The Federal Government has explained that overbearing posture was responsible for the removal of the Pro-Chancellor/Chairman, Governing Council of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Dr Olawale Babalakin, SAN.
It also maintained that Babalakin was not exonerated of any wrongdoing by the General Martin Luther Agwai-led Regular Visitation Panel to the university.
The Director, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Education, Bem Goong, who explained in a statement, insisted that the former Pro-Chancellor remained indicted and removed from office.
The statement reads: “The Senior Advocate of Nigeria had accepted his guilt by resigning hours before the release of the White Paper that came out of the Special Presidential Visitation Panel, adding that the hostility towards the Permanent Secretary for doing his job is unnecessary and unjustifiable.
“After weeks of media hostilities over another contrived crisis in the University of Lagos, the Federal Government has maintained that the embattled former Pro-Chancellor/Chairman of the Governing Council of that University, Dr Olawale Babalakin, SAN, was not exonerated by the General Martin Luther Agwai-led Regular Visitation Panel to the university.
“Following his indictment for breach of due process and flagrant disregard for the university laws in the aborted removal of the Vice-Chancellor and the unilateral appointment of an Acting Vice-Chancellor, the Special Presidential Visitation Panel and the White Paper, thereof, recommended and approved, respectively, his removal from office and the dissolution of the Governing Council.”
While condemning the campaign of calumny as a desperate attempt to distract and slow down the rising profile of the university, Goong said facts on the ground spoke to the contrary.
Asked to clarify whether the second (Regular) Visitation Panel exonerated Babalakin from the indictment of the Special Visitation Panel, Goong said: “It is embarrassing for a lawyer of Babalakin’s standing, a SAN for that matter, to say that a Regular Visitation Panel has exonerated him from the indictment of an earlier visitation panel on three grounds.
“First, the Regular Visitation Panel was not, is not, and cannot be an appellate body for the Special Visitation Panel.
“Administratively, the government’s decisions on the recommendations of the panel as captured in the White Paper of the Special Visitation Panel brought closure to the sad episode.
“The issues for determination before the two panels are completely different, thus the special visitation panel was to determine whether due process was followed in the removal of the Vice-Chancellor or not.
“The verdict was clear; due process was not followed. The panel had this to say about the appointment of an Acting Vice-Chancellor;
“It is abundantly clear from the provisions of the law that Council has no powers to unilaterally appoint the Acting Vice-Chancellor without the input of Senate as it did in the meeting of August 12, 2020.
“The process adopted by the Council in the appointment of Prof. Omololu Soyombo as Acting Vice-Chancellor of the university was inconsistent with the clear and unassailable provisions of the law relating to the appointment of an Acting Vice-Chancellor.
“Similarly, it was established that Professor Ogundipe was not allowed to defend himself as provided in the laws of the university.
“Thirdly, on Babalakin’s self-declared ‘exoneration’ by the Regular Presidential Visitation Panel, it is the most ridiculous proclamation in the circumstance.
“More disturbing is the claim of obtaining from the Ministry, a non-existent report or at best a forged one with no relationship whatsoever with the authentic one and promoting same in the media, knowing that it is fake and the truth will eventually come to light.
“The report of the Regular Visitation Panel has just been submitted to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.
“The next stage is to set up a White Paper Committee which will review the report and make recommendations to the government.
‘’Running ahead of the White Paper to undermine its integrity smacks of a vendetta against the government over his self-inflicted woes.
‘’As it stands, neither the Vice-Chancellor nor anyone for that matter can be said to be indicted or exonerated by the Regular Visitation Panel (General Martin Agwai- led panel) until a White Paper is released.
“The only relationship between the two Visitation Panels (Special and Regular) is that following additional allegations against the Vice-Chancellor by the Pro-Chancellor after the purported removal, the White Paper directed that “Having found that the Vice-Chancellor was removed based on the Dagari Committee’s Report which did not accord fair hearing to the Vice-Chancellor, the Panel recommends that the Vice-Chancellor be reinstated to continue with his tenure.
“Government’s decision; Government accepts this recommendation and directs that all allegations against the Vice-Chancellor and Management of the University be referred to the regular Visitation Panel for investigation and necessary recommendations.”
The general public and especially the former Pro-Chancellor is advised to wait for the White Paper Committee (which is yet to be set up) on the Regular Visitation Panel report to come out with its recommendations, and Government takes its decisions, before laying claims to vindication (if applicable) and not exoneration.
“To do so before then amounts to jumping the gun.
“There are 88 Reports for universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, why all the noise about only one institution?
“We also notice some desperation following the Permanent Secretary’s only intervention in the matter.
“To fabricate stories about different versions of positions and publishing same to deceive unsuspecting readers is vile and wicked. Facts are sacred and the clarification was captured on tape.
“They should produce evidence of their multiple claims (when and to whom?). The Ministry will remain focused and not respond to this matter again.
“This is our last line on an odious era. We wish the new Governing Council success in steering the affairs of the university.”