May 12, 2015

Intrigues prolong LASU crisis

Varsity to remain closed until…— LASG
Open LASU now or…— Students, staff unions

By Ikenna Asomba

It is not yet the best of time for the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, as there has been an unending restiveness in the 31-year-old institution, since September 2011, when Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, sent a White Paper to the Governing Council of the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, pronouncing the implementation of a new fees regime, which jerked tuition fees from N25, 000 to as much as N348, 750.

Like a baptism of fire, Prof. John Oladapo Obafunwa, who assumed duty as the school’s substantive 11th Vice Chancellor on November 1, 2011, took over an institution already thrown into turmoil, owing to students protests and rampages occasioned by the fees hike.

Ridding LASU of rot

Recall that Obafunwa on assumption of office vowed to rid LASU of rot by introduction certain administrative and academic policies, among which were: ensuring students do their registration for semesters’ courses online, online payment of tuition fees through Quick Teller, assessing students’ results and updated academic profiles online latest two weeks after examinations, ensuring there is uninterrupted convocation ceremonies, as well as ensuring that graduates now get their certificates immediately on graduation.

But despite these policies, there seems to be no end in sight to LASU’s crises, as the restiveness of students has continued, as well as unending imbroglio between the university management and  staff unions- the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Senior Staff Union of Universities, SSANU and the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU, over issues bordering on staff welfare.

Closed-down thrice

LASU-savelasuuIn this ensuing melee, aside the six months nationwide ASUU strike between July and December 2013, the school has been closed thrice for several weeks within four academic sessions (2011/2012, 2012/2013, 2013/2014, 2014/2015), thus paralysing especially academic activities.

The latest of the shut-down was done on Monday, March 23, in the wake of the last general elections scheduled for March 28 and April 11 respectively. LASU authorities had in a statement, directed students and staff to vacate the campus immediately, on an election recess, noting that the resumption date will be announced later.

Vanguard learnt that the recess was necessary to allay the fears of parents who wanted their children to vacate the campus during elections. However, with about 1 month and 19 days since the gates of the institution were closed, leading to the total paralysing of academic activities, there is a resumed disquiet in the university community.

Vote of no confidence

First to throw its hat into the ring in the call for LASU authorities to re-open the school was ASUU-LASU.  On April 17, the union’s Chairman, Dr Adekunle Idris called on the institution’s governing council to re-open the institution, saying “the open-ended recess and aborting of academic activities without approval by the University Senate was illegal, unnecessary, an act of impunity and general ineptitude on the part of the vice-chancellor, in disregard for LASU laws and regulations.”

The don affirmed that the union has passed a vote of no confidence againt the VC, asking the government to suspend him. But contrary to ASUU’s demand that the VC be suspended, the LASU Students Union Government, SUG, on March 20, passed a vote of confidence on him, urging him to remain in office to complete his 4-year tenure which will be expiring six months from now.

LASU ‘ll remain closed

However, following the May 1 #ReopenLASU protest by students, which grounded activities in Fashola’s Alausa office, the government on May 5, gave a shocking statement that the indefinite closure of the institution will continue until the staff unions, students and management agree to maintain peace henceforth.

Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Otunba Fatai Olukoga, who made the remarks at a news briefing in Alausa, Ikeja, warned that government would no longer tolerate indiscipline on the part of the students, lecturers and other stakeholders in the institution, adding that it was wrong for the students and staff to demand for the sack of VC, since his appointment was based on merit and due process.

Violent protests

The students, in a swift reaction, kicked against the statement credited to Olukoga, disassociating itself of being part of the reasons while the institution is still shut-down. The students in a statement signed on its behalf by the LASU-SUG Public Relations Officer, Comrade Adebanjo Fatai, described as erroneous and unacceptable the statement made against them.

Similarly, the SUG President, Comrade Adeyemi Onikoro, disclosed that following the continued closure of the university, it has written several appeal letters to Governor Fashola, and also copied to the Lagos State House of Assembly, LAHA for urgent measures to be taken in reopening the school.

According to Onikoro, the patience of the students was already wearing thin, adding that they may be forced to embark on a violent protest, since that is the only language government and university authorities understand.

SSANU reacts

Also reacting to the closure, SSANU-LASU Chairman, Saheed Oseni, disassociated its members from the crises rocking the institution, pointing that the union has no right to shut the university.

Oseni revealed that despite the closure, its members have been working, thus the reason why the institution’s 2013/2014 graduating set were able to be mobilised like their counterparts from other tertiary institutions for the ongoing nationwide National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, 2015 Batch ‘A’ Orientation Course.

LASUFASHRather than blame SSANU as part of the reasons why the school is shut-down, he argued that the statement of the SA was unfortunate, adding that he (SA) is fully aware of the issues his union and others such as ASUU and NASU have been clamouring for.

The SSANU boss disclosed that since March 17, the SA has promised to investigate the issues, report to Governor Fashola, after which he will get back to them. “But since then, he is yet to get back to us. We have infact been left in the dark,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, according to Oseni, the issues border on alleged “denial of promotion and stagnation of our members, high-handedness and double standards of the vice chancellor, violation of due process for appointment of staff, victimisation of union leaders, 17 months unpaid salary arrears, appointment of junior staff to superintend over senior colleagues among others.”

Asked if SSANU-LASU will embark on strike any time soon, the unionists said: “As workers of LASU, the interest of our members and students is paramount to us. We have not declared industrial action. But we expect the government to protect all of us as Lagosians, instead of taking sides with the university management.”