Unilag crisis: Senate withdraws suit against Babalakin, others as ASUU hails election of Ogunsola


…SSANU calls for re-composition of visitation panel

By Ayo Fadimu and Tope Sanyaolu with Agency Report

The Senate of the University of Lagos (Unilag) on Monday filed an application at the National Industrial Court to discontinue a suit challenging the removal of the university’s Vice-Chancellor (VC), Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.

Ogundipe was removed by the university’s Governing Council on Aug. 12.

The council replaced him with Prof. Theophilus Soyombo as Acting VC.

The defendants in the suit marked NICN/LA/283/2020 were the governing council, its now ‘suspended’ Chairman, Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN); the Registrar, Mr Oladejo Azeez; Soyomo and Ogundipe.

The senate, through its counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), had in the suit prayed the court to declare that Ogundipe’s removal was unprocedural, null and void.

The senate also prayed the court to restrain Soyombo from parading himself as Unilag’s acting VC.

However, on Monday the senate informed the court that it was withdrawing the suit.

“Take notice that the claimants in this suit hereby wholly discontinue this suit against the defendants,” it stated.

Our Correspondent learnt that the decision to withdraw the suit followed President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention in the crisis.

The president had asked both Babalakin and Ogundipe to step aside pending the outcome of a visitation panel to be inaugurated on Wednesday.

The president also reversed Soyombo’s appointment as Unilag’s Acting VC.

The president also directed the senate to reconvene to nominate an acting vice-chancellor from among its members.

Consequently, the senate on Monday elected the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development Services) Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, the Acting VC. Ogunsola  Shepolled a total of 135 votes to defeat Prof. Ben Oghojafor, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Management Services), who polled 31 votes.

In the meantime, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos (Unilag) Chapter, has described the election an acting vice-chancellor of the university by its senate as a major step by the Federal Government to restore peace to the troubled institution.

The Chairman of the chapter, Dr Dele Ashiru, reacted to the election of Prof. Folashade Ogunsola as the Acting Vice Chancellor of the university.

“I want to say we are very satisfied with the conduct of today’s election which has brought forth Prof. Folasade Ogunsola as the Acting Vice Chancellor; she was prior to today’s election, theDeputy Vice Chancellor (Development Services).

“The election followed due process. Senate met and nomination taken. Senate has spoken loud and clear on its choice on who to lead them.

“This whole process is a right step in the right direction. We want to thank President Buhari for the intervention.

“We, therefore, call on the university community to join hands with the newly-elected Acting Vice Chancellor to move the university forward.

“I will also like to state that with this election, calm has returned to the campus,” the unionist said.

According to him, members of the university community are awaiting the inauguration of the visitation panel l believe that all parties concerned will have a day with justice.

Earlier, a mild drama occurred as the senate members were shut out of the venue of the election based on a memo by the Registrar of the university, Mr. Oladejo Azeez.

The memo pasted at the venue of the election read in part: “Re-Notice to Senate Meetings

“The above matter refers: Please note that the message contained below has been sent to senate.

“This is to inform senate members that no meeting of senate has been summoned.

“Members should await proper notice of meeting after the Federal Government has clarified some issues germane to the meeting.

“It follows that you are not to make use of any of your facilities available for any meeting until otherwise advised.”

Our Correspondent reports that it took the intervention of the Federal Ministry of Education to get the venue opened for the election.

Ashiru decried the development.

“It is very sad and unfortunate. The locking of the auditorium is a manifestation of the crudity

and recklessness that characterised the council’s leadership.

“No principal officer of a university should have the temerity to trample upon the senate of the university as we witnessed earlier,” Ashiru said.

In a similar vein,the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), has called for the re-composition of the Special Visitation Panel to look into the purported removal of Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos.

Mr. Samson Ugwoke, SSANU President, made the call in a letter addressed to the President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Education and the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission on Monday in Abuja.

According to Ugwoke, SSANU writes to observe the recent directive circulated through the media, dated 21st August 2020 and signed by the Director Press and Public Relations 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,” he said.

Ugwoke said that there was need to review the composition and members of the Special Visitation Panel as the crisis in the University of Lagos has ASUU members as a major participants in the Panel, adding that indeed, ASUU is the complainant in this matter.

He noted that the composition of the Special Visitation Panel with a preponderance of Professors, who were ASUU members is an indication that the decision of the panel would be tampered with by the union.

He also said that 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,” he said.

SSANU president also commended 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.

He added that it is assumed that the directive on recusal is to enforce peace in the university pending the outcome of the visitation.

According to him, 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 personalises the decisions of council to Dr. Babalakin, which in itself does not do justice to the issues on ground,” he said.

Ugwoke, while speaking on the the directive to University Senate to convene to elect an Acting Vice Chancellor, noted that the visitor to 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.

“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,” he added.