Unilag VC position not vacant — Workers Unions… As Ogundipe resumes, heads to court

By Adesina Wahab & Ikechukwu Nnochiri

THE Joint Staff Union, JSU, comprising the academic and non-academic workers of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, yesterday, kicked against the removal of the institution’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, by the Governing Council.

The unions, however, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the Governing Council alleging that its chairman was using it to fight needless battles.

This came as the embattled Vice Chancellor has gone to court to challenge his removal by the Governing Council.

The JSU made this known at a Congress held to state their position on the announcement by the Council, led by Dr. Wale Babalakin, SAN, that Ogundipe ceased to be the VC of the school as from Wednesday, this week.

The unions are the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU; the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU; the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, and the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU.

The signatories are Chairman, ASUU, Dr. Dele Ashiru, Chairman, SSANU, Comrade Olusola Sowunmi, Chairman, NASU, Comrade Ajibade Kehinde, Chairman, NAAT, Comrade Sulyman Lawal, Chairman, NASU, College of Medicine, Idi Araba, Comrade Tunde Aderibigbe and Secretary, SSANU, CMUL, Idi Araba, Comrade Ayo Alli.

Bad precedence

Voicing their opposition to the development, the unions warned that Ogundipe’s removal could set a bad precedence in the university system.

Speaking on behalf of ASUU, its chairman, Dr. Ashiru said: “The University of Lagos is the first university in Nigeria to be set up through an Act of Parliament and that is why we have the University of Lagos Act 1962. The Act stipulates how the university is to be run. It spells out how to discipline any errant officer. In this case, all the procedures listed for disciplining officers were not followed.

“This is not a banana republic and even a junior clerk in the university should not be treated that way. We are not in Oshodi market where somebody can turn himself into an idol to be worshipped. When Dr. Wale Babalakin was appointed the Chairman of the Governing Council, being an alumnus of the school, we hoped that he would use his good offices to make the institution better, but the reverse is the case.”

Sowunmi, Kehinde and Lawal, who spoke for SSANU, NASU and NAAT, also noted that they were not in support of any person, but that they were supporting the system.

They added that the matter could centre on Ogundipe today, but that it could be anybody tomorrow.

Call for dissolution of council

In the course of the Congress, members raised the issue of the need to call on President Muhammadu Buhari, the Visitor to the University, to dissolve the Governing Council.

They hinged their call on the claim that Babalakin was using it to fight needless battles and drawing back the school.

Workers say no to acting V-C

Also, Prof. Carol Okpara, Dr. Amadi Matha and Dr. Ashaolu, called on the workers to see the struggle as a fight to say no to bad examples being laid.

The workers also said they were not in support of any surrogate Acting Vice-Chancellor in the institution and resolved to turn the Senate Building to their resumption point until the matter is resolved.

The unions accused Babalakin of violating the laws of the university by the action taken on Wednesday.

“Against the foregoing background, the staff unions of the University of Lagos, hereby condemn in its totality the purported removal of our Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe and described it as illegal, vexatious, unjust, vindictive and tantamount to jungle justice. We, therefore, affirm our absolute confidence in the leadership of Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos. Therefore, the position of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos is not vacant,” the statement read.

Acting Vice-Chancellor appointed

Though the Council announced Prof. Theophilus Soyombo as the Acting Vice-Chancellor of the university, it was not clear whether he was on campus on Thursday.

He is a Professor of Sociology and a member of the Senate of the school.

Senate’s resolution

But a member of the Senate of the institution, Prof. Olukemi Odukoya, who briefed the Congress on some of the decisions taken at its sitting earlier in the day, said the resolutions of the Senate had been sent to the appropriate authorities.

The resolutions involved the rejection of the removal of Ogundipe from office by the Council among others.

It was gathered that following the call by one-third of members for a sitting, the Senate met Thursday morning and appointed Prof. Chioma Agomoh, former Dean, Faculty of Law, to chair the proceedings.

Ogundipe resumes

While the meeting was still on, Ogundipe, who was in Abuja on Wednesday for the Council meeting, arrived at the venue.

He was accorded a rousing welcome, as the crowd intensified their solidarity songs.

He, however, went on a solidarity walk from the venue to the main gate of the school where he also thanked the workers for their support and promised not to disappoint them.

In his remarks, Ogundipe said: “I have put in 30 years of meritorious service to the University of Lagos and whether as a junior or senior lecturer, Head of Department, Dean of a Faculty, Dean of Post Graduate School, Deputy Vice-Chancellor or as the Vice-Chancellor, I have never been found wanting.

Heads to court

Meanwhile, the sacked Vice-Chancellor has briefed Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, to challenge his removal from office in court.

In the letter dated August 12, a copy of which was sighted by Vanguard on Thursday, Prof. Ogundipe said the action against him was “carried out without due process and contrary to the University Act and other extant laws governing discipline, suspension and removal of the Vice-Chancellor of the university”.

He, therefore, instructed Ozekhome “to institute legal action against the Council and Pro-Chancellor and others of the University of Lagos, Akoka in Lagos.

“I, hereby, formally brief you to institute legal proceedings against the Council, Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos and others based on their illegal and unconstitutional act of purportedly removing me from office as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos.

“I honestly believe that this action was carried out without due process and contrary to the University Act and other extant laws governing discipline, suspension and removal of the Vice-Chancellor of the University.

“I humbly urge you to use your legal experience to redress this grave injustice meted out to me”, the letter further read.

FG keeps mum

As at press time, the Federal Ministry of Education was yet to make any official comment on his appointment.

The President, as the Visitor to the University, is the one to approve or disapprove the decision by the Council through the ministry.


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