The Academic Staff Union of Universities on Tuesday said it was not in the purview of the National Universities Commission and other tertiary institutions regulatory agencies to shut schools to allow students in universities, polytechnics and colleges of education to vote during the forthcoming elections.
A member of the National Executive Council of ASUU and chairperson of the union at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Prof Gbolahan Bolarin, said this in an interview with The PUNCH.
He was reacting to calls from individuals and groups, including the House of Representatives that the nation’s higher institutions should be shut during elections so that students who registered near their homes and return home to vote.
He said, “The NUC is just a regulatory body. It doesn’t have the power to order the closure of any university. The only authority that can order this closure apart from the Senate of each institution is the Federal Ministry of Education and the order will be given on behalf of the visitor to all the universities, which is the President.
“By the time the ministry gives the order, the NUC will comply and the directives will be passed down. The House of Representatives should talk to the President about this. The NUC is powerless on this matter.”
The PUNCH reports that the House of Representatives last week Thursday passed a resolution asking the NUC to shut universities so that the students can take part in the forthcoming elections.
Also, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi, has called on the European Union Election Observation Mission to ensure that over three million eligible Nigerian students are allowed to vote for their preferred candidate in the election slated for February 25.
This is even as the former Anambra State governor expressed reservations over the inability of many Nigerians, particularly in Lagos State, to obtain their Permanent Voter Card.
Speaking Monday evening during a meeting with the EU-EOM observers, Obi said, “I am sure the Independent National Electoral Commission will do the right thing.”
He was responding to a question about the fate of about 3.5 million students who are likely not to vote if a week’s holiday is not granted to enable voting.
He added, “I am sure the universities will give them the break to go and vote. It is important because it is about their future. This election is about these young people, and I am sure they will allow them to go and vote. We will continue to mention it to them as we go along.”
On the difficulty of collecting PVCs, Obi noted, “I must give INEC credit for extending the date for the collection of PVCs, but again, I urge them to ensure that people collect their PVCs. This election is very important to Nigerians. It is an existential election. We want all those that have registered to participate.”
Earlier, the EU-EOM Chief Observer, Barry Andrews, told Obi and other party leaders that their visit was a routine one to share thoughts with presidential candidates ahead of the polls.