By Adesina Wahab, Joseph Erunke, Elizabeth Osayande and Mary Obaebor
The lingering face-off between the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, UNILAG, Professor Toyin Ogundipe and the Chairman, Governing Council of the institution, Dr Wale Babalakin, SAN, came to a head-on Wednesday as the Council announced the removal from office of the VC after a meeting held in Abuja.
It was gathered that 12 members of the Council were present at the meeting and seven voted for the VC’s removal, four voted against and one voted that he be placed on suspension.
The University of Lagos Act 1962, stipulates a 14-member Governing Council to comprise the Pro-Chancellor, Chancellor, the VC, the two Deputy Vice-Chancellors, a representative of the Ministry of Education, one person representing a variety of interests.
Others are four persons appointed by the Senate of the University, two persons appointed by the Congregation and one person appointed by Convocation.
The Council, in a statement signed by the Registrar/ Secretary to the Council, Oladejo Azeez, said Ogundipe was removed from office based on alleged wrongdoing.
The statement was titled “Notice to the general public on the removal of the Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos.”
The statement read,” The general public is hereby notified that at an emergency meeting held on Wednesday, 12th August 2020 and in accordance with the statutory powers vested in it by law, the Governing Council of the University of Lagos removed Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS, from office as the Vice-Chancellor of the university with immediate effect.
“The decision was based on Council’s investigations of serious acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of office against Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe, FAS.
Reacting to the development in a chat with one of our correspondents, the Chairman, UNILAG chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Dr Dele Ashiru, said the Council lacked such powers.
“We are following the development. We are aware that the Council relocated to Abuja to meet. The Council does not have the constitutional powers to sack the Vice-Chancellor. We will react appropriately when things become clear,” he said.
University of Lagos Act 1962
However, the enabling law of the university, the University of Lagos Act 1962 states how the Vice-Chancellor and other principal officers of the school can be appointed or removed from office.
Article 17 under the Constitution and functions of the University and its constituents bodies, listed how the Pro-Chancellor and certain members of the Council can be removed from office.
“If it appears to the Council that a member of the Council (other than an ex-officio member) should be removed from office on the grounds of misconduct or inability to perform the functions of his office, the Council shall make a recommendation to that effect through the Chancellor to the Visitor and if the Visitor, after making such enquires (if any) as he considers appropriate, approves the recommendation, he may, by any instrument on writing signed by him, remove the person in question from office.”
Also, the First Schedule 4 (8) of the Act states,” The Vice-Chancellor may be removed from office by the Visitor after due consultation with the Council and the Senate acting through the Minister of Education.”
The Visitor to the university is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Background to crisis
The cat and mouse game between Ogundipe and Babalakin blew open last February when Babalakin petitioned the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, accusing the VC of running a one-man show in the preparations for the convocation ceremonies of the school.
The minister subsequently ordered the National Universities Commission, NUC, to ask the VC to suspend the graduation ceremony.
The local ASUU condemned Babalakin’s action and declared him an unwanted visitor on campus az a Congress it held.
Last June, the Council attempted to hold a meeting on campus but had to cancel it because ASUU also fixed a Congress for the same venue.
However, four senior professors in the school, including Professor Lai Olurode, decried the stance of ASUU, saying the Council ought to be allowed to sit on campus.
But ASUU said it was only a duly held Congress that could change the tag of unwanted visitor put on Babalakin and that that had not happened.
It was because of the inability to hold its meetings in Lagos that prompted the Council to relocate to Abuja.
Though the National President of ASUU, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said the national leadership of the union was wading into the matter, Wednesday’s development was an indication that such has not yielded results.