the Council and the Senate to investigate the matter and to report on it to the Council; and for the person in question to be afforded an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by the investigating committee with respect to the matter.

·              If the Council, after considering the report of the investigating committee, is satisfied that the person in question should be removed as aforesaid, the Council may remove him by an instrument in writing signed on the directions of the Council.

·              The Vice-Chancellor may, in a case of misconduct by a member of the staff which in the opinion of the Vice-Chancellor is prejudicial to the interests of the University, suspend such member and any such suspension shall forthwith be reported to the Council.

·              Any member of staff may be suspended from his duties or his appointment may be terminated by the Council for good cause; and for this purpose, "good cause" means:

(a)         conviction for any offence which the Council considers to be such as to render the person concerned unfit for the discharge of the functions of his office; or

(b)        any physical or mental incapacity which the Council, after obtaining medical advice, considers to be such as to render the person concerned unfit to continue to hold his office; or

(c)         conduct of a scandalous or other disgraceful nature which the Council considers to be such as to render the person concerned unfit to continue to hold his office; or

(d)        conduct which the Council considers to be such as to constitute failure or inability of the person concerned to discharge the functions of his office or to comply with the terms and conditions of his service.

·               Any person suspended shall be on half pay and the Council shall before the expiration of a period of three months after the date of such suspension, consider the case against that person and come to a decision as to-

(a)         whether to continue such person's suspension and if so, on what terms;

(b)        whether to reinstate such person, in which case the Council shall restore his full emoluments to him with effect from the date of suspension;

(c)         whether to terminate the appointment of the person concerned, in which case such a person will not be entitled to the proportion of his emoluments withheld during the period of suspension; or

(d)        whether to take such lesser disciplinary action against such person (including the restoration of such proportion of his emoluments that might have been withheld) as the Council may determine.

·               Where the Council decides to continue a person's suspension or to take further disciplinary action against a person, the Council shall before the expiration of a period of six months from such decision come to a final determination in respect of the case concerning such person.

·              The person who signs an instrument of removal has a duty to use his best endeavours to cause a copy of the instrument to be served as soon as reasonably practicable on the person to whom it relates.

·              The Council is empowered to make regulations for the discipline of other categories of staff and workers of the University as may be prescribed.







Discipline of Students: Statute 20 and 28 (8) of the University Law

·              Where it appears to the Vice-Chancellor that any student of the University has been guilty of misconduct, the Vice-Chancellor may direct:

(a)        that the student shall not, during a specified period, participate in such activities, or make use of such facilities of the University, as may be specified in the direction; and/or

(b)        that the activities of the student shall, during such period, be restricted in such manner as may be so specified; or

(c)         that the 'student be rusticated for such period as may be specified in the direction; or

(d)        that the student be expelled from the University.

·              Where a direction is given in respect of any student, the student may, within the prescribed period and in the prescribed manner, appeal to the Council; and where such an appeal is brought, the Council shall either confirm or set aside the direction or modify it in such manner as the Council thinks fit.

·              The fact that an appeal from a direction is brought shall not affect the question of the direction while the appeal is pending.

·              The Vice-Chancellor may delegate his disciplinary powers to a disciplinary board consisting of such members of the University as he may nominate.

·              Nothing prevents the restriction or termination of a student's activities at the University otherwise than on the ground of misconduct.

·              In the exercise of his responsibility for the discipline of students, the Vice-Chancellor shall have regard to the advice of a Committee consisting of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) as Chairman (or, if no Deputy Vice-Chancellor has been appointed, an ex-officio member of the Senate nominated by the Vice-Chancellor) and such persons as the Senate may appoint as members.

·              Any rules of procedures for the discipline of students shall include, in the event of expulsion from the University, a right to appeal to the Council, provided that this shall not include a right to appear personally before the Council.







·              It is important to give notice of those reasons to the affected person of why it is believed that he should be removed from office. He must also be afforded with the opportunity of making representations in person on the matter, as well as the opportunity of physically cross-examining every witness who gives evidence against him. This aspect in not provided for in the University Law but our courts have stressed its importance as an important principle of fair hearing. See the case of PROFESSOR J.A. AKINYANJU V. UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN & ANOR (2011) ALL FWLR (PT.569) 1080

·              If the Vice Chancellor or any three members of the Council so request within the period of one month beginning with the date of the notice, make arrangements for a joint committee of the Council and the Senate to investigate the matter and to report on it to the Council; and for the person in question to be afforded an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by the investigating committee with respect to the matter.

·              If the Council, after considering the report of the investigating Committee, is satisfied that the person in question should be removed as aforesaid, the Council may so remove him by an instrument in writing signed on the directions of the Council. Note that the Council’s satisfaction must be based on the report and recommendation made to it by the investigating Committee and not on extraneous considerations. If the report is favourable to the Staff and the Council nonetheless removes him, this may be successfully challenged in court in court on the ground that there is nothing in the report to justify the action of Council. It is a different thing if there are manifest inconsistencies in the report which would justify the Council’s action. In the case of PROFESSOR J.A. AKINYANJU V. UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN & ANOR (2011) ALL FWLR (PT.569) 1080, the plaintiff’s appointment was terminated not based on proof of allegation of involvement in students’ demonstration which the SDAC was directed to investigate but for an alleged insubordination and indecorum the plaintiff exhibit when he appeared before the body.

Discipline for Misconduct

·              The Vice-Chancellor is given power under Statute 29 (2) to suspend any member of staff who is guilty of such misconduct as in the opinion of the Vice Chancellor is prejudicial to the interest of the university. The courts have held that there is a general power reposed in the employer to terminate the appointment of an employee for misconduct of any kind and that what constitutes misconduct is not exhaustive. Misconduct in this sense, is what the employer makes it out to be. AZENABOR V BAYERO UNIVERSITY KANO (1999) 17 NWLR (PT 1169) 19 at 15 para A-C. Misconduct has been rightfully extended in some instances to cover improper, immoral and unprofessional conduct, including sexual exploitation of students by lecturers.

·              Clause 8.2.0 of the University Conditions of Service for Senior Staff provides that sanctions shall be imposed on any staff who is involved in any act of misconduct. Misconduct involves any act of wrong-doing which is prejudicial to good discipline, and the proper and orderly administration of the university as the university authorities may determine.

·              It is however important to note that where misconduct by a staff amounts to a crime, the Council should hand off the matter and turn it over to the courts. UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN & 2 ORS V TOSIN AKINROGUNDE (2005) ALL FWLR PT 406. The reason for this is not farfetched. The courts have held that the Disciplinary Committee is neither a court nor tribunal established by law and so whatever it did in that respect was null and void.

·              There are exceptions however, to the restriction of institutions from punishing for criminal offences. For example where the offender was caught flagrant delicto, in which case, there will be no need to constitute a panel to identify the culprits or apportion blame. In order words, a university can discipline a student or staff for criminal misconduct if he is caught red handed or if the commission of the offence by him is clear and there is no problem of identity. Secondly, if the offending student or staff confesses the offence, there is no need to resort to the courts. By confessing, the student or staff waives his right to a formal trial and submits himself to the sanction of the Vice Chancellor.



1.           Applicable Laws: The law itself has in some respect posed some challenges to the University system. A case in point here is the issue of appointment with statutory flavour. A contract is said to have statutory flavour where the contractual relationship between the employer and the employee is governed by a statute or regulations derived from statutes.[5] Therefore, where the terms and conditions of a contract of employment or service are specifically provided for by statute or regulations made thereunder, it is said to be a contract protected by statute and any person in that employment enjoys a special legal status over and above the ordinary, common law master and servant relationship. In matters of termination or discipline under such a contract, the procedure laid down in the applicable statute or regulations made thereunder must be religiously followed as any breach would render the exercise null and void.[6] An example of such provision is contained in Statute 29 of the University Law, which contains a step-by-step procedure that must be followed before the removal of certain council members and the removal and discipline of academic, administrative and professional staff. The effect of this is that, where the court finds that the procedure laid down in the statute has not been followed in the dismissal of a university employee, the court orders reinstatement of the relevant employee thereby foisting the employee on the employer. This is so even where the employee has evidently been involved in misconduct. This, to a great extent, has the effect of wearing down the effective administration of the University. I let me however point out that private Universities like Al-Hikmah University are not effected by this deleterious problem.

2.           Inherent Governance Weakness in the Appointment Process. There is no template or guidelines to produce leadership. Apart from the advertised criteria, there are no practical qualities being looked out for. The Principal Officers form the leadership of the University, it is therefore important to ensure that they possess the requisite qualities and character required for leadership. Where the focus is merely on academic qualification and experience as is usually included in the advertised criteria, there is the danger of appointing individuals with credentials but no character. Having such leaders portend danger for the institution as they will be prone to strife and rancor that is bound to result from poor leadership.

3.           No Sustainable Training System: There is no sustainable system in place to train those who run the institutions. The appointees rely on their reserved knowledge. As an offshoot of the previous point on the qualities of the individuals appointed to key positions in the University. Lack of requisite training exposes these principal officers to leadership pitfalls.

4.           Externalization of the Affairs of the University by Members of the University: This is the practice of taking internal matters of the Universities to ‘Godfathers’ with actual or perceived influence to intervene in matters concerning members of the University. It is common for staff of the University to seek for intervention of individuals external to the University administration in matters like promotion, discipline e.t.c. Even procedures for the employment of staff and admission of students are usually bogged down by lists from different quarters external to the University, leading to little or no exercise of power by the University itself.

5.           Lack of academic culture: These include sexual harassment, harassment of students and the mentality that a lecturer can never be wrong. When all these anomalies are allowed to thrive in the system, it casts the system in the wrong light.

6.           Attitude: it’s often said that one’s attitude determines one’s altitude. The attitude of stakeholders in our university system constitutes a veritable danger to the relevance and application of the University Law, Conditions of Service and Career Structure. Cronyism, corruption, nepotism, lack of commitment, divided attention and loyalty are some of the self-imposed problems.

7.           Professionalization of Unionism: There has developed a culture where leaders of the unions in the Universities see unionism as a career to be pursued not minding the abandonment of their primary duties in the academic or administrative positions for which they were employed. The result of this is clear for all to see in the instability in the academic calendars of our universities. Again, the private Universities are shielded from this.

8.           Multiplicity of Regulators:  There are too many regulatory bodies and authorities that make the application of the University Law, Conditions of Service and Career Structure almost impossible for our universities, especially the federal universities. To underscore the point, ask any Vice-Chancellor of a federal university how many times he or she goes to Abuja in a month to answer one agency or the other.


1.           The so-called ‘appointment with Statutory Flavour’ is an anathema in today’s world. What exists between the University and its workers is simply a contract of service, it should be so treated and the enabling laws should be amended to reflect it as such.

2.           There should be a review of how Councils are constituted and who gets into the place. The practice of appointing people into Council based on political consideration or in expectation of loyalty should be shoved out the window. The appointments should not be political pay backs.

3.           The promotion of scholarship should be encouraged. The University is supposed to allow for the interplay of ideas. There should be no suppression of divergent views, especially in the academia. Academic staff must be free to express their views on any current issue in the society as is done in conformity with the professional ethics or requirements and their classrooms are not used for propaganda. There must be freedom to think, to investigate and publish the result of their findings.

4.           There is the need to establish a template or guidelines to provide practical qualities, other than academic qualification and experience usually included in the advertised criteria, to be taken into consideration in appointment into leadership positions in the University.

5.           It is important to ensure that there is continuous and sustainable system for training those who are appointed to run the institutions. Leaving appointees to lead solely on previous experience and experience learnt on the job is not sufficient for an institution that strives for excellence.

6.           There is the need to go back to the old system where students will be able to comment on their lecturers and tell the administration of their performances in their core areas of teaching and research. Thus, ensuring that the University administration in matters like promotion, discipline e.t.c. is based on fairness and merit.

7.           There must be vigilance and cooperation on the part of all stakeholders to ensure that there should be no external influence in the affairs of the University. Frequent division and rancor between the management and the unions will not only lead to instability in the system but is inimical to the sustainability of the University system.

8.           The Press has a crucial role to play in terms of identification of areas of weaknesses and promoting the best in the system. Investigative journalism should be deployed to promote the best of our tertiary institutions.


In this short discourse, we have attempted to highlight the provisions of the University Law and Conditions of Service. We equally analyzed the challenges that limit the university’s freedom in the application of those provisions and provided some recommendations on how to overcome these challenges.

It is my hope that these few recommendations will free up room for the University to concentrate on its core mandate of adding value to student education and academic advancement, cut-edge research, public accountability and social responsibility, transparency, ethics and integrity.

What we have done in this presentation is essentially to raise issues for further debates on the issue of our discussion. The points raised are to whet our appetite for more robust discussions in the future. No one possesses the solutions to all the problems discussed in this paper.

Let me draw the curtain by thanking the organizers for providing me with this opportunity to express my humble thoughts on the topic. It is my hope that I didn’t disappoint much. To the members of the audience, I thank you for your endurance.

Thank you all and God bless.

[1]Ike, V. C., (1976), University Development in Africa: The Nigerian Experience. University Press, Ibadan.

[2]Babalola, J. B.; Jaiyeoba, A. O.; and Okediran, A., (2007) “University Autonomy and Financial Reforms in Nigeria: Historical Background, Issues and Recommendations from Experience”. In J. B. Babalola and B. O. Emunemu (eds.). Issues in Higher Education: Research Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa. Lagos: Bolabay Publications.

[3] Jake Otonko ‘University Education in Nigeria: History, Successes, Failures and the Way Forward’International Journal of Technology and Inclusive Education (IJTIE) , Volume 1, Issue 2, December 2012 p. 45.

[4] Nwangwu, I.O., (2003) Educational Policies in Nigeria: Trends and Implementation. Jobus International, Nsukka.

[5] See NEPA vs. Adesaaji (2002) 17 NWLR Part 797 page 578.

[6] See New Nigeria Newspapers Limited vs. Mr. Felix Atoyebi [2013] NGSC 2

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