CS Machogu Orders Reopening of Meru University and Romanus Odhiambo’s Reinstatement
The Cabinet Secretary for Education Ezekiel Machogu has directed the reopening of Meru University of Science and Technology and the immediate reinstatement of Prof Romanus Odhiambo as the Vice-Chancellor of the institution.
CS Machogu said that the decision to dismiss the VC occurred at the wrong time and that it was unlawful.
The University’s Council had elected to send Prof Odhiambo on terminal leave on the 3rd of March and declined to renew his five-year contract over claims of underperformance.
However, Prof Odhiambo declined the allegations.
After his dismissal, a crisis engulfed the University with both students and staff protesting, leading to the closure of the university. The institution’s closure meant that students who were set to graduate on the 11th of March could not do so.
The students’ protests started and led to battles between them and the police. This forced the institution’s administrators to issue a notice, asking all students to vacate the institution immediately.
To resolve the issue, CS Machogu intervened on Tuesday and ordered via a statement that the Vice-Chancellor be reinstated with immediate effect not later than the close of business on Tuesday and the reopening of the institution by Wednesday.
“The decision to send Prof Odhiambo on terminal leave and appoint an acting VC is ill-timed because it was made a few days before the scheduled ceremony with the obvious consequence that it would undermine preparations for the imminent event and destroy the hopes of graduands to transit into the world of work immediately.
The decision is unlawful because it was made without consulting the Cabinet Secretary as required by law; specifically, Section 35 (1) (a) of the Universities Act (2012). Regrettably, the council fell short of its legal duty of fidelity to the applicable law,” said CS Machogu.
CS Machogu also revealed that the Council’s tenure will end on Thursday. The Ministry will then appoint a new council to handle the matter of the VC.
Concerning the graduation ceremony, CS Machogu directed that it goes ahead as it was planned to add that he will attend the event.
The decision was arrived at during a council meeting held on the 27th of February, 2023 and communicated to Odhiambo in the letter.
In a letter dated the 27th of February 2023, the university council’s chairperson said, “The university Council in its meeting held on February 27, 2023, evaluated your performance and found it to be below expectations. Therefore, the council declined to renew your contract as requested in your letter dated 20th December 2022.”
Rosin Mwebi, the Council’s Chairperson stated through the letter that Odhiambo was not authorized to transact on any capital project in the institution and directed the VC to restrict his operations to only personal emoluments and recurrent expenditure.
In addition, Odhiambo was told to go on his pending leave of 121 days once a suitable replacement is identified.
Odhiambo has served in his position as the Vice-Chancellor of Meru University since July 2018 when the Former Ministry of Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed appointed him.
However, allegations of mismanagement and abuse of power tainted his tenure with faculty and students alike accusing him of interfering with their freedoms and rights.
Meru University Staff staged demonstrations on Monday accusing Odhiambo of illegalities and impunity in the recruitment of various staff.
They demanded that the institution’s Nairobi campus be closed. They also claimed that the council’s budget was larger than the academic budget itself due to numerous and unnecessary trips.
The members of the Council include Muriira M’Mbwiria Stephen Kimani Gatama, Dick Waswa Wekesa, Pauline Jeruto Kurgat, Naomi Kipury, Damaris Nyasuguta Onsomu (Treasury) and Paul Mungai (a representative of the State Department for University Education and Research).