Implications of the Federal Polytechnics (Amendment) Act (2)

However, under the Binary Education Structure, and with the degree-awarding status, the polytechnics may as well replace the titles, “Chief Lecturer” with “Professor” and “Principal Lecturer” with “Reader”. Since the Scheme of Service is still under final touches, necessary amendments should be made to reflect the new status of the polytechnics in the Scheme of Service. This is a job for ASUP. Change of titles has no financial burden. However, an argument may arise that there are Chief Lecturers in the polytechnics with Master’s degrees. This needs not be argued. It also happened in the universities. We only need to visit the records. There were also lecturers with Master’s degrees in the universities who became professors. The polytechnics, as an adaptive organic system, will also clean itself up, just as the universities did. What a Professor stands for in the universities – lecture, research, students’ projects supervision, SIWES supervision, external moderation, attending and presenting papers in seminars, workshops, conferences and symposia, and community service, are also as applicable to a Chief Lecturer in the polytechnics.

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To inform policy decisions at the local, state, and federal levels, one needs a voice. The lack of voice for “Technical” may be attributed to the lack of polytechnics graduating students at the masters and Ph.D levels. Awarding MTech and Ph.D certificates will therefore bring graduates of Polytechnics en mass to the policy and decision-making arenas of governments; thereby enabling the polytechnics have increased voice for resources allocation towards Nigeria’s technological and industrial development.

In line with the Amendment Act, the need for Postgraduate Diploma for those intending to follow the technical line will no longer be necessary. Nigeria needs the “technical man” (that is, products of technical education) to realise its dream on technological development and advancement. ASUP will have to go back to the drawing board, do visitations overseas, and identify some polytechnics and departments in Nigeria (considering human and material resources) that can serve as a start case. Timeline will have to be set and followed through. The polytechnics will have to double their pace in this and bring out the necessary curricula (in conjunction with the NBTE) that speak to the present knowledge-driven world economy and the situation of Nigeria. Outcomes of MTech training, one expects, should enable Nigeria to realise its commitments under the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and others. Nigeria and maintenance seem not to be jolly good friends. One expects the MTech training to focus more rigorously on tools, equipment, and machine maintenance. Put in another way, one expects to see MTech in Electrical Power Maintenance, MTech in Agricultural Machinery Maintenance, MTech in Medical Equipment Maintenance, etc. Quite arguable, the ability to maintain will usher in the ability to copy, and to the ultimate, the ability to produce.

  1. Decision making is central to any organisation, as it offers the platform to direct administrative and financial resources allocation. Decisions are influenced by interests, while interests are related to the persons of individuals. Some individuals are potentially driven by private (or personal) interests, while some still have elements of public interests in their thinking. Section 7 of the Principal Act, which agrees with Section 3-(5) of the Amendment Act, has made the Council the highest decision-making body for the polytechnics. Its composition, by the Principal Act, comprises of six externals (including the Chairman), two internals (including the Rector), and eight others that could be described as intermediate; comprising those representing various groupings, such as university associations, professional bodies, state and federal ministries, public utilities, and the host community. In most cases, the external (or political) and the internal components are fully constituted, with one or two from the intermediate. Often times, with the externals in the majority, decisions are mostly skewed in favour of this grouping. Although debatable, many a Nigerian politician is driven by private interests. For nearly all the polytechnics, politicians populate the councils. This attribute of rewarding politicians with council membership has contributed to the slow growth of the polytechnics. To worsen the situation, the Principal Act gives the council no measurable tasks.

With the Amendment Act, power now belongs to the polytechnics! In Section 3(2)(2), the Amendment Act has limited the outsiders to five (including the Chairman), raised the number of insiders to eight (including the rector and for polytechnics with two deputy rectors), and reduced the intermediate to three, namely, the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Education or regulatory body, the alumni, and the host community. The council is to formulate “soft policies” and “signal useful administrative and financial directions as well as best practices”. The first council to be constituted in line with the Amendment Act has an urgent task to resolve. There is still a lacuna to be corrected. The Amendment Act has made the AB the highest decision making organ next to the Council now in clear terms (see Section 3(5) on governance structure). The functions of the AB are still as contained in the Principal Act, lacking powers to discuss financial and administrative matters when compared with the Senate in the universities. Since Section 15(2)(c) of the Principal Act agrees to the extent and effect that the council may devolve functions to the AB, it is therefore expected that the AB be given more responsibilities to debate matters relating to polytechnics finances. This will make the job of the council less tedious, while fostering efficiency, transparency, and accountability within the polytechnics. There is no time financial resources from the Federal Government to the polytechnics will be sufficient and adequate. The difference will only become obvious in the efficiency of use. As it is now, the polytechnics’ internal financial resource allocations are shrouded in secrecy, with no annual reports in the public domain. Section 20(3) of the Principal Act puts it quite clearly: “The statement of accounts … shall be published in the annual report of the polytechnic.”

Looking forward: For the polytechnics to grow as anticipated, and without prejudice to the generality of Section 7 of the Principal Act, the council should be given some measurable tasks. The observations made here should form part of the unresolved issues that might likely crop up to warrant the any future amendment. Section 7(1) of the Principal Act says “…; and shall also have power to do anything …” If one looks carefully, it is only and only our Creator that has such power. This is rather ambiguous! And again, Council comes and Council goes, the Polytechnic remains. Instead of the Council (see section 3-(2)-(1) of the Amendment Act or section 3(1) of the Principal Act), the Polytechnic should be recognised as a legal entity. This is not new, as it is applicable to the Universities (see section 1(2) of the Federal Universities of Technology Act 2004 CAP F23). Therefore, both need to be amended, and in particular section 7(1) of the Principal Act to read “…; and shall adequately see to drawing into the Polytechnic funds and grants for research, innovation, and entrepreneur from national and international organisations and from donor bodies and agencies, and promote the Polytechnic best interests.” Similar to what the Councils do in advanced economies. At the expiration of each Council, one can count the number of such attracted.

As a polytechnic gets older, so is also the number of its Chief Lecturers. Instead of four years for a deputy rector, a non-renewable two-year single term looks reasonable and inclusive. Three years as Head of Department or Unit, three years as Dean of School (according to the Amendment Act – First Schedule), and the suggested two years as deputy rector, will offer wider participatory opportunities for everyone. As the polytechnics look forward to serving as the cutting edge of Nigeria’s technological development, an urgent consideration needs to focus on putting in place a deputy rector for Research, Innovation, Development, and Entrepreneur (RIDE). This is a job for the council in that the quite helpful Amendment Act does not set an upper limit.

In section 9-(1), it simply says “… at least one Deputy Rector …”  and in that section the Amendment Act also empowers the Council to institute more Deputy Rectors as deemed necessary for the proper functioning of the Polytechnic.

Culled From punch Newspaper

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