The fear of objects alleged to be “Juju’’ or charms has continued to keep the Lagos State University Administrative and Senate buildings under lock-and-key, as well as deserted for the past nine months now. The buildings which house the office of the V-C and other principal officers of the institution had been shut since March 16.
The alleged charms were said to have been found around the buildings sequel to a rift between the former Vice-Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa and the four staff unions of the university. During the rift, the unuions were insisting that the then Vice Chancellor, Prof. Obafunwa should throw-in the towel.
This development led the former V-C to relocate his office to the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), Ikeja campus from where he was presiding over the day –to-day- administration of the University till the end of his tenure. Following the elapse of the tenure of Obafunwa on Oct. 31, the state government through LASU’s Governing Council led by Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo on Nov.7, appointed Prof. Fidelis Njokanma as the Acting V-C.
Prof. Njokanma since his assumption of office has been operating from LASUCOM instead of the doing that from his office at the Ojo Campus. Dr Adekunle Idris, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), LASU chapter, however, told NAN that it was wrong for anyone to say that the staff union placed any charms within the university’s administrative buildings.
Idris said that the buildings were locked by the LASU workforce because the demands of the unions were yet to be met by the university authorities. The unions knew nothing about whether charms were placed within or around the buildings, he said. “LASU workforce locked the buildings, aside that, we are not aware of anything surrounding it,” he said.
Idris said that Obafunwa’s exit was not the only demands of the unions, as other demands of the unions were yet to be met. According to Idris, the outstanding core issues, promised to be met by Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos state include the payment of the 2009 salary increase arrears.
Also, the unions were agitating for the settlement of inappropriate and delayed promotion cases. They were also demanding the replacement of damaged vehicles of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Senior Staff Association of Universities, LASU chapter, Idris said.
“Once LASU community sees that their core issues have been addressed, normalcy will be restored to the university within a week,” he said. Also, Mr Saheed Oseni, Chairman, SSANU, LASU chapter, said that the union was not involved with the charm and had not prevented anyone from entering the buildings.
“The buildings were actually locked by the workforce because there are outstanding issues on ground , once the issues are settled, things will take care of themselves,” he said. Oseni urged the state government to meet the outstanding demands of the unions as promised so as to create a clean slate for the transition of the new V-C.
However, Prof. Njokanma, acting VC, Lagos State had refuted claims of refusing to occupy his office at the Ojo campus for fear of “juju’’ scare. Njokanma told NAN in Lagos that he had not gone to see any shrine or `juju; at the administrative block one and senate building on the Ojo Campus as claimed.
He said that the people who shut the administrative block had not gone to re-open it, so there was no way he could have access to the office. “The topic of discussion should centre on re-opening of the buildings by those who locked them and not the resumption of the Acting V-C into the office.
“I did not lock the building, so there was no way I could open them and have access into the office,’’ he said. The Acting V-C said he could not have given directive on the re-opening of the buildings because he did not direct that they be closed in the first instance. Njokanma said he had the responsibility to run the university and he intended to do it to the best of its abilities.
He said that where he was actually operating from did not really matters. “I have a job to do, which is to run the university and I intend to do it to the best of my ability. I will use whatever available resources, to make sure my work is done. “If what is available is LASUCOM, then I will work from there, as it is also a property of the university,” he said.
The Acting V-C said the question that should ponder the minds of people should be; what circumstances surrounded him leaving his office at the Administrative building on March 16? “Both the former V-C and the principal officers were all pelted with sachet water on that day and since then I have been working from LASUCOM.
“So the question is what circumstances surrounded my leaving the Ojo Campus on March 16, and do not forget that my office then, as the Deputy VC – administrative – was also in Block one,” he said. Mr Adeyemi Onikoro, Chairman, LASU Students’ Union, also said if the Acting V-C was his father, he would not allow him enter the Administrative buildings.
Onikoro said the buildings were not only shut but had been “charmed so there was need for the State Government to wade into the matter and resolve it finally’’. He said the present situation showed that the demand then that Prof. Obafunwa must go, was not the only problem the university was faced with.
“The fact that Obafunwa’s had gone, does not mean that normalcy has been restored to the university, that is why the government should step in, to address other pending issues,” he said.