By Adesina Wahab
Almost two months after the Special Visitation Panel set up to probe happenings at the University of Lagos, UNILAG, submitted its report, the non-release of the White Paper on the report by the Federal Government is causing serious anxiety among members of the university community.
Checks by Vanguard showed that staff (academic and non-academic) and students are not feeling comfortable that nothing has been heard from the government since the panel submitted its report to the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, on September 17 this year.
The seven-man panel was headed by Prof. Tukur Saa’ad and was given two weeks to complete its assignment.
Speaking on the development, the Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, UNILAG chapter, Dr Dele Ashiru, said the union is tired of the situation.
“There is anxiety on campus. We are at loss as to what is delaying the release of the White Paper by the government. It is absurd that the panel was given two weeks to work and it did so, and is now taking the government several months to come out with the White Paper.
“We are going to wait a little longer and if nothing is done, we may start our struggles. Everybody is waiting to know what the government wants to do. However, the government must be careful not to set a bad precedence,” he said.
On his part, the Acting Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, Mr Olusola Sowunmi, said everybody is expectant of what the FG will do.
“We are surprised about the delay and it seems some politicking has come to play and that could influence the outcome of the White Paper. We hope that they will do something justifiable.
“The way the matter is handled could make or mar the future of the university. If they are interested in education, they must act fast. The delay is making people pre-empt what may happen. The pressure within and without is mounting,” he said.
In his opinion, the Branch Chairman of the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU, Mr Kehinde Ajibade, stated that the union is surprised that nothing has been done as at now.
“I don’t know what is delaying the release of the report. The panel members were mandated to work within two weeks and they did, now, where are we heading? We cannot say this is suspense we want or desire,” he said.
The Special Presidential Visitation Panel, which is led by Prof. Sa’ad, had six other members namely Barrister Victor Onuoha; Prof. Ikenna Onyido; Prof. Ekanem Braide; Prof. Adamu K Usman; Chief Jimoh Bankole and Barrister Grace Ekanem.
The terms of the reference of the Special Visitation Panel were: To view the report of the Council Sub-Committee on Review of the Expenditure of the University of Lagos since May, 2017 and make appropriate recommendations, after affording all those indicted an opportunity to defend themselves;
“To examine the steps taken by the Governing Council leading to the removal of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. 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;
“To determine whether the process (if any) leading to the appointment of the Acting Vice-Chancellor (Prof. Theophilus Soyombo) for the university was consistent with the provisions of the enabling Act;
“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
“To make any recommendations that will assist government to take decisions that will ensure peaceful, stable and effective administration of the university.”
The uneasy calm in the university and the cat and mouse game between Ogundipe and the Chairman of the Governing Council, Dr Wale Babalakin, SAN, became public issue when the Council removed Ogundipe on August 12, 2020, and appointed Soyombo as acting VC.
However, the appointment of Soyombo became null and void as the Senate of the university met and appointed Prof. Folasade Ogunsola as the acting VC.
It is not yet clear whether Ogundipe would return to office as the substantive VC to complete his tenure and if that does not happen, a new VC would be appointed after the six months acting period of Ogunsola lapses.