All staff unions in the University of Lagos on Thursday expressed their displeasure with the removal of the institution’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, by the Governing Council of the school.
The workers, under the aegis of the Joint Staff Union, JSU, made this known at a Congress they 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 staff 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 workers, through their leaders, also endorsed a statement, condemning the removal of Ogundipe by the Council.
The signatories were: 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.
While all the union leaders addressed the Congress, they voiced their opposition to the development, saying it could set a bad precedence in the university system.
“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 the 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, is an alumnus of the school, our hopes were that he would use his good offices to make the institution better, but the reverse is the case,” Ashiru stated.
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 center on Ogundipe today, but that it could be anybody tomorrow.
They expressed their displeasure with any show of impunity on the part of anybody, but that due process must be followed.
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.
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 in the morning and appointed Prof. Chioma Agomoh, former Dean, Faculty of Law, to chair the proceedings.
Saying no to Acting Vice-Chancellor
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.
Before he talked, some members such as 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.
They appealed to the President to allow the rule of law to prevail by giving Ogundipe a fair hearing and following due process at every state.
Ogundipe resumes office
Ogundipe, who breezed in when members of the Joint Staff Union, JSU, of the institution were holding a special Congress, told the workers that he had always discharged his duties to the best of his ability in whatever capacities he had worked.
“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.
‘I see myself and all of you my comrades as builders in this university. We are building on the solid foundation laid by the founders and we must and will continue to build. I am peace-loving and want all of us to be so too. Also, we should not allow anybody or group to truncate the peace existing here on campus.
“I am a Comrade and a loyal member of our union and I will remain loyal to my fellow comrades. I am really overwhelmed by the show of support and solidarity by you all,” he said.
He later 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.
He walked back to the Senate Building, where his office his, to allow the workers to continue their Congress.
The four unions, while addressing a press conference after the Congress, 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 describe 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.
Though the Council in the wee hours of Thursday 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.
As at press time, the Federal Ministry of Education in Abuja 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.