Dr Wale Babalakin, SAN, on Thursday resigned as the Chairman of the Governing Council of the University of Lagos, UNILAG.
His resignation came few hours after the Special Visitation Panel set up by the Federal Government to look into the affairs of the university submitted its report to the Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, in Abuja.
Confirming the development to our correspondent in an interview, the Media Aide to Babalakin, Mr Mikail Mumuni, said his boss had resigned his position in the Council.
It was gathered that his resignation was to preempt the call for him to be sacked from the Council.
Though the government is yet to officially come out with its decisions on the panel’s report, it was learnt that both Babalakin and the embattled Vice-Chancellor, Prof Toyin Ogundipe, may not come back to the office.
Recall that the FG set up the Prof. Sa’ad Tukur-led panel to probe the affairs of the university following an intractable feud between Babalakin and the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Toyin Ogundipe.
The face-off led to the Council removing Ogundipe from office and appointing Professor Omololu Soyombo as the Acting Vice-Chancellor.
The development led to staff unions in the university holding a rally to decry the action and also the Senate of the institution saying Ogundipe’s removal was contrary to university laws and regulations.
Though the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, and the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU later opted out of the support for Ogundipe.
However, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, stood firm on their resolution.
The Senate of the university later voted in Professor Folasade Ogunsola as the Acting Vice-Chancellor of UNILAG.
The Federal Government, in August, waded in by asking the Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, and the embattled Vice-Chancellor, Prof Toyin Ogundipe, to stay away pending the outcome of a probe into happenings in the school.
The statement read: “FG directs Pro-Chancellor/Chairman of Governing Council of the University of Lagos, Dr B. O. Babalakin and the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin T. O. Ogundipe to recuse themselves from official duties, pending the outcome of the Special Visitation Panel set up by the President.”
This is just as the local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, through its chairman, Dr Dele Ashiru, lauded the government’s action.
15th September 2020
The Honourable Minister of Education
Federal Ministry of Education
Block 5A, Federal Secretariat Complex
Shehu Shagari Way
Attention: Mallam Adamu Adamu
LETTER OF RESIGNATION
1. I would like to thank the President of the Federal of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari for giving me the opportunity to serve as the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (the “University”) from May 2017 till date. I am also grateful that I was considered fit to be the Chairman of the Federal Government Negotiation Team on the Agreement reached with university unions in 2009, from 6th January 2017 till date. I equally want to thank you sir, for your role in recommending me to the President.
2. Recent events have made my position in these two offices untenable.
3. I led the Governing Council of the University to remove the Vice-Chancellor of the University from office for amongst other reasons:
a. Corruption and financial recklessness;
c. Complicity in the collapse of the University library and planned cover up;
d. Deliberate policy of wrongfully concealing information;
e. Depriving the Faculties in the University of funds;
f. Concealing and distorting finances of the Internally Generating Units of the University;
g. Undermining the academic process and seeking to appoint a Professor by fiat;
h. Siphoning of the University’s funds through dubious contract awards;
i. Undermining the office of the Registrar;
j. Failure to follow due process in organizing the University’s convocation ceremony; and
k. Sponsoring or acquiescing in the unconstitutional actions of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos chapter.
4. Sir, it is noteworthy that all the Federal Government Representatives who are the independent members on the Governing Council voted for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor.
5. After calm had been restored in the University, the Visitor acting within his powers, set up a Presidential Visitation Panel to review the actions taken by Governing Council. The Vice-Chancellor (who had been removed from office) and myself were told to recuse ourselves for the duration of the Visitation Panel. I find it difficult to understand how a non-executive Chairman of a Governing Council could be requested to recuse himself during the visitation
6. The Vice-Chancellor could only recuse himself if he were still in office. Implicit in this position is that the Vice-Chancellor was acknowledged as still being in office despite his removal.
7. The terms of reference of the Visitation Panel clearly indicated to any discerning person that the Visitation Panel was empanelled to exonerate the Vice-Chancellor and implicate the Pro-Chancellor. For easy reference, the terms of reference of the Visitation Panel are:
a. To review the report of the Council sub-committee on review of expenditure of the University of Lagos since May 2017 and make appropriate recommendations after affording all those indicted an opportunity to defend themselves;
b. To examine the steps taken by the Council leading to the removal of the Vice Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, and ascertain whether due process was followed as stipulated in the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act, 2003, and the principle of fair hearing adhered to;
c. To determine whether the process (if any) leading to the appointment of the acting Vice Chancellor for the University was consistent with the provisions of the enabling Act;
d. To make appropriate recommendations including sanctions for all those found culpable by the special visitation team on the allegations contained in the report as well as other subsequent actions arising therefrom; and
e. To make any other recommendations that will assist the government to take decisions that will ensure peaceful, stable and effective administration of the University.
8. As stated earlier, the Vice-Chancellor was removed for various reasons and not just as a result of the findings contained in the Dagari Report. Items (b) and (c) were directed at the Pro-Chancellor and Governing Council. Unfortunately, those items deal with the interpretation of the laws of the land. The appropriate forum to determine the laws of the land is a court of law or a judicial tribunal. It cannot be determined by academics of a different discipline no matter how distinguished. These terms of reference are ultra-vires the Visitation Panel as constituted.
9. The membership of the Visitation Panel is simply inappropriate in the circumstance. How can a committee of Vice-Chancellors determine the culpability or otherwise of the actions of a Pro-Chancellor and a Governing Council? On the face of it, it is simply wrong! Furthermore, the Vice-Chancellors on the Panel were drawn from relatively smaller universities who are not likely to have a comprehensive understanding of the procedure contained in the University of Lagos Act (as amended). Even Vice-Chancellors of state universities were included. As Chairman of the Federal Government Negotiation Team, I know the challenges faced with the administration of state universities.
10. I only appeared before the Panel out of my very great respect for you, Sir. My training as a lawyer revealed to me very clearly, that the Panel was inappropriate for the assignment. During my appearance, I made it very clear that I was appearing in protest and the Panel, as constituted, could not determine the issues before it. The active participation of the staff of the Ministry of Education in the Panel and their contributions throughout the sittings especially the hounding of witnesses who came to testify against the Vice-Chancellor was enough to show very clearly that the technocrats in the Ministry had a defined agenda. Their obvious agenda was to humiliate the Governing Council. Sir, fortunately there is a verbatim recording of the proceedings of the Visitation Panel, and you may wish to direct objective persons to listen to the recording.
11. I am particularly relieved by the comment of the Chancellor of the University, His Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr) Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al Amin El-Kanemi CFR on the situation in the University. In a letter dated 15th September 2020 and addressed to your good self (which I was copied), His Royal Highness stated thus:
“I have discovered that there are too many vested interests in this matter, who are not approaching the issues objectively. For this reason, I strongly advise that the Visitation Panel should not submit any formal report to the Minister that may hinder my ability to deal with the issues comprehensively”
12. I have served the university system in Nigeria with my heart and intellect. Amongst other offices, I was:
a. Pro-Chancellor, University of Maiduguri (2009 – 2013);
b. Chairman, Council of Pro-Chancellors of all Federal Universities (2009 – 2013);
c. Chairman, Federal Government Implementation Team of the 2009 Agreement (2009 – 2013);
d. Chairman, Federal Government Negotiation Team of the 2009 Agreement (2017 till date);
e. Pro-Chancellor, University of Lagos (2017 till date).
13. These were made possible by a system that provided resources and also ensured proper monitoring of the resources. The educational system in Nigeria requires more funding but most importantly, it requires prudent management of the limited resources. It was my determination to ensure that the limited resources of the University of Lagos were properly utilized that motivated me to lead the Governing Council to take the decisions which the Governing Council took.
14. In all these positions that I have held, I did not receive any remuneration. Specifically:
a. I did not receive any sitting allowance.
b. I did not receive any tickets or travel allowance.
c. I did not receive or use any official car.
d. In the University of Maiduguri and University of Lagos, I did not allow the institutions to provide me with food or drinks. I paid for every right or privilege that was conferred on me.
e. Even when I travelled to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria, I paid for my ticket and my expenses.
f. I did not obtain any contract from the education sector in my relative long sojourn in the sector.
15. My motivation for my actions is that I had the best education that an intellect could provide in Nigeria and abroad. It is my fervent desire that every Nigerian should have the sort of opportunities I had.
16. I remain very grateful to all the members of the Federal Government team on the Governing Council of the University of Lagos, namely:
a. Alhaji Ali Hussein;
b. Rev. Yomi Kasai;
c. Dr. Bayo Adaralegbe; and
d. Dr. Saminu Dagari.
17. It would be very difficult to find a group of more selfless persons than these individuals. It is acutely hurtful that I am leaving before achieving our goal of sanitizing the University of Lagos, and turning it to a reference point in Africa and the world, rather than the unenviable poor position it now occupies. Unfortunately, I must stand by principle. In a situation where my employers believe that the actions I took may not be right, the appropriate thing to do is bow out in honour.
Sir, may the Almighty Allah continue to bless you.
Dr. B. O. Babalakin,