SSANU faults Buhari on UNILAG visitation panel

The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has faulted the composition of the visitation panel to investigate the crisis bedeviling the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in recent times.

Following the sack of the former Vice-Chancellor of the university, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the governing council led by Wale Babalakin announced Theophilus Soyombo as acting VC.

Last Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the constitution of the panel mainly made up of professors to look into the situation and asked the three parties to recuse themselves from office.

But SSSANU in a letter addressed to the president feared that the he may have been misled into adding to the purported illegalities on ground with the constitution of the panel.

A copy of the letter made available to on Monday also called for fairness in the investigation and resolution of the controversy.

The letter signed by SSANU president, Chijioke Ugwoke observed that the panel was composed mainly of professors who are also members of theAcademic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and these persons might be backing their comrades in the investigations.

It also called for the recomposition of the panel to carry along non-academics.

“The composition of the Special Visitation Panel with a preponderance of Professors (ASUU members) is an indication that the decisions of the Panel would be tampered with by ASUU. The fact that they are former Vice- Chancellors also implies the tendency to protect one of their own – an embattled Vice-Chancellor.

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“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.”

Further, the non-academic staff union said that the directive that Babalakin recused himself during the investigation was suspicious.

To it, that appears to be personalizing the controversy to Babalakin whereas the decision was reached by the council as a whole. Alternatively, SSANU proposed that “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.”

The UNILAG Senate on Monday announced the election of Professor Folasade Ogunsola as the acting Vice-Chancellor of the institution based on the presidential directive in that regard to convene the Senate.

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But SSANU said that contravened existing laws and betrays the due process the government intended to address.

The rest of the letter to the president is presented below.

“The directive of the Visitor to the effect that 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.

“In one breath, the Visitor directed the Visitation Panel to determine whether the process (if any) leading to the appointment of the Acting Vice-Chancellor for the University was consistent with the provisions of the enabling Act, while in another breath, directing that the Senate meets to nominate an acting Vice-Chancellor for confirmation by the Governing Council.

“The implication of the above, is that the Visitor had already ruled that the appointment of an Acting Vice-Chancellor by the Council was illegal, hence, the need for Senate to convene to elect an Acting Vice-Chancellor.

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.

“An interesting dimension to the Visitors’ directive to convene a Senate meeting without a Vice-Chancellor in place is an aberration as the Registrar is not empowered by any law to summon Senate unilaterally. For the sake of emphasis, the Registrar is not a member of Senate but its Secretary. It also needs telling that the supposed meeting of the Senate of the University of Lagos held on Thursday, 13th August, 2020 and presided over by one Professor Chioma K. Agomo is one of such aberrations that have crept into the University of Lagos saga, because apart from the meeting being called by a “removed” Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of Senate (albeit in contention), and in the absence of the Registrar and Secretary to Senate, the presiding officer (Professor Agomo) holds no statutory office (either as VC or DVC) that empowered her to preside over such meeting which sought to pass a vote of no confidence on the Council and calling for its immediate dissolution.

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As a corollary to the above, the recusal of the Pro-Chancellor implies that the confirmation of an Acting Vice-Chancellor nominated by the Senate by Council would be in the absence of the Pro-Chancellor. Who convenes a meeting of Council in this instance and is an office of Acting Pro-Chancellor existent in the laws?”

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