The dust raised by the purported removal of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos is yet to settle, as more groups fault the announcement and the process that led to it.
Those who are opposed to the removal of Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe include the UNILAG’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Committee of the Vice Chancellors, the university’s Senate, and the Alumni Association.
Dr. Dele Ashiru, on Friday said Ogundipe’s removal did not follow the university’s regulations.
Ashiru said in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that ASUU would opposed to Ogundipe’s removal as well as the appointment of Prof. Theophilus Soyombo as acting VC.
Ashiru said that University’s Governing Council should have requested for a recommendation from the university’s Senate for a choice of person to act as the vice-chancellor.
“In this instance, the pro chancellor did not do this, which amounts to lawlessness, recklessness and deliberate violation of the university’s regulation.
“We, therefore, expect that the Federal Government will wade into this act of illegality and high handedness and stop it.
“The law empowers the visitor to the university through the Minister of Education, to intervene in the matter in order to stop this reckless act,” Ashiru said.
In the same way, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Universities described the VC’s removal as a “hatchet job,” saying it should not stand.
The committee also deplored the appointment of an acting vice chancellor for the university outside the university’s three deputy vice-chancellors.
Prof Yakubu Aboki Ochefu, the committee’s Secretary-General, declared this on Friday. He said in a statement: “The chairman of the council knows that the tenure of two members of the council has expired, so he waited for the members not to be in council to get the majority vote.
“It is like a hatchet job. We don’t want it to appear like that because of the integrity of the University of Lagos.
“The integrity is very high and we don’t want council members to degenerate to that situation.
“As it is now, we have a stalemate and it is looking more in favour of the university senate than the council.
“The council has gone ahead to announce a new VC. The extant laws state that one of his deputies should be appointed to act.
“UNILAG has three deputy vice-chancellors; none of them was appointed as the acting VC and somebody else entirely was appointed.
“This is going to pose another problem because the Senate will not allow such a person to chair their meeting because they don’t know him within the context of the laws establishing universities.
“It is a funny situation. The VC is saying, ‘Yes, you have the power to remove me, but you have to do it properly. As far as I am concerned, as you have not removed me.’ The GC is saying, ‘We have removed you.’
“The challenge we have with this particular action is that the university community says the council did not follow due process. Indeed, the communication from the embattled vice-chancellor is clear and it is to that effect.
“In the procedure for removing a vice-chancellor, you have to set up a joint council/senate committee.
“The vice-chancellor will be given the opportunity to defend himself. From there, a submission will be made to the council which will take a decision.”
Also opposed to the Ogundipe’s removal is Prof. Afolabi Lesi, a representative of the institution’s Senate on the Governing Council, who has faulted the process that led to the Governing Council’s decision on Ogundipe.
Lesi, the Provost, College Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL), has said there were discrepancies in the process.
“It has become necessary to provide further update on the voting that took place to remove the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe FAS. Fifteen members attended the Council meeting physically and virtually, and two were asked to leave: the Vice-Chancellor and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (DS).
“Thirteen members had the opportunity to vote, even though Dr. Wale Babalakin did not vote (as stated by him), leaving twelve (12) members.
“Six (6) persons have given information that they voted against the removal of the Vice Chancellor: Prof. Bola Oboh (Representative of Senate, UNILAG); Prof. Afolabi Lesi (Representative of Senate, UNILAG); Prof. Olukemi Odukoya (Representative of Senate, UNILAG); Dr John Momoh (President, National Alumni, UNILAG); Prof. Ben Oghojafor (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, MS, UNILAG); and Prince Adetokunbo Adebanjo, a representative of the Ministry of Education, who declared his vote openly.
“Also, from further information, one person abstained from the voting process: Prof. Eddy Omolehinwa (Representative of Senate, UNILAG)
“However, the very first vote message that Dr. Wale Babalakin read out as having received was ONE SUSPENSION.
“From the recount so far, the suspension vote is from one of the following: Alhaji Hussain Ali (Former Commissioner); Oluwarotimi Sodimu Esq (Representative of Congregation, UNILAG); Dr. Saminu Dagari (Senior Lecturer of Chemistry, Federal University, Gashua); Dr. Bayo Adaralegbe (Babalakin’s Chamber); Rev. Yomi Kasali (Senior Pastor, Foundation of Truth Assembly).
“Therefore, what is remaining is four (4) persons who voted for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor.
“From the analysis of the voting pattern above, SIX (6) persons voted that Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe should not be removed as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos while FOUR persons voted for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor. Conscience is an open wound, only the TRUTH can heal it,” Lesi said.
As it is now, the strongest support for Ogundipe’s removal seems to be the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Wale Babalakin.
Babalakin has insisted that Ogundipe’s removal followed due process, insisting that the professor was given the opportunity to defend himself.
Babalaking who spoke to reporters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport 2 arrival hall, declared that the Council indicted Ogundipe for mismanagement of university funds.
He alleged that Ogundipe renovated his official quarters for N49 million without approval from Council and allocated N41 million to the University Bursar to renovate his residence to cover-up.
“Series of attempts were made to reconcile but the plain truth is that Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe has been looting the university and looting recklessly,” he said.
“After a Committee of Council investigated the finances of Council, the report was sent to all those affected.
“Prof. Ogundipe wrote his defence to the allegations. I think it was submitted on May 13 or March 13. Then he spoke for one hour in his defence. He had all the opportunity of a fair hearing under the law. So I am surprised at the propaganda in the media.
“One of the things that were found in the committee report was that without mentioning to anybody, without any approval, Toyin Ogundipe spent N49 million to renovate his house. This has to be done with the approval of the Council. He sought no approval.
“To cover-up, he gave the Bursar N41 million to renovate his own house. The official residence of the Bursar can be built from scratch with N41 million.”
When told that the workers’ unions in the university agreed that due process was not followed during the removal, Babalakin said: “What I will advise you to do is to go and read the law, and when you do, I will be available for questions.”
Babalakin dismissed the Senate meeting held on Thursday, which expressed confidence in Ogundipe’s leadership while calling for the dissolution of the Council.
He said only the VC could call a Senate meeting, and having been removed, Ogundipe did not have the authority to call one, because he had been removed.
He said: “The Senate did not have a meeting because it could not have had one. The authority to call a Senate meeting is the Vice-Chancellor. And at the time he purported to call the meeting, he was no longer VC. So whatever statements were made are cynically comments of a debating society, not a Senate meeting.
“I will not answer any questions from that Senate meeting because I will be defending maladministration.”
However, The Nation gathered that following its meeting yesterday, the senate submitted copies of its resolution to the Minister of State for Education, Prof. Nwajuiba; the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Education in Abuja.
The Nation also gathered that members of the UNILAG Alumni Association were unhappy about the situation and met via Zoom to discuss the crisis.
President of the association, Dr. John Momoh, was one of the four members of Council who voted in favour of retaining Ogundipe during Tuesday’s meeting in Abuja.
Six were said to have voted against Ogundipe in a process Senate members of the Council claimed was not transparent.
However, Babalakin defended the voting by secret ballot which he said was allowed by the law of the university, especially when the matter was contentious.
“Under the guidelines of the University of Lagos, voting is either in secret or open. We agreed to have a secret ballot as they have always had when there are contentious issues.
“Everybody not just voted but wrote, and I read out all the comments and nobody said there was no comment I didn’t read,” he said.
But the Alumni Association of the University of Lagos on Friday called for the reversal of the sack of Prof Ogundipe as Vice-Chancellor.
Rising from an emergency meeting, the association said: “Without prejudice to the general powers of the University Governing Council to appoint and remove a Vice-Chancellor under the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2003 (No. 1 2007), and without apportioning any blame to either the Governing Council or the Vice Chancellor, the University of Lagos Alumni is of the view that before the Council can exercise such powers, it must follow due process, particularly as mandatorily provided under section 3(8), (9) and (10) of the Act in the removal of the Vice-Chancellor and Section 3(13) in the appointment of an acting Vice Chancellor,” the Alumni Association said in a statement.
“Therefore, the Alumni counsels the Governing Council that the status quo ante the Council meeting of Wednesday, 12th August, 2020, be restored while the Alumni continues with its efforts at ensuring that lasting peace and harmony reign on the Campus as between the Council and the University Management in particular, and all sections of the university community in general, including the Senate, students, staff, all Associations, particularly ASUU, NASU, SSANU, NAAT, etc.”
Meanwhile Prof. Theophilus Soyombo, who was nominated by the UNILAG Governing Council as acting VC, said yesterday that he had taken over already.
In a memo, Soyombo described the position of VC as one of “responsibility that was just thrust upon me and which I accepted out of a sense of duty to a university.
“I see this as a call to service with the overall objective of fostering of course in an atmosphere of peace for the normal university business of teaching, research and community service.”
He acknowledged the divided opinions on “issues at stake and the steps taken so to resolve the impasse.”
Soyombo declared that “our paramount goal should be an amicable resolution of all the issues and to win back the peace and stability of our University.”