UNILAG Crisis : SSANU Writes Buhari, Demands Re-Composition Of Visitation Panel, Others - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

UNILAG Crisis : SSANU Writes Buhari, Demands Re-Composition Of Visitation Panel, Others




-The Daily Crucible

Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to re-compose the membership of the Special Visitation Panel on the crisis rocking University of Lagos, saying the present composition of the Panel negates the "principle of natural justice." 

SSANU alleged that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is both the "participant and complaint" in the crisis at the University of Lagos,  fearing that with a preponderance of Professors (ASUU members) in the Panel already in place, its decisions would be tampered with by ASUU. 

The National President of SSANU, Comrade Samson Chijioke Ugwoke, who made this known in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, added that the fact that the Panel members were former Vice- Chancellors also implies the tendency to protect one of their own - an embattled Vice-Chancellor - Prof. Ogundipe.

The body also faulted the University's
Visitor's decision  directing the recusal of the Pro- Chancellor and Professor Ogundipe from official duties during the period of the Visitation on the supposition that the directive on recusal was to enforce peace in the University pending the outcome of the Visitation. 

SSANU, however, noted that the Visitor might  have inadvertently fallen into the ASUU position of seeing Dr. Babalakin as the problem of the University of Lagos, pointing out that the decision to remove Professor Ogundipe was a decision of the University Governing Council and not Babalakin.

According to SSANU leadership, it would have been fairer if the Visitor had directed the entire Council to recuse itself from official duties until the end of the Panel’s assignment than asking Babalakin alone to recuse himself. 

Ugwoke also urged the government to be concerned that while the major agitation of the loudest voices in the University system has always been that of poor funding of the University system, it was also ironical that same voices use every tricks, threats and forceful actions to ensure that corrupt practices that fritter away the meagre resources allocated by Government were covered up, leaving the perpetrators to escape. 

SSANU accused the ASUU Branch of University of Lagos of using its actions to pre-emptively ensuring that the Governing Council of University of Lagos would not sit to take decision on the alleged infractions of Professor Ogundipe, by threatening the Pro-Chancellor not to step into the University of Lagos, and declaring him persona non grata.

SSANU's letter to Buhari  and sighted by The Daily Crucible,  was also copied the Minister, Federal Ministry of Education and the Executive Secretary, National University Commission(NUC). It reads:

We writes to observe the recent directive circulated through the media, dated 21st August 2020 and signed by the Director Press and Public Relatpions in the Federal Ministry of Education on the above subject matter.
While SSANU appreciates the prompt intervention of the Visitor in the ongoing crisis and the sincere efforts in nipping the crisis in the bud, the directives of the Visitor as contained in the Press Release have a further tendency to cause more crisis as issues bordering on due process and fair hearing have been trampled upon arising from the Visitor’s directives under reference.
1. COMPOSITION AND MEMBERSHIP OF THE SPECIAL VISITATION PANEL 
The crisis in the University of Lagos has the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as a major participant. Indeed, ASUU is the complainant in this matter. 
The composition of the Special Visitation Panel with a preponderance of Professors (ASUU members) is an indication that the decisions of the Panel would be tampered with by ASUU. The fact that they are former Vice- Chancellors also implies the tendency to protect one of their own - an embattled Vice-Chancellor. 
It is our informed observation therefore, that a fair and unbiased Panel, representative of all stakeholders in the University system should have included at least a retired Registrar, a retired Bursar, and a prominent individual with undoubted integrity, who should be a former Pro-Chancellor and not a Professor, as Chairman of the Panel. With the present composition and membership of the Panel, the Federal Government may have unwittingly handed over the Panel to ASUU to return victory to its member and condemn all others. 
SSANU therefore calls for a re-composition of the Panel to reflect neutrality, fairness and proper representation and not using ASUU to probe itself as the situation currently is. The principle of natural justice is lost in the present composition of the Visitation Panel and it is totally condemned by SSANU. 
2. DIRECTIVE RECUSING THE PRO- CHANCELLOR, DR. BABALAKIN FROM OFFICIAL DUTIES 
SSANU appreciates the intention of the Visitor by directing the recusal of the Pro- Chancellor and Professor Ogundipe from official duties during the period of the Visitation. It is assumed that the directive on recusal is to enforce peace in the University pending the outcome of the Visitation. 
SSANU however wishes to note that the Visitor may have inadvertently fallen into the ASUU position of seeing Dr. Babalakin as the problem of the University of Lagos. To the best of our knowledge, the decision to remove Professor Ogundipe was a decision of Council and not Babalakin. It would have been fairer if the Visitor had directed the entire Council to recuse itself from official duties until the end of the Panel’s assignment than asking Babalakin alone to recuse himself. 
We wish to therefore observe that this directive personalizes the decisions of Council to Dr. Babalakin which in itself does not do justice to the issues on ground. 
3. ON THE DIRECTIVE TO THE UNIVERSITY SENATE TO CONVENE TO ELECT AN ACTING VICE CHANCELLOR 
The directive of the Visitor to the effect that the University of Lagos Senate should hold a Special meeting to elect an Acting Vice-Chancellor conflicts with Paragraph 3(iii) of the same Visitors directive.
 In one breath, the Visitor directed the Visitation Panel to determine whether the process (if any) leading to the appointment of the Acting Vice-Chancellor for the University was consistent with the provisions of the enabling Act, while in another breath, directing that the Senate meets to nominate an acting Vice-Chancellor for confirmation by the Governing Council. 
The implication of the above, is that the Visitor had already ruled that the appointment of an Acting Vice-Chancellor by the Council was illegal, hence, the need for Senate to convene to elect an Acting Vice-Chancellor. 
SSANU has reason to fear if the Visitor had not been compromised by some forces within the University system whose entrenched interests are already manifesting in the conflicting directives. From the above conflicting directives, it is only obvious that the Visitation Panel would only be working to the answer.
 An interesting dimension to the Visitors’ directive to convene a Senate meeting without a Vice-Chancellor in place is an aberration as the Registrar is not empowered by any law to summon Senate unilaterally. For the sake of emphasis, the Registrar is not a member of Senate but its Secretary. It also needs telling that the supposed meeting of the Senate of the University of Lagos held on Thursday, 13th August, 2020 and presided over by one Professor Chioma K. Agomo is one of such aberrations that have crept into the University of Lagos saga, because apart from the meeting being called by a “removed” Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of Senate (albeit in contention), and in the absence of the Registrar and Secretary to Senate, the presiding officer (Professor Agomo) holds no statutory office (either as VC or DVC) that empowered her to preside over such meeting which sought to pass a vote of no confidence on the Council and calling for its immediate dissolution. 
As a corollary to the above, the recusal of the Pro-Chancellor implies that the confirmation of an Acting Vice-Chancellor nominated by the Senate by Council would be in the absence of the Pro-Chancellor. Who convenes a meeting of Council in this instance and is an office of Acting Pro-Chancellor existent in the laws?

CONCLUSION

SSANU while not unconcerned about the principles of natural justice i.e. fair hearing and due process in the removal of Professor Ogundipe as Vice- Chancellor of University of Lagos, is equally worried that the underlying allegations of fraud and corrupt practices seem to be lost due to technicalities. Government should be concerned that the major agitation of the loudest voices in the University system has always been that of poor funding of the University system. Ironically, those same voices use every tricks, threats and forceful actions to ensure that corrupt practices that fritter away the meagre resources allocated by Government are covered up, while perpetrators are allowed to escape. This is reflective in the actions of the ASUU Branch of University of Lagos, pre-emptively ensuring that the Governing Council of University of Lagos would not sit to take decision on the alleged infractions of Professor Ogundipe, by threatening the Pro-Chancellor not to step into the University of Lagos, and declaring him persona non grata. This violent trend is only a stock in trade of ASUU to cover up its own and has been witnessed in many universities where allegations of financial improprieties have been levelled against Vice-Chancellors. It would be recalled that the Autonomy Act was brought into being by acceding to the demands of ASUU. This Act has however caused ASUU to hijack Council with a majority of Council members being its members thereby rendering the Federal Government powerless in the running of the Universities. Only Universities with strong willed Pro-Chancellors have a semblance of Councils. Others are at the whims and caprices of Vice-Chancellors once they have the support of ASUU. This is the reason for the loud complaints of ASUU where such strong-willed Pro-Chancellors exist. To allow the status-quo to remain would be sounding a death knell for the University system.

Comrade Samson Chijioke Ugwoke, fcpa
President

Cc: The Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Education.
The Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission.

Monday, August 24, 2020

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