By Adesina Wahab
AFTER two years of being in limbo and a new executive elected for the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU of the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, many members thought a new dawn has begun.
Barely 24 hours after the inauguration of the new executive, the National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, not only verbally dissociated the National Executive Council, NEC, of the union from the new leadership, but sent a letter to the Vice-Chancellor of LASU, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, SAN, saying the new leadership was not recognised by the NEC.
Genesis of the matter
Actually, the Dr. Oyewunmi Isaac Akinloye-led ASUU LASU executive was to be in office till February 2018, but in 2017, he and some members of the executive were dismissed from the service of the university over some issues (the matter is still in court). Some other members of the executive were still hanging on till their tenure expired in February 2018 and no new election was held.
The Secretary, Dr Tony Dansu, and two other members of the executive also had some issues with their employers and in 2019, they were also dismissed from the service of the institution. In all, five members of the union were sacked.
Apart from Oyewunmi and Dansu, others affected were Drs Adeyemi Suenu, Oyekan Adeolu and Aboderin Shonibare. Suits challenging their dismissals are pending in court.
In the course of the trouble, the NEC of ASUU sent a team to the univeristy early 2019 to assess the situation, the team did its work, but findings yet to be made public.
ASUU NEC’s grouse
In his letter to the VC, titled: Election of new ASUU LASU Branch Executives dated January 27, 2020, Ogunyemi said both the election and the new officers were illegal and therefore not recognised by the national body. According to him, all the immediate past executive members of the branch whose appointment had been terminated by the university over various allegations levelled against them, are still in charge of the association in the university.
His two main areas of disagreement are that it is the tradition of the union that any member sacked as in the cases of Oyewunmi and others would be assumed to still be members and occupying their positions until the suits are done with. Also, that a representative of the NEC must be on ground when a branch wants to conduct an election.
He, therefore, faulted the election of Dr Ibrahim Bakare from the Department of Economics as chairman; Dr Babafemi Babatope as vice- chairman; Dr Sylvester Idowu as secretary and Dr S. A. Adebanjo as Assistant secretary; Dr S.O Olabode as treasurer; Dr S.A. Oladosu as Investment officer; Dr Adeola Ajibade as Internal auditor and Dr Ayodele Awotundun as financial secretary of ASUU LASU.
LASU VC’s response
In a letter dated February 4, 2020 and sent in response to Ogunyemi’s letter, Prof. Fagbohun wrote: “I acknowledge with thanks your letter dated January 27, 2020 on the above subject as well as on the issue related therein with respect to some former academic members of staff of the Lagos State University.
Please be informed that:
“1. The affected former staff namely: Drs Oyewunmi Isaac Akinloye, Adeyemi-Suenu Adebowale, Dansu Tony and Aboderin-Shonibare Adebisi Oluwakemi were dismissed from the service of the Lagos State University in accordance with the university regulations guiding the conduct of staff and in line with global best practices.
“2. In the circumstance, the dismissal of the four (4) aforementioned persons from the service of the Lagos State University subsists.
“3. Regarding the legality of the newly-elected executive members of ASUU-LASU, please find attached herewith their comment.”
ASUU LASU’s response
In a letter dated 29th January 2020, and signed by Drs Bakare and Idowu, titled: Re: Election of new ASUU – LASU Branch Executives, the new executive stated: “Reference to the subject matter above, the new ASUU – LASU executives respond as follows:
“1. We need to state unequivocally that the tenure of the immediate past executives lapsed in February 2018. Between 2017 and 2019, five members of the past executives were disengaged from the service of the Lagos State University.
“In other words, the former Chairman, Dr Oyewunmi Isaac, and his vice, Dr Adeyemi Suenu were disengaged in 2017, while the former secretary, Dr Tony Dansu, his assistant, Dr Oyekan Adeolu and the treasurer, Dr (Mrs) Aboderin Shonibare were disengaged in 2019.
“The National President in his letter to the Vice- Chancellor claimed that in line with ASUU tradition, “until the case of the dismissal of the five members of the former executives of ASUU-LASU is determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, they remained the recognised executives of ASUU-LASU.
“Sir, there is no portion of the ASUU constitution that supports this claim. Rather, Article 3 subsection (1) and (3) categorically state – (1) Any person who is engaged full- time in a university as a lecturer, researcher, fellow or academic librarian in a university shall be deemed to be a member of the union and (3) Every member of the union shall belong to the branch of the union established for the university or institution in which he or she is employed.
“2. With this development, a vacuum has been created and according to Article 9 subsection (5) and (6), the National Executive Committee ought to have called the branch congress with a view to establishing a caretaker committee to fill the vacuum, but never did.
“Furthermore, subsection (7) of the same Article 9 notes that each branch shall hold at least three general meetings every year. Such meetings, ASUU- LASU never held in the past two years. Yet, the NEC remained silent on it, thereby leaving ASUU-LASU to its fate.
“3. We wish to state that the branches make up the NEC. If there are no branches, the NEC cannot exist. NEC has abandoned ASUU-LASU for about two years, leaving the corporate interest of our members unattended to and the local developments stagnated as a result of leadership vacuum.
“The question arises, does NEC expect ASUU-LASU Congress to keep her fingers crossed indefinitely without taking into consideration the interest and welfare of her members?
“4 Sir, we recall that at the peak of the crisis early 2019, the NEC sent a delegation on a fact-finding mission. The delegation acknowledged that the branch was truly heated up and that they ( members of the delegation) had taken inventory of the crisis involved. They promised to get back to the branch, but never did, thereby keeping ASUU – LASU in limbo.
“5. Consequent upon 1-4 above, congress members of ASUU-LASU converged on Tuesday, 21st January, 2020 to put in place a caretaker committee that inaugurated the new executive members for the branch on Friday 24th January, 2020 to lead and conduct the affairs of the congress.
“6 In conclusion, we hereby state that if the National Chairman of ASUU is convinced enough that the new ASUU – LASU executive is illegal, we charge him to lead a delegation of NEC to LASU to cite the portion of the constitution of ASUU that supports his claim that the dismissed staff of a university remain leaders of conscientious academics. The branch will be willing to entertain such a visit. In our own opinion, there is nothing of that nature in ASUU constitution.”
Apart from the Bakare-led executive, some members of the union are wondering how long the branch would wait for cases in court to be determined, bearing in mind the slow pace of the wheel of justice in the country. Some are saying if the affected lecturers win their matters in court, the management would be compelled to pay all their entitlements but what now happens to the union if it has to wait till that time or is it that the tenure of an officer of the union has become an open ended one. ASUU LASU and the national leadership must find a mid course.