Showdown: Gitahi vows to stay on as UoN boss amid row

Prof Stephen Gitahi (pictured) yesterday said changing the locks of his office will not stop him from exercising his mandate as University of Nairobi vice chancellor.

This came even as lawyers argued Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha had no powers to revoke his appointment.

Gitahi said it was unfortunate that a rival faction had changed locks to bar him from accessing his office, but said the powers of the VC are not confined in a physical place and he could still execute his mandate from any location or office.

SEE ALSO :Prof Kiama appointed UoN VC

“It is true locks were broken and some property including documents carried away. I will not enter that office until an audit is done to establish what was carried away. However, I am discharging my duties as normal. This position is not about a physical office. It is about the due process,” Gitahi said.

Prof Magoha, who also dissolved the university council, appointed Prof Isaac Mbeche as acting vice chancellor.

The development comes after Magoha, through a Gazette notice, dated January 17 this year, revoked Gitahi’s appointment and instead named Mbeche as acting VC. The CS cited ethical and integrity breaches in the recruitment process for his action. He has since written to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate the matter.

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Gitahi said the CS does not have power to revoke the appointment of any member of staff in the university, including the VC.

“All members of staff in the university are hired by the respective university councils. I have no idea why he did what he did. There could be non-progressive forces who want to take the universities hostage and deny them academic freedom and even impose on them leadership which will serve their interests,” claimed Gitahi, a professor of veterinary anatomy, who was, until his appointment, the university’s deputy vice chancellor for Human Resource and Administration.

SEE ALSO :Showdown looms as VC stays put after Magoha revokes appointment

He said that he has no fight with Magoha, whom he has worked under and promised that should he be barred from discharging his duties as the university boss, he might go to the court.

“My team and supporters have said we explore all means to make sure this interference and manipulation at the university stops and the institutions of higher education are left to be centres of excellence based on promotion of talent, resources and appropriate governance,” Gitahi said.

On his anticipated installation today, Gitahi said he will again consult Chancellor Dr Vijoo Rattansi. All council members were yesterday instructed to attend a meeting in the chancellor’s boardroom today at 10am.

He remained defiant even as the university Executive Board held a meeting yesterday and the Senate is scheduled to meet today from 7.30am to try and reach a truce on the matter that is now affecting the operations of the university.

“All the above bodies fall under the supervisory ambit of the council which has also been abolished by the CS. The Senate is chaired by the VC and I have not issued any communication that we have a meeting. All deliberations and recommendations of the two organs are therefore null and void,” Gitahi said.

Lawyers argued that Magoha has no powers to revoke the appointment of a vice chancellor of any university, leave alone UoN.

Lawyer Charles Kanjama said there is confusion in the appointment of a VC as laid out in the Universities Act.

Lawyer Willis Otieno agreed, saying the law has a lacuna in the process of appointing a VC but Magoha’s case is a unique one.

Dr Lucy Wakiaga, a lecturer at Tangaza College, said according to the law, the VC in public university is appointed through a competitive process by the CS in consultation with the council. 

Educationist Jonathan Wesaya said the CS is carrying out his mandate on behalf of the President.

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Stephen GitahiGeorge MagohaUniversity of Nairobi