The newly appointed acting Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Prof Theophilus Soyombo, on Wednesday said staff and students welfare will be accorded top priority by his administration.
Prof Soyombo also disclosed that he will reach out to other aggrieved staff and unions opposed to his appointment to ensure they work together.
In swift reaction, Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Dele Ashiru, said its members based on congress was not part of the staff who welcomed the acting VC at the Senate Building and insisted that his appointment was illegal.
Soyombo made the declaration when he addressed mostly Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and also while the media briefing at the Senate Building. The meeting was boycotted by senior management staff of the university as only two professors and a deputy registrar were among the junior staff.
The gathering was boycotted by the ASUU, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (SSANU) and National Association of Academic of Technologists (NAAT) who opposed the sack of Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe and the appointment of an acting VC by the Dr. Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council.
Addressing the workers amidst praises and songs, Soyombo, acknowledged that UNILAG is passing through a difficult period and sought the support of the staff unions and students to move the university forward.
He said the welfare of staff and students will be given proper attention while soliciting for their cooperation in ensuring the university discharge it core mandate of teaching, research and community service.
Despite the absence of ASUU, SSANU and NAAT, the acting VC acknowledged their contributions in keeping the university running and solicited for their support, adding ”peace and stability will return to UNILAG.”
Prof Soyombo said he saw his appointment as a call to service and noted that he accepted the job to move the university forward and stop the university from the drifting.
his words: ”There is lot of work to be done and I can’t do it alone. I need the support of the academic and non academic staff to pilot the affairs of the university and cement it the university of first choice.
”My major focus will be on staff welfare. My position is that staff are the core asset of the university. A well motivated staff, will work well and improve productivity. I assure you that issues of staff welfare and promotion will be taken care of.
”My administration will ensure an improved Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and the profit will be used to improve the welfare of staff. I will appreciate comments and contributions from staff or union leaders. I will operate an open door policy.”
The acting VC said the university staff are missing the students and will want them back soonest, stating ”we want the students back but in bringning them back, we will comply with National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). We will observed all the protocols and guidelines of the Federal Government to ensure safety of the students on campus.”
On the absence of some staff and unions, Prof Soyombo said he addressed a cross section of university staff, adding ”the interaction is a continuous process, I will visit the various departments and faculties. I have received goodwill messages from staff, students, union staff, Alumni and some Nigerians.”
Reacting to ASUU position about his appointment not following due process and no VC vacancy, Soyombo told newsmen that ”ASUU is our union and I am still an ASUU members. We will continue to dialogue with ourselves. In any organisation there is bound to be disagreement but we will reach out to people with different views. We need to work together.”
Former ASUU UNILAG branch chairman, Prof Adeyemi Olowe and Prof Adeyemi Daramola of the Department of English said the university community have accepted to work with Soyombo and described his appointment as welcome development. Both appealed to workers to support his administration.
The ASUU chairman, Dr. Ashiru said: ”As far as ASUU is concern, our position remains unchanged. The process leading to the appointment of Prof Soyombo is not known to the law of UNILAG. ASUU does not recognise him as acting VC and no scholar should be a beneficiary of illegality.”
Ashiru insisted that UNILAG has two deputy vice chancellors and were invited to participate in the last governing council meeting, adding Babalakin should tell Nigerians why the Deputy VC (Management Services) Prof Ben Oghojafar who voted at the emergency meeting was not considered as acting VC. As at the time of the council meeting UNILAG had two DVCs”
Prof Soyombo was former Head of Sociology Department, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and applied for the vice chancellor position in 2017 along with Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe but was not shortlisted.