Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ezekiel Machogu has ordered the immediate reinstatement of Meru University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Romanus Odhiambo.
Machogu said in a press statement on Tuesday, March 7 that the Council of Meru University of Science and Technology did not follow the law in terminating the contract of Prof. Odhiambo.
The minister further said that the council’s failure to inform him about the decision amounted to unfair dismissal of the VC.
On March 3, the university asked Prof. Odhiambo to proceed on terminal leave as a search for his substantive replacement continues.
His position was filled in an acting capacity by Charity Gichuki.
The council accuses the VC of “poor performance”, allegations that Odhiambo denies, citing an increased student enrollment and improved infrastructure under his tenure.
According to the VC, the decision to send him home ahead of the expiry of his contract in July 2023 was politically motivated.
Odhiambo was appointed to the position in July 2018 by the then-Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) Amina Mohamed.
He had earlier 2023 applied for a renewal of his contract, but the university council declined, citing poor performance by the VC.
Following the termination of his services, students of Meru University on Monday, March 6 held protests, resulting in damage to property and the paralysis of movement on the Meru-Maua road.
The university’s senate, consequently, met and resolved to close the university indefinitely, and postpone the upcoming graduation ceremony that was slated for Saturday, March 11.
“The purported decision by the University Council to send Prof. Romanus Odhiambo on terminal leave and to appoint an acting Vice-Chancellor is ill-timed and unlawful,” said Education CS Machogu in a Tuesday press statement.
“The decision is ill-timed because it was made a few days to the scheduled graduation ceremony of 11th March, 2023, with the obvious consequence that it would undermine the preparations for the imminent event and destroy the hopes of graduands to transit into the world of work immediately.
“The decision to send Prof. Odhiambo on terminal leave and to appoint an acting Vice-Chancellor is unlawful because it was made without consulting the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education, as required by law; specifically, Section 35(1) (a) of the Universities Act, 2012 which unequivocally lays responsibility on the Council of a public university to appoint a Vice-Chancellor in consultation with the Cabinet Secretary.
“Regrettably, the Council fell short of its legal duty of fidelity to the applicable law. The Ministry of Education, therefore, directs the University Council to rescind its decision to send Prof. Odhiambo on terminal leave and to appoint an acting Vice-Chancellor.
“The University Council is directed to facilitate Prof. Odhiambo's resumption of office as Vice-Chancellor with immediate effect and in any case, not later than close of business on 7th March, 2023.”
The CS further directed the university to hold its graduation on Saturday, March 11 as earlier planned upon the reinstatement of the VC by close of business on Tuesday, saying he (Machogu) will personally attend the event.
“The University management is directed to facilitate the reopening of the university for the return of students and the resumption of normal operations not later than Wednesday, 8th March, 2023.
“The University's 10th graduation ceremony that was planned to take place on 11th March, 2023 will proceed as scheduled. The Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education will attend the ceremony,” said the minister.
Machogu further said that plans were underway to set up a new Council of Meru University as the current members’ term comes to an end on March 9, 2023.
“The term of the current University Council shall lapse on 9th March, 2023. The ministry is taking the necessary steps to constitute a successor Council in accordance with the law. The Council so appointed, shall, in line with its legal mandate, address the matter of the position of Vice-Chancellor.”