UNILAG crises deepen as Babalakin queries VC, DVCs, bursar, others

University of Lagos (UNILAG). [Photo credit: Students Nigeria]
University of Lagos (UNILAG). [Photo credit: Students Nigeria]

Three separate queries bordering on allegations of travelling without permission, financial impropriety, among others, have been issued to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, by the institution’s Registrar, Oladejo Azeez.

The registrar acted on the instruction of the chairman of the university’s governing council, Wale Babalakin.

The university’s former Registrar, Taiwo Ipaye, also received three letters of query bordering on similar allegations, while the immediate past vice-chancellor, Rahamon Bello, was also issued one. The immediate past bursar of the university, Lateef Odekunle, and his successor, Lekan Lawal, was also queried.

Others affected in what some stakeholders in the university have tagged; “harvest of queries,” also include two incumbent deputy vice-chancellors- Folasade Ogunsola and Oluwole Familoni; a former deputy vice-chancellor, Duro Oni; former directors of works, Niyi Ayeye and Adelere Adeniran; head of the university’s procurement unit, James Akanmu; dean of students’ affairs, Ademola Adeleke; director of academic planning, L.O Chukwu and the director of the institution’s foundation programme, Timothy Nubi.

The quartet of Ogundipe, Ogunsola, Familoni and Chukwu are also members of the governing council like the registrar and Mr Babalakin.

But the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has kicked against what it described as the dictatorial action of the council chairman, accusing him of flouting laid down procedures.

ASUU, in its letter to the affected union members, signed by its chairman, Dele Ashiru, said a purported report the council chairman is acting upon is yet to be submitted to the council for deliberation.

“This arbitrariness and ‘one man show’ is repulsive and unacceptable to our union as it smacks of vindictiveness,” ASUU said.

Registrar Accuses ASUU Of Double Standard

In his reaction, the registrar, Oladejo Azeez, condemned ASUU’s position, saying it shows dishonesty and inconsistency on the part of the union.

Titled; “The Need to Tell the Truth,” Mr Azeez, in his statement, challenged ASUU to cite specific sections of the institution’s law that is flouted by the council’s action. It accused the union of telling lies about various issues in the past, saying the union had always been defeated with logical argument and facts of history.

The statement is reproduced below:

“The attention of the Registry has been drawn to the circular issued by Dr Dele Ashiru, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Lagos Branch, on 2nd May 2019. In the said release, the Union accused the Council of the University of tyranny because Council sought explanation of certain activities and expenditure in the university.

“The notice did not identify any specific laws or regulation of the university that was violated by the Council. The office of the Registrar would be glad to receive the specific law or rule of the university that was breached to enable us pass it to Council.

“It is noteworthy that on previous occasions within the tenure of this Council, ASUU has issued notices criticizing the Council for taking certain steps, and all these occasions ASUU was not right. For example, when ASUU issued a statement that the meeting between Council and the Senate was unprecedented in the history of our University. It turned out to be wrong because previous Councils under Chief Afe Babalola, SAN and Deacon Gamaliel Onosode had also had similar meetings with the Senate.

“Similarly, ASUU issued a statement condemning the non-confirmation of Prof. Olowokudejo as a Distinguished Professor as an unprecedented violation of the academic autonomy of the university. Again, the statement turned out to be very wrong as it is clearly provided in the University of Lagos Act 1967 that the Council is the approving authority for all honours to be conferred by the university.

“It is unbelievable that the same ASUU that approached/and appealed to the Pro-Chancellor to confirm Olowokudejo’s appointment as a Distinguished Professor outside plenary after Council had taken a decision to step down his appointment in plenary is now making a case that the Chairman of Council cannot act for Council outside plenary. A paramount cornerstone for proper learning is intellectual honesty and consistency.

“We urge ASUU to remember that the University of Lagos is a centre of learning where the pursuit of knowledge is very paramount. There is nothing worse than the tyranny of ignorance.”

Vice-Chancellor Queries Registrar

In a swift response and what looks like supremacy battle, the university Vice-Chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, has queried the authority of the registrar, to issue such a statement without his consent.

Mr Ogundipe, in his internal memo titled; “Re: The Need to Tell the Truth: Request for Explanation,” accused the registrar of usurping his power, and asked him to provide reasons behind his action.

According to the vice-chancellor, the communication unit of the institution’s corporate affairs directorate, through which the information was disseminated, is under the office of the vice-chancellor.

The statement reads in part; “In light of the foregoing, you are expected to explain the reason for the publication, bearing in mind Section 3 (1), 6 (1) of the University of Lagos Act (1961), as amended, which states inter alia- “There shall be a registrar, who shall be the administrative officer of the university and shall be responsible to the vice-chancellor for the day-to-day administrative work of the university…”

The VC also requested the registrar to provide approval for his released memo alongside his response to the query within the next 24 hours.

ASUU Fires Back At Council Chair, Registrar

In a scathing reply to the registrar’s statement, ASUU attacked both the council chairman and the registrar, describing them as liars.

ASUU said it had never attacked or condemned the council but that it would not allow an individual to usurp the power of the council.

The union’s statement is also reproduced below:

“The attention of our Union has been drawn to a most disparaging circular titled “The Need to Tell the Truth” signed by Oladejo Azeez, Esq. the University Registrar. Ordinarily, our Union would not have dignified the voice of the Pro-Chancellor in the handwriting of Oladejo Azeez Esq but for the barefaced lies and falsehood characteristic of the Pro-Chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin. For the avoidance of doubt, the said circular indicated that our Union did not identify any specific laws or regulations of the University that was violated by Council. The correct position is that our Union has no problem with the University Council and has never accused it of any wrongdoing. Our grouse is the crude usurpation of Council’s powers by the Pro-Chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin.

“The Registrar also claimed that “at previous occasions, ASUU claimed that the meeting between Council and the Senate was unprecedented in the history of our University”. The Registrar should be reminded that Council is not the same as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council. Our contention has always been that the Pro-Chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin cannot approximate the Council of the University of Lagos. Furthermore, the mere fact that an illegality has occurred in the past does not mean that it cannot be corrected when such is pointed out. All the fears expressed by this same Dr Ashiru as the said Senate meeting which the Pro-Chancellor shamelessly denied are now manifesting.

“For the avoidance of doubt, ASUU is not bothered about whether the stepping down of Professor Olowokudejo’s appointment was unprecedented. Our unequivocal position is that Council’s decision to step down Senate recommendation of Prof. Olowokudejo as a distinguished Professor is “obnoxious, draconian and vindictive”. It is shocking that the Pro-Chancellor and his puppet Oladejo Azeez Esq can assert that “it is unbelievable that the same ASUU that approached and appealed to the Pro-Chancellor to confirm Olowokudejo’s appointment as a Distinguished Professor outside plenary after Council has taken a decision….. a paramount cornerstone for proper learning is intellectual honesty and consistency”. This assertion of Oladejo Azeez begs for some questions; was Oladejo Azeez at the meeting where ASUU made this request? What were the circumstances surrounding ASUU’s appeal to the Leviathan and tyrannical Pro-Chancellor? What eventually happened to Professor Olowokudejo’s appointment? At which plenary meeting of Council was Prof, Olowokudejo’s appointment ratified? Our Union wishes to state categorically that we shall continue to stand against the Pro-Chancellor’s tyranny and recklessness.

“For the incompetent and willing inconsequential tool called Oladejo Azeez, who was smuggled into the office as lame duck Registrar and Secretary to the Pro-Chancellor, he should be reminded that there is a limit to sycophancy and flunkey bootlicking. Oladejo Azeez should get familiar with the function(s) of a seasoned University Registrar and stop deploying the paraphernalia of his esteemed office in the service of a brutish leviathan.”

Other Governing Council Members Keep Mum

PREMIUM TIMES’ Efforts to get the reaction of other members of the university’s governing council have been unsuccessful.

When our reporter called on phone the representative of the Federal Ministry of Education in the council, Anne Haruna, she declined to comment.

She said as a civil servant, she is not expected to speak to journalists.

“You know I report to the permanent secretary. So the permanent secretary is in the best position to talk to you,” she said.

In a similar development, another council member, Alli Hussein from Katsina State neither picked calls to his mobile line nor replied a text message sent to him as at the time of filing this report.

Meanwhile, on the part of another council member, who was identified simply as Soyombo, a professor, the matter is too sensitive to be discussed on phone.

He said; “You know I don’t know the identity of who am talking to. So I cannot speak to you on this matter except I see you physically. Thank you.”

When PREMIUM TIMES spoke to those who have received copies of their queries too, including the former registrar, former vice-chancellor, among others, they also declined comment. They said they would talk at a time they consider appropriate.

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