The lingering face-off between the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Toyin Ogundipe and the Chairman, Governing Council of the institution, Dr. Wale Babalakin, SAN, came to a head, yesterday, as the Council announced the sack of the VC after a meeting held in Abuja.
But Ogundipe, in a counter-statement, dismissed the council’s statement of his removal insisting that he remains the VC.
It was gathered that 12 members of the Council were present at the meeting and seven voted for the VC’s removal, four voted against, while one voted that he be placed on suspension.
The University of Lagos Act 1962, stipulates a 14-member Governing Council to comprise the Pro-Chancellor, Chancellor, the VC, 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.
The Council, in a statement by the Registrar/Secretary to the Council, Oladejo Azeez, said Ogundipe was removed from office based on alleged wrongdoing.
The statement, titled: ‘Notice to the general public on the removal of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos’, reads: “The general public is hereby notified that at an emergency meeting held on Wednesday, 12th August 2020 and by the statutory powers vested in it by law, the Governing Council of the University of Lagos removed Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS, from office as the Vice-Chancellor of the university with immediate effect.
“The decision was based on the Council’s investigations of serious acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of office against Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe.”
But in a swift reaction, the embattled VC described the announcement as mischievous and a figment of the imagination of the council.
Ogundipe 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, the University of Lagos’ dated August 12, 2020, and signed by Oladejo Azeez, Esq, Registrar and Secretary to Council, stating that the current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, has been removed from office with immediate effect.
“This is untrue and a figment of his imagination. Therefore, stakeholders of UNILAG and the general public are advised to disregard this mischievous disinformation about the sitting Vice-Chancellor of UNILAG, contained in that notice. Professor Ogundipe remains Unilag’s Vice-Chancellor.”
But a representative of the Senate in the Governing Council, Prof. Bola Oboh alleged foul play in the manner the Council removed the VC from office.
Oboh said: “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 the office is clear and this was pointed out to Babalakin several times but he turned deaf ears. He said he will announce the acting Vice-Chancellor at 5 pm. I have excused myself that I need to report to Senate members the shameful act currently ongoing. Please let us arise to fight this.”
Reacting to the development, Chairman, UNILAG chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Dr Dele Ashiru, said the Council lacked such powers.
Ashiru said: “We are following the development. We are aware that the Council relocated to Abuja to meet. The Council does not have the constitutional powers to sack the Vice-Chancellor. We will react appropriately when things become clear.”
The cat and mouse game between Ogundipe and Babalakin blew open last February when Babalakin petitioned the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, accusing the VC of running a one-man show in the preparations for the convocation ceremonies of the school.
The minister subsequently ordered the National Universities Commission, NUC, to ask the VC to suspend the graduation ceremony.
The UNILAG ASUU faulted Babalakin’s action and declared him an unwanted visitor on campus at a Congress it held.
Last June, the Council attempted to hold a meeting on campus but had to cancel it because ASUU also fixed a Congress for the same venue.
However, four senior professors in the school, including Prof. Lai Olurode, decried the stance of ASUU, saying the Council ought to be allowed to sit on campus.
But ASUU said it was only a duly held Congress that could change the tag of unwanted visitor put on Babalakin and that that had not happened.
It was because of the inability to hold its meetings in Lagos that prompted the Council to relocate to Abuja.
Though the National President of ASUU, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said the national leadership of the union was wading into the matter, Wednesday’s development was an indication that such has not yielded result
Meanwhile, the Federal Government said it was awaiting a formal communication from the Government Board of the institution on the reported sack of its Vice Chancellor.
In a statement, the Federal Ministry of Education said it had not been formally briefed on the reported removal of Prof Ogundipe from office by Governing Council of the university.
The ministry’s Director of Press, Ben Goong, said: “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 VC.
“While the Ministry awaits for 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.”
However, the University of Lagos Act 1962 states how 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, states 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 Visitor to the university is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.