Kofoworola Belo-Osagie and Sampson Unamka
THERE was heavy presence of security operatives on Monday around the Vice Chancellor’s Office on the 11th Floor of the Senate Building, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Lagos mainland.
Neither the ‘ousted’ Vice Chancellor, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, nor the ‘acting’ Vice Chancellor, Prof Theophilus Omololu Soyombo, was at work. Both are laying claims to the position.
Since Ogundipe’s removal was announced last Wednesday, he has challenged the decision by the institution’s Governing Council, claiming he was still Vice-Chancellor.
Soyombo, a Consultant Sociologist from the Faculty of Social Sciences, told The Nation last Friday that he had accepted the position and resumed office.
However, the office was still unoccupied yesterday. When The Nation visited, the campus was quiet – though there were two police vans stationed at the campus gate and patrolling the Senate building and the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Visitors to both the Senate Building and the Faculty of Social Sciences were subjected to extra questioning before being allowed or declined entry.
When reporters learnt Soyombo was not in the Senate building, he was traced to his Sociology Department, the Faculty of Social Sciences. However, no one was allowed to see him. He was said to be in a meeting.
One Mr. Odetola Philips, who claimed to be his Personal Assistant, told reporters the Ag. vice chancellor would address a news conference tomorrow.
“He is in a meeting. He will address journalists on Wednesday,” he said.
The workers’ unions – Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and the Non- Academic Staff Union (NASU), however, are adamant that due process was not followed in Ogundipe’s removal and have not accepted the appointment of an Ag. Vice Chancellor, which they said did not also follow due process.
ASUU Chairman Dr. Dele Ashiru said the Federal Government needs to step in to correct the anomalies.
He said: “The position of our congress is that the procedures for the removal of the vice chancellor and indeed the appointment of an acting vice chancellor have not been obeyed.
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“To that extent, it becomes difficult for us to come to terms and accept that term acting vice chancellor. Until the visitor to the university through the honourable minister of education makes a pronouncement on this matter, the status quo remains.
“The power of the governing council to make any pronouncement is vested in this same law that is being trampled upon, and to that extent it does not have the legitimacy and indeed the legality to confer on any individual on this campus that title acting vice chancellor. And that is the position of Senate.”
NASU Chairman, Comrade Kehinde Ajibade, said his members directed him not to comment on the issue. “Some of my members supported the decision and some kicked against it. We are going to review our position on the issue,” he said.
Last Thursday, the University Senate met to reject Ogundipe’s removal and call for the dissolution of the Governing Council.
The four unions also held a joint congress followed by a rally declaring support for Ogundipe’s leadership. However, while the unions leaders where on the first floor of the Council Chambers, two NASU members insisted that their chairman come down to meet them. “We don’t want him there,” said one. The chairman however refused to meet with them.
When The Nation approached one of the men, he declined comments saying, “I don’t want anything to do with the media.”
After the rally, leaders of the four unions addressed a press conference at the ASUU secretariat. The conference was however delayed because the NASU Chairman was not seated. He later joined in and spoke against Ogundipe’s removal.
SSANU Chairman, Mr. Shola Sowunmi, said the union was not against removal as much as against the process setting a wrong precedence.
“We are not even saying they should not remove the vice chancellor; but the due process must be followed. What we are saying is that anything we do in UNILAG becomes precedence and will happen elsewhere. We don’t want illegality but we don’t want this to set precedence. It can be one of us tomorrow,” he said.