By Uche Amunike
In response to several calls by numerous individuals and organizations over concerns of the possible disenfranchisement of Nigerian students spread across the country, the Nigerian government has ordered, through the the National Universities Commission (NUC) that all Universities and their inter-university centers be shut down between February 22 and March 14, ahead of the forthcoming general elections.
Speaking through a letter addressed to vice-chancellors of all the universities and directors of inter-university centers, the NUC stated that the directive was given on the prompting of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, after consulting with relevant security agencies.
In the letter, which was signed by the Deputy Executive Secretary (Administration), Chris Mayaki, it was a decision that became expedient as a result of concerns for the security of staff members, students and also properties of the institutions during the polls.
It partly read: ‘As Vice-Chancellors of all Universities and Director/Chief Executive of Inter-University Centres are quite aware the 2023 General Elections have been scheduled to hold on Saturday, February 25, 2023, for the Presidential and National Assembly, and Saturday, March 11, 2023, for Gubernatorial and State Assembly, respectively.’
‘In view of the foregoing and concerns expressed on the security of staff, students and properties of our respective institutions, the Honourable Minister of Education, Mal. Adama Adamu has following extensive consultations with the relevant security agencies, directed that all Universities and Inter-University Centres be shut down and academic activities be suspended between February 22 and March 14, 2023.’
‘Consequently, Vice-Chancellors and chief executives of inter-university centres, are by this Circular requested to shut down their respective Institutions from Wednesday 22nd February 2023 to Tuesday 14th March 2023.’
‘Please, accept the renewed assurances of the Executive Secretary ‘s highest regard for your understanding and unwavering cooperation’, the letter from the NUC concluded.
Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi has, on his part, lauded the NUC for giving the directives that universities and inter-university centers should be shut down during the polls. He made a post on Twitter, saying: ‘I heartily welcome the decision of the National Universities Commission (NUC), to close universities ahead of the 2023 general elections, so as to enable the students participate in the polls and exercise their constitutional rights to vote.’
Recall that several Nigerians, members of the House of Representatives and Civil Society Organizations had earlier expressed their concerns about the likelihood of some Nigerian students whose universities had scheduled examinations to be held during the election period, being disenfranchised. The House of Representatives called for the closure of these institutions, during the polls.
This is especially as the INEC Chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu, stated in October 2022, that during the Continuous Voters’ Registrations between June 2021 and June 2022, 40% of the newly registered voters were made up of students. He also stated that out of the entire 90 million registered voters, 26,027,481 were students which amounted to 27.8% of the registered voters being students. This led to a coalition of CSOs to call on INEC to synergize with the NUC, in seeing that institutions are shut down temporarily to allow these students be a part of the election.