Benjamin Babine, Abuja
The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has challenged the recommendations of President Muhammadu Buhari in addressing the ongoing crisis in the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
In a letter addressed to the President, and signed by its SSANU National President Samson Ugwoke, the union faulted the composition and membership of the Special Visitation Panel, saying that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a major part of the crisis and therefore it’s members cannot constitute a part of the panel.
They further expressed their disagreement with the President’s decision to suspend the Pro-Chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin and the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.
The letter reads:
‘The composition of the Special Visitation Panel with a preponderance of Professors (ASUU members) is an indication that the decisions of the Panel would be tampered with by ASUU. The fact that they are former Vice-Chancellors also implies the tendency to protect one of their own – an embattled Vice-Chancellor.
‘It is our informed observation, therefore, that a fair and unbiased Panel, representative of all stakeholders in the University system should have included at least a retired Registrar, a retired Bursar, and a prominent individual with undoubted integrity, who should be a former Pro-Chancellor and not a Professor, as Chairman of the Panel. With the present composition and membership of the Panel, the Federal Government may have unwittingly handed over the Panel to ASUU to return victory to its member and condemn all others.
‘SSANU, therefore, calls for a re-composition of the Panel to reflect neutrality, fairness and proper representation and not using ASUU to probe itself as the situation currently is. The principle of natural justice is lost in the present composition of the Visitation Panel and it is totally condemned by SSANU.’
On the suspension of the Pro-Chancellor, the union said: ‘SSANU, however, wishes to note that the Visitor may have inadvertently fallen into the ASUU position of seeing Dr Babalakin as the problem of the University of Lagos. To the best of our knowledge, the decision to remove Professor Ogundipe was a decision of Council and not Babalakin.
‘It would have been fairer if the Visitor had directed the entire Council to recuse itself from official duties until the end of the Panel’s assignment than asking Babalakin alone to recuse himself.
We wish to, therefore, observe that this directive personalizes the decisions of Council to Dr Babalakin which in itself does not do justice to the issues on ground.’
SSANU added: ‘The directive of the Visitor to the effect that the University of Lagos Senate should hold a special meeting to elect an Acting Vice-Chancellor conflicts with Paragraph 3(iii) of the same Visitors directive. In one breath, the Visitor directed the Visitation Panel 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, while in another breath, directing that the Senate meets to nominate an acting Vice-Chancellor for confirmation by the Governing Council.
‘The implication of the above is that the Visitor had already ruled that the appointment of an Acting Vice-Chancellor by the Council was illegal, hence, the need for Senate to convene to elect an Acting Vice-Chancellor. SSANU has reason to fear if the Visitor had not been compromised by some forces within the University system whose entrenched interests are already manifesting in the conflicting directives.’