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Unilag council divided on sack of Vice Chancellor

UNILAG. Photo: REDCHETTAH

I remain in charge, says Ogundipe
• FG awaits briefs on VC sack
• ASUU faults action

The crisis rocking the University of Lagos (UNILAG) climaxed yesterday with the purported sack of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.

In another twist, however, the embattled Ogundipe insisted he remained the vice chancellor of the institution.

The institution had announced the sack of Ogundipe during a meeting of the council, which held yesterday at the headquarters of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Abuja.

In attendance at the meeting, presided over by the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN), were 11 council members, including Ogundipe, where the decision to remove him was put to vote.

The vice chancellor, who has been having a running battle with Babalakin over allegations of financial impropriety and gross misconduct, was removed by a simple majority of seven members at the meeting.

In a letter entitled: ‘Notice to the General Public on the removal of the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos,’ signed by the Registrar and Secretary to Council, Oladejo Azeez, the university said: “The general public is hereby notified that at an emergency meeting held on Wednesday, August 12, and in accordance with the statutory powers vested in it by law, the governing council of the university has removed Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe from office with immediate effect.

“This decision was based on council’s investigation of serious acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of office against Prof Ogundipe,” Azeez added.

But Ogundipe debunked the report that the council had sacked him.

In a statement personally signed by him, Ogundipe urged the public to disregard the notice of termination signed by the registrar.

Ogundipe’s statement read in part: “The attention of the University of Lagos management has been drawn to the notice to the general public on the removal of the vice chancellor, dated August 12 and signed by Oladejo Azeez, registrar and secretary to council.

“This is untrue and a figment of his imagination. Therefore, stakeholders of UNILAG and the general public are advised to disregard this mischievous disinformation about the sitting vice chancellor contained in that notice. Professor Ogundipe still remains UNILAG’s VC.”

Procedures for removal of vice chancellor are clearly spelt out in the University (Amendment) Acts, 2003 as follows:

“When the proposal for the removal of the vice-chancellor is made, the Council shall  constitute a joint committee of Council and Senate, consisting of three members of the Council, one of whom shall be the chairman of the Committee and two members of’ the Senate, provided that where the ground for removal is infirmity of the body or mind, the Council shall seek appropriate medical opinion. 

“The Committee shall conduct investigation into the allegations made against the vice-chancellor and shall report its findings to the Council. 

The Council may, where the allegations are proved, remove the vice-chancellor or apply any other disciplinary action it may deem fit and notify the Visitor accordingly provided that a vice-chancellor who is removed shall have right of 
appeal to the Visitor.  

“ There shall be no sole administration in any Nigerian university. In any case of a vacancy in the office of the vice-chancellor, the Council shall appoint an acting vice-chancellor on the recommendation of the Senate. An acting vice-chancellor in all circumstances shall not be in office for more than six months”.

The institution’s Senate representative in the council, Prof. Olukemi Odukoya, has risen in support of the vice chancellor and accused the Pro-Chancellor of “actualising his machinery” to remove Ogundipe as VC.

In a WhatsApp message obtained by The Guardian, Odukoya alleged that the council chairman asked Ogundipe and the deputy vice chancellors to “leave the meeting and by a vote of 6 to 4, removed Ogundipe.

“Members, arise, this is unacceptable. We must defend the management of the university,” Odukoya said.
Another representative, Prof. Bola Oboh, in a letter addressed to Senate members, lamented that the university’s regulation had been ridiculed and accused Babalakin of waiting for Professors Chukwu and Familoni to end their tenure before calling for an emergency meeting.

Oboh said, “Without allowing the VC to defend himself, the Pro-Chancellor called for a vote for the removal of Ogundipe. Myself, Prof. Odukoya, Prof. Leshi and John Momoh voted against the removal of the VC.

“Six persons (excluding Babalakin) voted for Ogundipe’s removal. Babalakin then went ahead to announce the removal of the VC. Dear Senate members, the procedure for removal of persons in office is clear and this was pointed out to Babalakin several times but he turned deaf ears .

“He said he would announce the Ag. Vice Chancellor at 5pm. I have excused myself that I need to report to Senate members the shameful act currently ongoing. Please let us arise to fight this.”

Although the university Act empowers the council to remove the vice chancellor after a committee has been set up and the VC has been given the opportunity to defend himself, the Senate representative at the meeting as well as the Provost, College of Medicine, Prof Leshi, said that did not happen in Ogundipe’s case.

In a copy of their report obtained by The Guardian, the duo said the meeting was convened to consider the 2020 budget of the university and other ancillary matters, which had been sent to the Pro-Chancellor as far back as December 2019.

“Then, the Council chairman changed the order of the agenda by bringing up the report of a sub-committee headed by Dr. Saminu Dagari on university expenditure since 2017. This report had been earlier considered in March 2019 where allegations were made against the vice chancellor and others. However, the response of the VC and others had not been considered by the council in plenary.

“At this meeting, the Pro-chancellor asked the VC and Prof. Ogunsola (DVC Development Services) to excuse themselves despite protestation from them on the need to defend themselves before their accuser. Pro-chancellor did not accede to their protest and they left. The Pro-Chancellor then asked Dr. Dagari to summarise his findings, which he did and despite that the procedural flaw in not asking another panel to look at the allegations and VC’s response, went ahead and called for a vote on the removal of the VC.
“He stated that this action was the only step that needs to be taken as a punitive measure against the alleged infractions which had not been proven by another panel. He decided that members should vote and send it to him by WhatsApp for him to collate the votes. While waiting, the Pro-Chancellor left the meeting and returned and called out votes and comments sent to him.

“Prior to this, the representative of the Ministry of Education, Adetokunbo Adebanjo, arrived and asked what was going on and what was the agenda being discussed. After getting explanation from the Registrar, Adebanjo raised a point of order that the removal of the VC was not in the agenda.

“The pro-chancellor noted that the ministry came late and could not alter the proceedings. Nevertheless, Adetokunbo voted against removing the VC. At the end, the Pro-Chancellor gave a conflicting votes cast and eventually announced that the votes were six for removal, four against removal, and one vote to suspend. It is clear that there were abstentions and unclear whether the ministry vote was counted as the number of votes (11) did not add up to members present, which were 15.

“Thereafter, the Senate representatives expressed their objections to the procedure and the decision taken and noted the potential for generating disquiet and disharmony in the system. They pointed that the decision was wrong and excused themselves from further consideration of anyone as acting VC as stated by the Pro-Chancellor.

The grounds for their objections are as follows: “Failure to properly consider the Dagari report, failure to follow procedure in dealing with alleged misconduct by the principal officer; inconsistency of the votes cast which was not verified by an independent person, the travesty of justice on the predetermined plan to ridicule and remove the VC by any means possible,” they stated.

MEANWHILE, the Chairman, UNILAG chapter of ASUU, Dr. Dele Ashiru, has claimed the council lacked the power to sack the VC.

Ashiru said, “We are following the development. We are aware that the Council relocated to Abuja to meet. The council does not have the constitutional power to sack the vice chancellor. We will react appropriately when things become clear.”

The Federal Government said it had been briefed on purported removal of the vice chancellor.

Spokesman for the ministry, Ben Goong, in a statement, said while the ministry awaited proper briefing from the university authorities, it must be reaffirmed that the council had power to hire and fire.
The statement however said that due process must be followed in doing so.

“The Federal Ministry of Education wishes to state that it is yet to be briefed on the developments at the University of Lagos regarding the purported removal of the VC.

“While ministry awaits for the proper briefing from the university authorities, it is important to re-affirm that the council has the power to hire and fire.”

BABALAKIN has been having a running battle with the university management over award of contracts. A panel was set up by the council to look into the project and the roles of the vice chancellor as well as some serving and retired principal officers of the university.

It took the intervention of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, and the National Assembly for normalcy to return.

But the peace of the institution was disrupted again as Babalakin alleged that he was not informed before a date was fixed for the convocation.

The pro-chancellor wrote the education minister and the National Universities Commission (NUC) stating his grievances, which led to the postponement of the ceremony.

Apparently miffed by Babalakin’s action, ASUU passed a vote of no confidence on his leadership and declared him a persona non grata on the university campus.

When the notice of the council meeting became public, ASUU warned Babalakin not to show up on campus to avoid violence.

The meeting was postponed by Babalakin and later held in Abuja where the vice chancellor was removed.

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