The crisis rocking the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, has taken another dimension as the institution’s branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has threatened to bar the chairman of the governing council, Wale Babalakin, from gaining entrance into the campus.
The university’s registrar, Oladejo Azeez, had on July 7, sent out a memo notifying the university’s governing council members of a meeting scheduled to hold between July 15 and 17, as called by the council’s chairman.
In response to the memo, ASUU issued a statement on Friday, reiterating its opposition to the council chairman, protesting his decision to visit the university to hold a meeting.
According to the statement, which was signed by its chairman, Dele Ashiru, the union insisted that its vote of no confidence passed in the council chairman in March was still subsisting, indicating an intention to stampede the meeting.
The union’s statement which is entitled; “Pendency of the Vote of No Confidence On (sic) Dr Bolanle Olawale Babalakin,” reads in part; “The attention of our Union has been drawn to a surreptitious Council meeting summoned by Dr Bolanle Olawale Babalakin.
“Our Union wishes to remind members of the university community and the general public that the vote of no confidence passed on (sic) Dr Wale Babalakin and his persona non grata status on account of the unfortunate cancellation of the university’s convocation ceremonies occasioned by him has not been vacated by the congress of our great union.
“Consequently, Dr Wale Babalakin should be advised to rethink his intention of entering the University of Lagos campus as his presence may rupture the long cherished peace and tranquility on our campus.”
The union calls on the education minister, Adamu Adamu, and the executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Abubakar Rasheed, to intervene.
In furtherance of its threat, the union said it has fixed an emergency congress meeting for the same day scheduled for the first day of the three-day council meeting, and that the meeting is billed to be held in the basement of the governing council chamber of the university.
Council chair reacts
Meanwhile, in his reaction to the threat, Mr Babalakin faulted the union’s position, saying freedom of movement is a fundamental human right that cannot be tampered with under the country’s Constitution.
A statement issued on Sunday, on the instruction of Mr Babalakin, which was titled; “Re: Threat by ASUU to disrupt the Governing Council Meeting,” the registrar urged the public to note that the Council was the first to issue a notice of meeting. This indicated that the ASUU’s notice of congress was an afterthought and a deliberate attempt to cause confusion.
The statement reads further; “This Council Meeting, apart from being statutory was also requisitioned by the vice chancellor of the university…The time and topic by ASUU for their congress clearly indicate its plan to disrupt the council meeting, especially since it has issued several threats to prevent the Pro Chancellor from coming to the University.
“This action is violently against the provision of Section 41, subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) ( Fourth Alteration), which guarantees freedom of movement of Nigerians within Nigeria. ASUU as a trade union under the laws of Nigeria is also expected to know that Section 4 of the Trade Union Act states that “No person shall subject any other person to any form of constraint or restriction in the course of persuasion.” Obviously, ASUU, University of Lagos Chapter has shown clearly that it is a group that does not adhere to the Constitution of Nigeria or the Trade Union law which it is a part of.”
The chairman said his Council will not engage the union “on issues that are beyond its duties, powers and responsibilities under the laws of Nigeria.”
A member of the union and former member of the National Electoral Commission, Lai Olurode, has criticised the position of the union on the development, saying the decision does not represent the interest of all lecturers.
Mr Olurode, in a statement shared to the public on Sunday, and titled; “Threats as Danger to Academic Freedom, described the threat as “ultra vires, provocative, illogical, anti-academic and an assault on freedom of movements and thoughts.”
He said regardless of whatever the Council chair may have done to the union, “Wale Babalakin is a free citizen of Nigeria whose freedom of movement can only be restricted or frozen with due process.”
He wrote; “It is possible that in the cause of performing his job as Chairman of Council, he had stepped on toes or that the Council which he heads had taken unpalatable decisions which ASUU or University’s Management are uncomfortable with, this cannot suffice to justify the issuance of threat by anybody. It is simply childish, an aberration and reckless.
“Universities are expected to triumph on logic and freedom of discussion. Of course, a typical university setting with its diversity must generate conflicts but, it simultaneously has inbuilt mechanisms for their resolution other than through brawls, spear and arrow. A Governing Council is an indispensable organ of a university system in Nigeria. It is a mechanism for maintaining checks and balances and abuse of power within the system.
“Academics and administrative organs have different roles to play. No organ should pose a threat to the proper functioning of the other. The set-up is meant to promote democratic governance of the university complex system and ensure equitable distribution of scarce resources available within the system. Conflicts are normal in simple and more so in complex settings.”
The professor of Sociology appealed to the union to toe the path of peace and seek ways to create consensus in resolving whatever differences among the administrative organs in the university.
Issues over the Council meeting
An aide of the vice-chancellor, who does not want to be named, has criticised the manner for the call for the governing council’s meeting, saying it is illogical for the registrar to issue notice without the consent of the vice-chancellor.
According to the source, the vice-chancellor was asked to submit whatever he thinks should be part of the agenda to the meeting within two days.
“If you claim the vice-chancellor called for the meeting, how come you are giving him two days to submit an agenda to the meeting? How could you send a notice to the vice-chancellor, your accounting officer, without indicating the venue of the meeting? How do they plan to host a physical meeting amidst the coronavirus pandemic? No one ever discussed such matters with him. Till date, the 2020 budget of the university has not been approved,” the source said.