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UNILAG VC rejects removal by council

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By Kofoworola Belo-Osagie, Frank Ikpefan and Tajudeen Adebanjo

Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe on Wednesday rejected his sack by the institution’s Governing Council.

The Council announced Ogundipe’s removal after a meeting yesterday at the Abuja headquarters of National Universities Commission (NUC).

Prof. Ogundipe said his removal did not follow due process as enshrined in the University’s Act.

The Federal Government said it had not been notified, but affirmed that the Council has the power to hire and fire as long as the due process is followed.

Members of the Senate on the Council said Wednesday’s decision did not follow the due process.

The local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) condemned Ogundipe’s sack and summoned an emergency congress for today at the varsity campus in Akoka.

Condemning Ogundipe’s sack in a statement, the Chairman, ASUU-UNILAG, Dr. Dele Ashiru, said the removal was illegal as it was against Section 17 of the University of Lagos Act.

The statement reads: “Our union condemns in the strongest terms this illegal reckless and destructive action by the pro-chancellor Dr. Wale Babalakin.

“Our Union affirms its confidence in the leadership of Prof. Toyin Ogundipe as the vice chancellor of a great University.”

A statement by the Ministry of Education’s spokesman, Ben Goong said: “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 VC.

“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.”

How VC was removed in Abuja

Wednesday’s Council’s meeting, initially scheduled to hold between July 15 and 17 was moved to Abuja by Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council, Dr. Babalakin.

He moved the venue, following a warning by the UNILAG ASUU chapter that he should not visit the campus having been declared persona non grata because of his role in the suspension of the university’s 51st Convocation in March.

The Nation learnt six members of the 10-member Council voted for the VC’s removal at Wednesday’s meeting.

The Provost, College of Medicine UNILAG, Prof Afolabi Lesi; President, UNILAG Alumni Association, Dr. John Momoh and two representatives of the Senate on the Council, Prof. Bola Oboh and Prof. Olukemi Odukoya, kicked against the VC’s sack.

Two posts, credited to Prof. Oboh and Prof. Odukoya, which claimed that Ogundipe was not allowed to defend himself, were circulated on various social media groups of the UNILAG community.

They urged the Senate to resist the removal, which they insisted did not follow due process.

The post by Odukoya, a professor of Pharmacy, reads: “Dear Senate members, It is with great regret that I announce to you that the Pro-Chancellor has had his way in actualising his machinery to remove the vice chancellor.

At today’s (12th August 2020), emergency meeting of Council in Abuja, Dr. Babalakin asked the VC and DVC (DS) to leave the meeting and by vote of six to four, announced that the Vice Chancellor has been removed.  Members, arise, this is unacceptable. We must defend the management of the university.”

The post by Prof. Oboh reads: “Dear Senate members, the University of Lagos regulation has been stepped on and ridiculed. Babawale Babalakin, the Pro-Chancellor waited for the tenure of Prof. Chukwu and Prof. Familoni to end, to call an emergency Council meeting.

“Based on the Dagari report, without allowing the VC to defend himself, the Pro-Chancellor called for a vote for the removal of the VC. I (Prof. Oboh), Prof. Odukoya, Prof. Leshi and John Momoh voted against the removal of the VC. Six persons (excluding Babalakin) voted for. Babalakin then went ahead to announce the removal of the VC.

“Dear Senate members, the procedure for removal of persons in office is clear and this was pointed out to Babalakin several times but he turned the deaf ears. He said he will announce the Ag. Vice Chancellor at 5pm. I have excused myself that I need to report to Senate members the shameful act currently ongoing. Please let us arise to fight this.”

Council’s position

The Council said Ogundipe was removed for misconduct and financial recklessness among others.

A statement by the Registrar and Secretary to Council, Mr. Oladejo Azeez, titled: “Notice to the General Public on the removal of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos”, noted: “The general public is hereby notified that at an emergency meeting held on Wednesday 12 August 2020 and in accordance with the statutory power vested in it by law, the Governing Council of the University of Lagos removed Prof. Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS from office as Vice Chancellor of the University with immediate effect.

“The decision was based on the Council’s investigation of serious acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness, and abuse of office against Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe.”

Ogundipe fights back

Ogundipe signed a statement issued by the “UNILAG Management” affirming that he remained Vice-Chancellor as his purported removal did not follow the due process.

He said: “The attention of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Management has been drawn to the ‘Notice to the General Public on the Removal of the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos’ dated August 12, 2020 and signed by Oladejo Azeez, Esq, Registrar and Secretary to Council, stating that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS has been removed from office with immediate effect.

“The purported removal is an illegality and cannot stand as it is in clear violation of the University of Lagos Act as amended. Assuming without conceding, that the purported removal is true, the extant provisions of the law have not been complied with.  For the avoidance of doubt the University Act states that:

“If it appears to the Council that there are reasons for believing that the vice chancellor…should be removed from his office… on the grounds of misconduct or inability to perform the functions of his office… the Council shall –

(a) Give notice of those reasons to the person in question;

(b) Make arrangements – for a joint Committee of council and the Senate to investigate the matter where it relates to the vice-chancellor… and to report on it to the council;

“Therefore, members of the University of Lagos community and the general public are advised to disregard the information about the sitting Vice-Chancellor of the University contained in the notice. Professor Oluwatoyin Temitope Ogundipe remains the Vice-Chancellor of University of Lagos.”

The Babalakin/Ogundipe rift

Ogundipe’s removal may not come as a surprise. To many, there is no love lost between the embattled vice chancellor and the pro-chancellor. The feud between Babalakin and Ogundipe has created camps devoted to the two of them – up to the administrative level.

It is believed that the Registrar, Mr. Oladejo Azeez, and the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Management Services, Prof. Ben Oghojafor are loyal to Babalakin. The others have pitched tent with Ogundipe. The membership of the Council is also split into camps.

The quarrels led to the intervention of the Education Ministry and the House of Representatives Committee on Education last year.

The House Committee on Public Procurement visited the university to investigate the collapse of the formwork of a library under construction, which the Council had previously questioned how the contract was awarded.

It cleared the vice chancellor of wrongdoing and permitted the contractor to continue with the construction.

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