The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities has called for the re-composition of the Special Visitation Panel to look into the purported removal of Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos.
Samson Ugwoke, SSANU President, made the call in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Education and Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission on Monday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that on August 18, the Academic Staff Union of Universities had called the President to constitute a special visitation panel to look into the purported removal of the Vice-Chancellor.
According to Ugwoke, SSANU writes to observe the recent directive circulated through the media, dated August 21, 2020 and signed by the Director Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry of Education on the above subject matter.
He said: “While SSANU appreciates the prompt intervention of the visitor in the ongoing crisis and the sincere efforts in nipping the crisis in the bud.
“The directives of the visitor as contained in the Press Release have a further tendency to cause more crisis as issues bordering on due process and fair hearing have been trampled upon arising from the visitor’s directives under reference.”
Ugwoke said there was the need to review the composition and members of the Special Visitation Panel as the crisis in the University of Lagos has ASUU members as a major participant in the Panel, adding that indeed ASUU is the complainant in this matter.
He noted that the composition of the Special Visitation Panel with a preponderance of Professors, who were ASUU members, is an indication that the decision of the panel would be tampered with by the union.
He also said the fact that there are former Vice-Chancellors among them also implies the tendency to protect one of their own, an embattled Vice-Chancellor.
SSANU said: “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.”
The SSANU president also commended the intention of the visitor by directing the recusal of the Pro-Chancellor, Dr. Wale Babalakin and Prof. Ogundipe from official duties during the period of the visitation.
He added that it is assumed that the directive on recusal is to enforce peace in the university pending the outcome of the visitation.
According to him, 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.
He added: “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 personalises the decisions of council to Dr. Babalakin, which in itself does not do justice to the issues on ground.”
Ugwoke, while speaking on the the directive to University Senate to convene to elect an Acting Vice Chancellor, noted that the visitor to 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.
He said: “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.
“From the above conflicting directives, it is only obvious that the visitation panel would only be working to the answer.”