• Monday, June 17, 2024
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UNILAG VC’s removal: Intrigues, controversy threaten varsity’s stability

University of Lagos

University of Lagos which prides itself as the University of First Choice and nations’ pride is embroiled in a serious crisis that is threatening its stability. The crisis reached its peak last Wednesday with the sack of Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as the vice chancellor over alleged misappropriation of funds and gross misconduct.

The institution had announced Ogundipe’s sack during a meeting of the Governing Council of the University held Wednesday at the headquarters of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Abuja.

Genesis of the impasse between Wale Babalakin and Ogundipe

BDSUNDAY findings revealed that the frosty relationship between Wale Babalakin, chairman of the University Governing Council, started after the council issued a query in May 2019 to Ogundipe, the university vice chancellor and two of his three deputies, Folashade Ogunsola and Oluwole Familoni.

The investigative committee set up by the council to audit the university’s expenditure in about 18 months, also indicted Rahamon Bello, former vice chancellor of the university; Taiwo Ipaye, former Registrar; Lateef Odekunle, and Lekan Lawal ex-Bursar and his successor respectively; Duro Oni, former -Deputy Vice-Chancellor; Niyi Ayeye and Adelere Adeniran, former directors of works,

The query followed the report of a committee led by Saminu Dagari, a lecturer of Chemistry at Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, which audited the UNILAG’s expenditure between May 2017 and September 2018.

The panel comprised Yomi Kasali, Dora Osoata, Adepeju Adefowope, Daniel Asigwuike, Gbenga Adefarakan, Adebayo Olaleye, Adeoluwa Folami and Oladejo Azeez (UNILAG Registrar/Governing Council Secretary) who was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“There was consistent, brazen, manifest and gross mismanagement of university finances by past and current management,” it read in part.

The committee said it discovered contracts were awarded without recourse to due process, payment without valid contracts and approvals, contract over-payment, contract splitting by vice-chancellors and tenders board, over-budgetary spending, frequent official travels and expenditure without due approval by the governing council.

The report accused the university’s internal audit units of gross lapses, dismal failure, and abuse of the institution’s internal control mechanisms.

The committee recommended a monthly or quarterly approval limit for all approving authorities; reorganisation of expenditure control and internal audit units, and that process of revenue and expenditure should be automated for transparency.

It advised the council to sanction those indicted of financial mismanagement and that contractors engaged in janitorial and maintenance services should be paid outstanding monies and disengaged.

What stakeholders are saying

The Federal Ministry of Education in its reaction through its spokesperson, Ben Goong, said the ministry had not been briefed on the removal of Vice-Chancellor.

Goong however, said that the council has the power to hire and fire a Vice-Chancellor. The statement also insisted that due process must be followed in doing so.

The statement read 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 Vice chancellor.

“While the ministry awaits 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.”

On their part, four labour Unions of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) have condemned the removal of the Vice-Chancellor, describing it as unjust and illegal.

This is contained in a statement jointly issued at the end of a joint meeting of the four staff unions, last Thursday in Lagos.

The four unions are the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Senior Staff Union of Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologies (NATTS).

The chairmen, who signed the resolution, include Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dele Ashiru, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria

ASUU-UNILAG Chairman, Dele Ashiru, also said, “We condemn in its totality the purported removal of our Vice Chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe. We affirm our absolute confidence in the leadership of Toyin Ogundipe as the Vice Chancellor of UNILAG.”

What the University act says

The University of Lagos Act 1962, stipulates a 14-member Governing Council to comprise the Pro-Chancellor, Chancellor, the vice Chancellor, the two Deputy Vice-Chancellors, a representative of the Ministry of Education, one person representing a variety of interests.

Others are four persons appointed by the Senate of the University, two persons appointed by the Congregation and one person appointed by Convocation.

It states that the Vice-Chancellor and other principal officers of the school can be appointed or removed from office. Article 17 under the Constitution and functions of the University and its constituents bodies, listed how the Pro-Chancellor and certain members of the Council can be removed from office.

“If it appears to the Council that a member of the Council (other than an ex-officio member) should be removed from office on the grounds of misconduct or inability to perform the functions of his office, the Council shall make a recommendation to that effect through the Chancellor to the Visitor and if the Visitor, after making such enquires (if any) as he considers appropriate, approves the recommendation, he may, by any instrument on writing signed by him, remove the person in question from office.”

Also, the First Schedule 4 (8) of the Act states,” The Vice-Chancellor may be removed from office by the Visitor after due consultation with the Council and the Senate acting through the Minister of Education.”

The NAAT Chairman, Sulyman Lawal; NASU Chairman, Ajibade Kehinde and SSANU Chairman, Olusola Sowunmi, also voiced their disapproval of the removal of the VC.

Sources from the university, while reacting to the decision, 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.

Babalakin fires back

Wale Babalakin, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council, University of Lagos says the governing council of the University decision to remove Ogundipe as vice chancellor was in the interest of the students and the financial integrity of the institution.

Babalakin stated that Ogundipe during his tenure as vice chancellor had several acts of wrong doing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of office.

Speaking to journalists at the Muritala Mohammed Airport Lagos on Friday, Babalakin said Ogundipe spent the sum of N49 million to renovate the official residence of the vice chancellor without the approval of council.

He further stated that Ogundipe without council approval also permitted the renovation of the current residence of the Bursar to the tune of N41 million.

The pro-chancellor stated that there was clear evidence of consistent, brazen, manifest and gross mismanagement of university finances by the current management led by Ogundipe.

Commenting on the alleged crisis in the university, Babalakin said there was nothing of such, adding that what the public is seeing is the agitation of a vocal minority who are benefiting from the corruption in the university system.

According to him, the vice chancellor was sacked for directly looting the funds of the University and that he had been indicted for forging documents.

Reactions from embattled Ogundipe

The embattled Ogundipe, last Thursday led a protest against his removal by the governing council of the school.

Ogundipe, who addressed the union members, said: “I remain dedicated to UNILAG. We are all builders and have all invested so much to this great university. I have been here for 30 years in different capacities. Let’s wait for the directives from the government. I remain a functional member of the union; we are enjoying peace here, let’s remain peaceful.”

BDSUNDAY learnt that Ogundipe has engaged a prominent Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome to file a suit to challenge his removal from office.

His letter of instruction dated August 12, 2020, and addressed to Ozekhome, was seen by our correspondent on Thursday.

Ogundipe stated in the letter that the act was without due process and contrary to the university’s Act.

His instruction to Ozekhome on his official letterhead reads in part, “I hereby formally brief you to institute legal proceedings against the council, pro-chancellor of the University of Lagos, and others based on their illegal and unconstitutional act of purportedly removing me from office as the vice chancellor of the University of Lagos.

The Visitor to the university is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Background to the cat and mouse game between Ogundipe and Babalakin blew open last February when Babalakin petitioned the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, accusing the Vice Chancellor of running a one-man show in the preparations for the convocation ceremonies of the school.

Meanwhile, less than 24 hours after the governing council of the University announced the removal of Ogundipe as the vice-chancellor of the institution, the council named a replacement, Theophilus Omololu Soyombo as acting vice-chancellor of the institution.