By Emmanuel Edukugho
THERE is no hiding place anymore for the embattled Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU) Professor Lateef Akanni Hussain whose fate now hangs in the balance as academic, non-academic unions and students are pushing for his removal over sundry allegations which included maladministration, financial and academic frauds, obstinacy and arrogance among others.
Last Thursday, there was a public hearing convened by the Lagos State House of Assembly on the crisis which has pitched the university community against the Vice Chancellor, prolonging indefinitely the labour unrest even when the National Unions of ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT have ended their strike actions and work resumed in all other universities in the country.
LASU branch chairman, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) Funmi Sessi in her presentation, made serious allegations against Professor Hussain relating to fraud, contract inflation, discrimination, victimiastion, irregular appointments, intimidation and harassment. As a result, the union passed a vote of no confidence in him.
Chairman of the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), LASU chapter, Mr. Yakub Jubril, accused the VC of undermining the integrity of LASU certificates by making derogatory remarks on the certificate issued by the institution and also that Professor Hussain was saying lecturers were selling marks and the certificate not worth it.
Dr. Kabir Olusegun Akinyemi chairman ASUU-LASU, accused the VC at the hearing, of victimisation, deenying staff access to grants for scholarship, termination of appointments and denial of promotion to deserving staff. He called for an independent panel to look at the issues involved while the VC should step aside.
Mr. Adegoroye Titilope of the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT)Â accused the VC of over centralisation of power, saying the union had been marginlaised.
President, Lagos State University Studentsâ€™ Union (LASUSU), Leke Bakare said the VC was anti-union, withholding monies due to the union and did not have interest of students at heart.
Professor Hussain apparently came to his own defense in his response to all the allegations, saying he stepped on toes because his administration introduced reform measures which in the cause of their implementation might have hurt some people.
He stated that his management was not a â€œone-man-showâ€, but a committee system which followed due process in administering the university.
Former Vice Chancellor of LASU, Prof. Abisogun Leigh from whom Hussain took over in 2005, did not take sides, noted however that a University should not be a garrison but a place where opinions must contend, allowing the best to prevail.
At the end of the hearing, the House of Assembly advised the aggrieved parties for calm and peace until the matter is finally resolved.
On Monday, before the public hearing, a special congress of all the academic and non-teaching staff unions was held to re-assert their determination to continue with the strike as far as Professor Hussain remained the vice chancellor.
SSANU-LASU chairman, Agnes Funmi Sessi, told Vanguard Education Weekly; â€œWeâ€™re demanding for removal of the vice chancellor for peace to reign in LASU, as weâ€™re tired of his maladministration.â€
She explained that a joint memorandum of SSANU-LASU and NASU-LASU on the maladministration of the vice chancellor as well as his personality since his assumption of duty on October 10, 2005 was submitted to the Governing Council of the University hoping it will be considered dispassionately and critically. After about two weeks, the unions were invited to Alausa, Ikeja last Friday.
â€œBefore then, we sent first members of the governing council representing the congregation to go, in order for the vice chancellor to have a soft landing. But they met with resistance. Then they called chairman of council who is the pro-chancellor, Mr. Akin Kekere-Ekun to do something about our demand but to no avail.â€
She said that the chancellor, Chief (Sir) Molade Okoya-Thomas was also reached in efforts to provide soft landing for the vice chancellor to exit honourably.Congress met on Thursday 15th October, 2009 and decided that all the people go to Ikeja on Friday when the chancellor came and address them.
While appealing for calm, Okoya-Thomas promised to intervene and assured the feuding unions of â€œpositive response.â€â€œWe told him that any attempt to close down LASU because of the management, will be rebuffed. That if one staff is sacked, then you sack all, injury to one, is injury to all. We stand for truth.â€
Also speaking, NASU-LASU chairman, Mr. Yakub Jubril said: â€œOur main demand is that the vice chancellor should go. There cannot be peace in LASU while the vice chancellor is still occupying the post.â€
President of Lagos State University Students Union (LASUSU) Mr. Leke Bakare had declared thus:
â€œIt is true, a leader should be firm, but when firmness tended towards madness, itâ€™s something else. The case of Professor Hussain is not firmness, but rather…â€
Another senior staff described the Vice Chancellor as â€œa man who abhors due process, and hate with a passion, the rule of lawâ€ adding, â€œbut rather, tenaciously subscribe to the rule of one as typicalised by his eccentricities.â€
According to the SSANU member, the vice chancellor should be honourable enough to go.â€œWe donâ€™t want him. He should go back to Universityof Ibadan where he was a Dean and could not finish his tenure.â€
It was alleged that since coming to LASU, examinations have been imperilled, student unionism killed, no union leader has graduated, union does are not released until two months to the time that the student leaders are to leave office.
In the memo to the Governing council, it was stated:
â€œOur agitations started initially for fair deal, improved conditions of service, welfare package and good working relationship with the management, especially with Mr. Vice Chancellor. In the beginning we thought we should not wash all our dirty linen in the public but because of the magnitude and bundle of lies told to the public and government by the Vice-Chancellor in order to gain their sympathy and favour we shall do so now. This is very necessary so that some of the misgivings on the issues at stake in certain quarters can be corrected and our positions/demands will be better appreciated.â€
The unions said that Professor Lateef Akanni Hussain since assumption of duty on October 10, 2005, commenced the imposition of an oppressive, tyrannical, vindictive, rigid, obnoxious and hidden agenda of self aggrandisement and self-assertive style of governance in complete contrast to his well publicised deceitful â€œVision For LASUâ€, Lateef Akanni Hussain -Â July, 2005.
They alleged that in contrast to the positive perception held about Prof. Hussain due to his vision of a modern, well managed and efficiently administered university which places premium on academic excellence and moral integrity where students and staff shall have fulfilling careers, he has turned LASU to his â€œpersonal estate/business and a slave-enclave.â€
According to the memo/position papers, his running of the University can be likened to that contained/obtained in the widely readÂ literature text-Animal Farm by George Orwell.â€œSome of these revelations may look or seem shocking, unbelievable and impossible, but they actually happened in an Ivory Tower. They are nothing but real life situations with living witnesses and documents.â€
Some of the alleged atrocities and irregularities committed by the Vice-Chancellor and members of the management team were categorised under five groups.
Group A- Financial Frauds:
Over invoicing, contract inflation and others, Blatant Disregard to the Universityâ€™s internal control Mechanism/Due process.
Group B – Academic Frauds
Group C – Discriminatory and irregular appointments
Group D – Victimisation, Intimidation and Harassment of staff and union leaders.
Group E – Blatant Display of Arrogance, Obstinacy and Attitudinal problem of the Vice-Chancellor.
The 77-page document contained several listed releases which were so â€œscandalous, inciting, provocative, contradictory, inconsistent and misleadingâ€ including the supposedly decisions of the Vice-Chancellor and his management team.
Attempts to get the reaction of Professor Hussain were futile as his office in LASU was securely locked. All the principal officers including the Vice-Chancellor seemed to have abandoned their offices in the last three months. In fact, no management staff is on the ground at LASU.
It was reliably gathered that the Vice-Chancellor has not been coming to work.
The last time he came to the University, a police armoured tank had to be stationed at the main gate. There was an unmarked car for him to escape with several outlets available.
As noted by Sessi, â€œthe Vice-Chancellor, Registrar, Bursar, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Librarian have all abandoned their offices on campus, because they are not popular with the people, having corruptly enriched themselves.â€