The Legal Perspective of the MPC Rule and Role of Management in the Recent Students Uprising in Niger Delta University.
According to various reportage on 13 February 2016, that the Niger Delta University asked students of the Engineering Faculty who are in their final year of study to repeat 200 level courses and others to withdraw pursuant to the enforcement of a certain Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry (MPC) law.
From the contents of the various reportage and a voyage of facts finding, personally carried out, certain facts are deducible and imperative, namely;
(1). That a certain rule was passed by the Faculty of Engineering, Niger Delta University in 2013.
(2). That this rule is otherwise known as M.P.C. law and it states that: Effective from 2013/2014 academic session, all students are to pass all Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry hence 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.C's again, such student will be asked to withdraw from the Faculty.
(I). 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.
The law was published in the students Faculty handbook, not on the schools official gazzette.
(II). This law was Unilaterally made by the Faculty of Engineering, and not Niger Delta University.
In dissecting the legal implication above or otherwise, I am guided by the need to eschew sensational submissions capable of fueling the bad blood between students and management of the school. This article is not in anyway intended to offend the management or student body of the school.
Nearly all Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria is established by law. In most cases therefore, statutory provisions have been enacted to enable these Institutions run their internal affairs without unnecessary interference whatsoever. All the Federal Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education have been established by statutes, and one common or particular thread running through these various statutes however, is that they are all materially thesame in tenor and layout. Thus, section 17 of the University of Porth-Harcourt Act Cap 461 laws of the Federation 1990 is the same thing as section 17 of the University of Maiduguri Act Cap 461 etc., this therefore makes an authority decided in respect of one University to have a binding force on similar situations arising from another University.
Schools and Institutions have power to make rules and regulations as authorized by the parent authority vid an enabling Act to make such rules and regulations.
Such rules and regulations are binding and enforceable and commands obedience to the people they relate to. For example, section 17(1) of the University of Porth-Harcourt Act, which is in parri material with similar provisions in other Federal Universities Act, is to this effect;
17(1) "Subject to the provision of this section... the Vice Chancellor may without prejudice to other disciplinary power conferred on him by statute or regulation, direct..."
It is not enough for Agencies to make rules or regulations, such rules or regulations according to the enabling statute must be published. For example, section 21 of the Interpretation Law of Oyo state requires that all orders made under the enabling laws of the state shall be published in the state's gazzette. Such laws makes rules and regulations mandatory to be published.
Publication of these rules may be discreetional at times, though àctions taken under and by virtue of such law may be unconstitutional, or otherwise unlawful and may be liable to be set aside on such grounds. Though the Faculty of Engineering did not publish such law in the official gazzette of the University, whether such law can be faulted on procedural ultra vires is dependent on the enabling statute of Interpretation Act of Bayelsa State.
The Faculty of Engineering does not have unilateral powers to make laws on academic matters relating to results and grading of students as that is the exclusive jurisdiction of the National University Commission (NUC) which is the right body vested with such power. The Faculty can only make laws relating to dress code and other related matters, as such the M.P.C. law is invalid, void and of no effect whatsoever for want of legitimate authority. See Egwu v University of Porth-Harcourt (1995) 8 N.W.L.R (pt. 157) 1195. Recourse can also be made to the recent abolishment of pass degree in Universities by the NUC
The body which made the law is incompetent of making such law as no Faculty is competent of making such law unless expressly provided in the NUC regulations. The said law is only applicable to the Faculty of Engineering in Niger Delta University and not applicable in any other university duly established by law across the country.
From the above, it is my submission that the M.P.C. law is void and of no effect whatsoever and students who purportedly failed the course and asked to withdraw should be reinstated with immediate effect.
Role of Management in the Recent Students Uprising in Niger Delta University.
Civil disobedience under normal circumstances usually aim at an ideal of social conditions. It is also aimed at rectifying evil or wrong, or attain a goal within an existing practical framework for the purpose of rectifying unjust law, system or practice.
When all means of seeking legal redress becomes exhaustive, civil disobedience is used as a last resort and under the control of a responsible leadership. Civil disobedience as means of correcting injustice in the society is legitimate and right. If not handled with utmost circumspection, it degenerates into riots and finally civil unrest.
The management of NDU from the above facts is fingered, for provoking the unrest in the school by implementing an unjust rule which is wanting for lack of authority.
Also, it has been fingered for not being able to handle the unrest maturedly.
It is criminally wrong to put a punishment at the feet of someone for an act which happened independently of the exercise of his will, therefore coercing those who do not took part in the riot to pay surcharge fee is itself a crime. See section 24 of the Criminal Code
As such, the purported surcharge fee payment of N30,000.00 and N50,000.00 respectively for both new and old students is highly obnoxious as it amounts to reaping from your own wrong doing. See Sigworth's case and also ammounting to academic fraud.
In some department, especially Mechanical Engineering. There are discrepancies relating to results release in 2013 which carries pass marks for the students (pass and cleared) when the first semester results were published are now reflecting as failed courses.
Again, there is no quality of assurance in the results sent to the faculty from the department of Chemistry and Physics. University is a citadel of learning and therefore academic hard work and diligence should be duly rewarded as students have the right to sit for and pass examination, a test or other promotional or professional exercise embarked upon by the school authorities, which is implicit in the right to enroll in a school. If a student have performed well, the better he or she has performed, the better he or she is expected to pass. These are intrisic rights to education.
Right of Tertiary Institutions to Punish Students.
Ordinarily, the rights of students to gather and move freely is guaranteed under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. However, it is doubtful If students can be allowed, in guise of freedom of movement and of association, to wreak havoc on campus and engage in criminality.
A University have the right to punish students for act of misconduct, but when such act constitute offence defined by a written law like arson, looting and assault, such students can be held liable only by regular courts as long as such misconduct constitutes crimes against the state. It is no longer a matter of internal discipline of the University but a matter for a Court or Tribunal vested with such judicial powers to try such offence. It is only after conviction of the student involved by the Court or Tribunal that the Vice Chancellor or University can proceed to exercise disciplinary powers to expel the students or make them pay fine. See the case of Garba v. University of Maiduguri (1986) 1 NSCC 245.
But, a student cannot be suspended or expelled from campus without being heard on the allegations against him, neither can he be punished or liable for an offence within the University without having being heard on the allegations levelled against him. Glymn v Keel University (1971) 1 W.L.R 487.
For God and conscience.
I am Hon. Aluzu Ebikebuna Augustine
Member Representing Constituency III
LAWSAN House of Assembly
University of Uyo, Uyo.
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