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SSANU faults Buhari on composition of special visitation panel at UNILAG

by OtownGist

THE Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, Monday faulted the composition of Special Visitation Panel on the University of Lagos Vice Chancellors crisis by the Visitor of the University, President Muhammadu Buhari.

President Buhari, who is the visitor of the University had directed the setting up of a special Visitation Panel and also ordered for a special Senate meeting.

But SSANU in a letter to the President, which was copied to the Minister of Education and the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, NUC, expressed worry about the composition of the Special Visitation Panel which is dominated by Professors who are members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, alleging that it was an indication that the decisions of the Panel would be tampered with by ASUU.

SSANU in the letter signed by its President, Comrade Samson Chijioke Ugwoke, argued that for the fact that some Professors in the panel are former Vice- Chancellors also meant that they would protect one of their own, the embattled Vice-Chancellor that was removed by Dr. Wale Babalakin.

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It therefore called for a fair and unbiased Panel, representative of all stakeholders in the University system which should include at least a retired Registrar, a retired Bursar, and a prominent individual with undoubted integrity, who should be a former Pro-Chancellor and not a Professor, as Chairman of the Panel.

It said with the present composition and membership of the Panel, the Federal Government may have unwittingly handed over the Panel to ASUU to return victory to its member and condemn all others.

SSANU called for a re-composition of the Panel to reflect neutrality, fairness and proper representation and not using ASUU to probe itself as the situation currently is, adding that the principle of natural justice is lost in the present composition of the Visitation Panel.

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While calling on a review of the Visitation Panel, it said, “The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) writes to observe the recent directive circulated through the media, dated 21st August 2020 and signed by the Director Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry of Education on the above subject matter.

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“While SSANU appreciates the prompt intervention of the Visitor in the ongoing crisis and the sincere efforts in nipping the crisis in the bud, the directives of the Visitor as contained in the Press Release have a further tendency to cause more crisis as issues bordering on due process and fair hearing have been trampled upon arising from the Visitor’s directives under reference.”

On the composition and membership of the Special Visitation Panel, SSANU said, “The crisis in the University of Lagos has the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as a major participant. Indeed, ASUU is the complainant in this matter.

The composition of the Special Visitation Panel with a preponderance of Professors (ASUU members) is an indication that the decisions of the Panel would be tampered with by ASUU. The fact that they are former Vice- Chancellors also implies the tendency to protect one of their own – an embattled Vice-Chancellor.

“It is our informed observation therefore, that a fair and unbiased Panel, representative of all stakeholders in the University system should have included at least a retired Registrar, a retired Bursar, and a prominent individual with undoubted integrity, who should be a former Pro-Chancellor and not a Professor, as Chairman of the Panel.

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With the present composition and membership of the Panel, the Federal Government may have unwittingly handed over the Panel to ASUU to return victory to its member and condemn all others.

“SSANU therefore calls for a re-composition of the Panel to reflect neutrality, fairness and proper representation and not using ASUU to probe itself as the situation currently is. The principle of natural justice is lost in the present composition of the Visitation Panel and it is totally condemned by SSANU.”

It said it appreciated the intention of the Visitor by directing the recusal of the Pro- Chancellor and Professor Toyin Ogundipe from official duties during the period of the Visitation as it was assumed that the directive on recusal was to enforce peace in the University pending the outcome of the Visitation.

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“SSANU however wishes to note that the Visitor may have inadvertently fallen into the ASUU position of seeing Dr. Babalakin as the problem of the University of Lagos. To the best of our knowledge, the decision to remove Professor Ogundipe was a decision of Council and not Babalakin.

It would have been fairer if the Visitor had directed the entire Council to recuse itself from official duties until the end of the Panel’s assignment than asking Babalakin alone to recuse himself. “We wish to therefore observe that this directive personalizes the decisions of Council to Dr. Babalakin which in itself does not do justice to the issues on ground,” it said.

The union also faulted the directive of the Visitor to the effect that the University of Lagos Senate should hold a Special meeting to elect an Acting Vice-Chancellor. It said, “In one breath, the Visitor directed the Visitation Panel to determine whether the process (if any) leading to the appointment of the Acting Vice-Chancellor for the University was consistent with the provisions of the enabling Act, while in another breath, directing that the Senate meets to nominate an acting Vice-Chancellor for confirmation by the Governing Council.

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“The implication of the above, is that the Visitor had already ruled that the appointment of an Acting Vice-Chancellor by the Council was illegal, hence, the need for Senate to convene to elect an Acting Vice-Chancellor.

“SSANU has reason to fear if the Visitor had not been compromised by some forces within the University system whose entrenched interests are already manifesting in the conflicting directives. From the above conflicting directives, it is only obvious that the Visitation Panel would only be working to the answer.

“An interesting dimension to the Visitors’ directive to convene a Senate meeting without a Vice-Chancellor in place is an aberration as the Registrar is not empowered by any law to summon Senate unilaterally. For the sake of emphasis, the Registrar is not a member of Senate but its Secretary.

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“It also needs telling that the supposed meeting of the Senate of the University of Lagos held on Thursday, 13th August, 2020 and presided over by one Professor Chioma K. Agomo is one of such aberrations that have crept into the University of Lagos saga, because apart from the meeting being called by a “removed” Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of Senate (albeit in contention), and in the absence of the Registrar and Secretary to Senate, the presiding officer (Professor Agomo) holds no statutory office (either as VC or DVC) that empowered her to preside over such meeting which sought to pass a vote of no confidence on the Council and calling for its immediate dissolution.

“As a corollary to the above, the recusal of the Pro-Chancellor implies that the confirmation of an Acting Vice-Chancellor nominated by the Senate by Council would be in the absence of the Pro-Chancellor. Who convenes a meeting of Council in this instance and is an office of Acting Pro-Chancellor existent in the laws?”

VANGUARD

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