Nigeria: Stakeholders Fault Moves to Merge NFLV With Unilag

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Oct 5 13:47:25 UTC 2007


*Stakeholders Fault Moves to Merge NFLV With Unilag*

Vanguard (Lagos)

4 October 2007
Posted to the web 4 October 2007

By Olubusuyi Adenipekun

As the Federal Government has taken the bold initiative of making French the
second official language in Nigeria, it is expected that its agencies will
work towards promoting the teaching and learning of this second most widely
spoken language of the world.

However, the on-going moves being made by a few officials of the Federal
Ministry of Education (FME) to make the Nigeria French Language Village
(NFLV) a campus of the University of Lagos are seen by concerned
stakeholders as diametrically opposed to the national policy on French

Indeed, the merger move had come as a big surprise to the present management
of the French Village since the former education minister, Mrs. Obiageli
Ezekwesili had approved the continued existence of the village as an
autonomous institution after realising the dangers of merging it with other
parastatals. The only condition given by Ezekwesili, which was acceptable to
its management, was that the French Village would no longer be a parastatal
of the FME.

But, recently the Permanent Secretary in the FME, Dr. Aboki Zhawa summoned
the management of NFLV to a meeting in Abuja, which was also attended by
Professor Tolu Odugbemi, Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, where
he informed them of the plan to merge the sixteen-year-old NFLV with Unilag.

The current Minister of Education, Dr. Igwe Aja-Nwachukwu had apparently
given approval to the merger proposal given his predilection so far for
upturning major policies of his predecessor.

One of the reasons why the FME thinks that it can whimsically and
capriciously merge the Village with its proximate university is that it is
yet to have an enabling act. The FME is also acting on the information that
the village has lost its original mandate of providing an effective domestic
alternative to the erstwhile foreign-based year-abroad programme in French
for undergraduates of French in tertiary institutions and that other
programmes of activities being organised by the French Village have diverted
it from its primary mandate.

But these reasons being raised have been dismissed by professionals as mere
fallacies and fabrications of those who want to discredit the NFLV which was
established in 1991 as an Inter-University Centre for French Language
Immersion Programme of students for French from Universities and Colleges of
Education in Nigeria.

According to Professor Samuel Olabanji Aje, the Director and Chief Executive
of the Village, the institution is a unique one performing unique functions
as a service institution to all universities and colleges of education.

He says: "The Nigeria French Language Village renders to French studies in
Nigeria services that are analogous to what the Nigeria Law School renders
to legal studies in Nigeria which cannot be subsumed under any law faculty.
The Nigeria Defence Academy is performing a similar role for the armed
forces as a specialised institution for the military."

Driving home his point by way of comparative analysis, Aje said further:
"Similarly, the Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies is another
inter-university centre in legal studies. Interestingly, that institution
occupies a block of storey building behind the law faculty of Unilag, yet,
her proximity to that faculty both in terms of business and location has not
subsumed it under any administrative control of Unilag."

As every Nigerian university is established as an autonomous institution
with independent council and senate, placing the NFLV under a single
university, according to Professor Aje, would be tantamount to subjecting
the decisions of council and senate of other universities to that of the
proposed "receiver" university.

Explaining further why the French Village should not be merged with Unilag
or any other institution, Professor Aje said that the idea which led to the
establishment of Network of French Language Centres in Africa (NEFCLA)
originated from NFLV a factor which was considered in making NFLV the
technical seat of the continental centre, adding that making NFLV, to lose
its status as an autonomous institution may adversely affect the retention
of the technical seat of NEFCLA as well as its membership status and the
attendant benefits.

While commenting on the legal implications of the merger plan, Professor
Union Edebiri, who is the chairman of a seven man committee raised to
deliberate on the merger proposal, said that if NFLV is to be merged with
Unilag, another law has to be passed because Unilag, as it is constituted
today, does not have room for NFLV. According to him, if the Village is
merged with Unilag, it means those Universities and Colleges of Education
from across the country are being made part and parcel of Unilag, adding
that it is an untidy arrangement.

A communique issued by Professors of French and Heads of French Departments
in Nigeria, which was jointly signed by Professor Edebiri and Dr. Olalere
Oladitan, reiterates the status of NFLV as an inter-university centre for
the Language Immersion Programme for students of French from tertiary
institutions in Nigeria and that the institution has, over the years, become
the model for such activity in West Africa.
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