Controversy trails council’s removal of UNILAG Vice-Chancellor

Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe

The Governing Council of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) on Wednesday announced that it had relieved the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, of his duties over alleged gross misconduct and abuse office.

The council explained that the decision had become imperative as part of measures to provide good and purpose-driven leadership for the flagship institution tasked with grooming future leaders for the country.

Confirming his removal on Wednesday, the Registrar and Secretary to Council, Mr. Oladejo Azeez, said the decision to sack Ogundipe followed the emergency meeting held on Wednesday.

Azeez, through a statement released to newsmen titled ‘Notice to the General Public on the removal of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos,” said the removal is with immediate effect

“The general public is hereby notified that at an emergency meeting held on Wednesday 12 August 2020 and in accordance with the statutory power vested in it by law, the Governing Council of the University of Lagos removed Prof. Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS from office as Vice-Chancellor of the University with immediate effect.

“The decision was based on the Council’s investigation of serious acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness, and abuse of office against Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe,” the statement read.

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It was expected that a replacement would have been announced immediately but that is yet to be, further fueling controversies around the management of the fifty-eight year old institution.

Council members oppose move

Two officials, who are UNILAG Senate representatives on the Governing Council have openly opposed the decision.

In separate reactions, the duo of Professor Olukemi Odukoya and Professor Bola Oboh accused the council chairman, Babalakin of persecuting Ogundipe.

Professor Odukoya noted that Babalakin has had is way in actualising his machinery to remove the VC.

“At today’s 12th August 2020, Emergency Meeting of Council in Abuja, Dr. Babalakin asked the VC and DVC (DS) to leave the meeting and by vote of 6 to 4, announced that the Vice-Chancellor has been removed.”

Odukoya urged members to arise, adding that “we must defend the management of the university.”

Similarly, Oboh, stated that UNILAG regulation has been stepped on and ridiculed.

He said Babalakin waited for the tenure of Professor Chukwu and Professor Familoni to end and convened an emergency council meeting based on the Saminu Dagari report.

Oboh accused Babalakin of not allowing Ogundipe defend himself before calling for a vote.

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“I, (Prof. Oboh), Prof. Odukoya, Prof. Leshi and John Momoh voted against the removal of the VC. Six persons (excluding Babalakin) voted for. 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. Please let us arise to fight this.”

Management dismisses sack notice

In reaction to the development, the UNILAG management dismissed the public notice on the sack of Ogundipe.

In a terse statement he personally signed, Ogundipe declared that the council’s decision “is untrue and a figment of his imagination.”

He advised staff, students, parents, guardians and the general public to “disregard the mischievous disinformation about the sitting Vice-Chancellor of Unilag, contained in that notice.”

The statement stressed that “Professor Ogundipe remains UNILAG’s Vice-Chancellor.”

Education ministry reacts

The Federal Ministry of Education said it was within the powers of the Council to employ or sack any of the university’s principal officers.

Spokesperson of the ministry, Ben Goong, in a statement in Abuja, said the office had not been briefed on the removal of Ogundipe.

The statement, however, said that due process must be followed in doing so.

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The statement reads in part, “My dear colleagues, 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 the ministry awaits for the proper briefing from the university authorities, it is important to reaffirm that council has the power to hire and fire but that due process must be followed in doing so.”

Unending tussle

The institution’s management and the council chaired by Babalakin have been at loggerheads over the past months.

The situation caused the indefinite postponement of the UNILAG 51st convocation ceremonies.

This triggered condemnations and left Nigerians wondering why authorities allowed the face-off to degenerate so far.

Last month, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) warned Babalakin against stepping into the school premises.

They accused him of causing confusion and instigating a crisis at UNILAG.

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