Sagay, others differ over renaming of Unilag

Itse SagaySome prominent lawyers on Tuesday had differing opinions over the decision of the Federal Government to rename the University of Lagos (Unilag) in honour of the late Moshood Abiola.

The lawyers gave their views in separate interviews in Lagos.

President Goodluck Jonathan had on Tuesday declared the Univeristy’s change of name during a nationwide broadcast to mark the 2012 Democracy Day.

He said the name change is to honour the late Abiola’s contribution to the nation’s democracy.

But, constitutional lawyer, Itse Sagay (SAN), said the president should be praised for his effort to immortalise Abiola. However, he said that the president made a wrong choice in choosing Unilag.

“The president should be praised for his effort to immortalise Abiola.

It was done out of good intention but he chose the wrong institution.

“Unilag is too well established and has its own individual personality which will be difficult to overshadow,” he said.

Mr. Sagay said the president could have named one of the nine federal universities being constructed by the government in honour of the late acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

“This would have been less contentious because they are yet to be given any names and have no identity of their own unlike UNILAG”, Mr. Sagay added.

Bamidele Aturu, a human rights activist, said the president had the power to change the name of the institution holding that nothing is actually wrong with the name change.

“The renaming itself is not the problem it is was a populist gesture.

This must not been seen as a way to garner the sympathy of the people of the South West.

“The Federal Government has the power to change the name of any of its institution but it must be done with approval of the university’s council. If the UNILAG Council did not approve the name to be changed, then there will be a problem because it means that due process has not been followed,” Mr. Aturu said.

Also speaking, Wale Ogunade, the president of Voters Awareness Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, said the proper way to honour Abiola would have been to recognise June 12 as a national holiday.

“MKO Abiola is not known to be an educationist. The best way to have honoured him is for the Federal Government to recognise June 12 as a national public holiday,” he said.

Mr. Ogunade said lawyers in the country would challenge the change of the institution’s name in a court of competent jurisdiction if it is not reversed by the government.

“The University of Lagos was enacted by an act, so nobody can unilaterally change its name without an act by the National Assembly. I can assure you that this will be challenged in the court because it is an illegality,” he said.

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