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  • Illegally Dissolves University Court
    *Poo Poos University Act
    *Illegal Appointments
  • By Ibrahim Alusine Kamara (Kamalo)
  • It’s no longer a secret that all is not well between the Ministry of Technical, Tertiary and Higher Education and the University of Sierra Leone (USL) administration as the appointment of a Vice-Chancellor and Principal by the former has hatched deep resentment not just from lecturers and staff of USL but cross-sections of the wider Sierra Leonean public at home and the diaspora, including Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
  • “I write to inform you that Professor Aiah Lebbie has been appointed Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sierra Leone, through a letter from the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education dated February 20, 2024. We are therefore kindly requesting that you receive him as an officer of the University and assist him with whatever help he may require. We congratulate Professor Lebbie on his appointment and wish him a successful tenure as the head of the University,” stated the appointment letter addressed to the university community.
  • However, this appointment came in the wake of the Ministry of Tertiary and Higher Education’s dissolution of the University of Sierra Leone Court, which previously wielded the authority to make such appointments.
  • The letter from the Ministry argued that since the enactment of the Universities Act of 2021, the University Court had failed to appoint a Pro-Vice Chancellor of the university as stipulated in the Act.
  • The Ministry, therefore, seems to be capitalising on this failure by the University Court to make the appointment and justifying the appointment of Prof Lebbie with Section 8(5) which states, “Where the office of the Vice Chancellor and Principal is vacant, or if for any reason, he is unable to perform the duties of his office, the Pro Vice-Chancellor shall perform the duties of Vice-Chancellor and Principal until the Vice-Chancellor and Principal resume his duties or another is appointed in his stead.”
  • Meanwhile, though the appointment has received aggressive backlashes because it’s the University that has that legal authority, the Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal of USL, Professor Aiah Lebbie, has since assumed office as per the appointment of the Ministry in contravention of Section 9(1) of the Universities Act 2021 which stipulates, “A University shall have a Pro Vice-Chancellor appointed by the University Court from among the Deputy Vice Chancellors of the University.”
  • It, therefore, means on the whole that the Ministry of Technical, Tertiary, and Higher Education does not have the legal authority to make such an appointment, thus sparking much controversy from across the board over the legality of the Ministry to dissolve the University Court with many people damning it to be against the principles of the rule of law.
  • Meanwhile, a general belief is that as a Ministry in charge of education to refine the mind of men and reshape society, upholding the principles of legal compliance and academic freedom should be a matter of must for the Ministry of Higher Education, now being urged by a civil society organisation called CHRDI to recognise and respect the fundamental right to education, as well as, ensuring that the necessary technical and administrative requirements are met and the established norms and standards are strictly followed.
  • According to CHRDI, the step taken by the Ministry of Higher Education in collaboration with the Tertiary Education Commission to dissolve the Court of the University of Sierra Leone on the 30th January 2024 is unprecedented, affirming further that the Ministry has violated the legal provisions of the University’s Act and calls its appointment of a Vice-Chancellor and Principal at the University of Sierra Leone illegal.
  • In other words, it’s unfortunate for the Ministry to act outside its legal authority by relying on certain provisions embedded in the Tertiary Commission Act 2021 with a particular reference to Section 7(2)(f) which mentions “advise and recommend, when necessary, remedies for any lapses in the performance of any tertiary institution.”…
  • CHRDI says making illegal appointments is an abuse of power, noting that the Ministry has been utilising the mentioned legal provisions to make appointments that may not adhere to the established norms and regulations.
  • As the rule of law ensures state power is not abused and legal rights are fulfilled, CHRDI has urged the Ministry of Technical, Tertiary and Higher Education to immediately reinstate the University Court and abide by all its decisions to legal appointments are made.

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