Fresh crises looms at UNILAG

The leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos (UNILAG) chapter, has, again, accused the chairman of the institution’s governing council, Wale Babalakin, of being dictatorial and engaging in illegality in the administration of the university.

In its letter to the union members and signed by its chairman, Dele Ashiru, ASUU said it has received complaints from seven lecturers who were issued queries by the university registrar, Oladejo Azeez, on the instruction of Mr Babalakin.

The letter, a copy of which PREMIUM TIMES obtained, was titled; “Creeping Tyranny and Looming Anarchy in the University of Lagos.”

According to the union, some lecturers received queries signed by the registrar on why they embarked on duly approved trips. The lecturers were also asked in the letter to submit their responses to the council chairman directly.

The letter reads in part; “Our fears that a vicious, vindictive and meddlesome leviathan is at the head of the University of Lagos Council has sadly been confirmed.

“Our union has received an avalanche of complaints from members who are in receipt of “queries” most recklessly and illegally authorised by the Pro-Chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin through the registrar.

“This dictatorial, unprocedural, illegal and deliberate by-pass of the university administration, whose duty is that of day-to-day running of the university is strange and dangerous. It is sad and shameful that the purported report(s) which the pro-chancellor is acting upon has not been received by the university’s council. This arbitrariness and ‘one man show’ is repulsive and unacceptable to our union as it smacks of vindictiveness.”

ASUU has, therefore, advised the concerned lecturers to immediately contact the union for “proper guidance and further actions.” The union assured its members that it would stop at nothing to resist what it described as “creeping tyranny and looming anarchy.”

Babalakin denies wrongdoing

But the governing council chairman has denied any wrongdoing, saying his action is backed by the Act establishing the university.

In his response to a text message by our reporter, Mr Babalakin challenged ASUU to back up its claim with facts and figure. He said no specific law has been violated by his action.

The message reads; “It is important that ASUU backs up its allegation by referring to (a) specific law that has been violated. Please refer to Section 7 of the University Act, which defines the power of (the) Council. The registrar and secretary to (the) council is in the best position to advise on the procedure of Council. Thank you.”

What Section 7 says

Section 7 of the University of Lagos Act referenced by Mr Babalakin reads as follows:

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act relating to the Visitor, the Council shall be the governing body of the university and shall be charged with the general control and superintendence of the policy, finances and property of the university, including its public relations.

(2) There shall be a committee of the Council, to be known as the Finance and General Purposes Committee, which shall, subject to the directions of the Council, exercise control over the property and expenditure of the University, other than that of the colleges, and perform such other functions of the Council as the Council may from time to time delegate to it.

(3) Provision shall be made by statute with respect to the constitution of the Finance and General Purposes Committee.

(4) The Council shall ensure that proper accounts of the University and the colleges are kept and that the accounts of the University and of each of the colleges are audited annually by auditors appointed by the Council from the list and in accordance with guidelines supplied by the Auditor-General for the Federation; and that an annual report is published by the University together with certified copies of the said accounts as audited.

(5) Subject to this Act and the statutes, the Council and the Finance and General Purposes Committee may each make rules for the purposes of exercising any of their respective functions or of regulating their own procedure.

(6) Rules made under subsection (5) or this section by the Finance and General Purposes Committee shall not come into force unless approved by the Council; and in so far as any rules so made by that committee conflict with any directions given by the Council (whether before or after the coming into force of the rules in question), the directions or the Council shall prevail.

(7) There shall be paid to the members of the Council, of the Finance and General Purposes Committee and of any other committee set up by the council respectively allowances in respect of travelling and other reasonable expenses, at such rates as may from time to time be fixed by the Council.

(8) The Council shall meet as and when necessary for the performance of its functions under this Act, and shall meet at least three times in every year.

(9) Any three members of the Council may by notice in writing signed by them require the Pro-Chancellor to convene a special meeting of the Council.

ASUU insists no law backs council chair’s action

The ASUU chairman, Dele Ashiru, in a telephone interview with our reporter, insisted that there is nowhere in the section referenced by Mr Babalakin that empowers an individual to take a position on behalf of the Council without being authorised by the Council.

According to Mr Ashiru, the governing council has more than one member and decisions of the council are not reached “in corners of anyone’s room but at the council’s chamber in the presence of other members.”

He said; “We are familiar with the University Act and we have read it many times. There is just nowhere an individual can take any unilateral decision on behalf of the council. Let the council chair also tell us where Section 7 being mentioned by the chairman replaces the use of ‘council’ with the ‘council chairman.’

“Good enough, our chairman is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and some of our members are lecturers of law. What we cannot take is arbitrariness and someone not believing in any constituted authority. We won’t be taken for a ride. Let the chairman tell us when the decision on the action he has just taken was decided by council members.”

Background

PREMIUM TIMES is aware of the cat and mouse relationship between the university’s chapter of ASUU and Mr Babalakin over some decisions taken in the past.

During the union’s prolonged nationwide industrial action, the council chairman had, last year, summoned a meeting with some lecturers which was fixed for the university’s Senate chamber.

ASUU had kicked against the decision, which it said was targeted at balkanising its union. It, therefore, fixed its congress for the same venue and same time.

This newspaper is also aware of the unfriendly relationship between the council chairman and some members of the university’s council including members of the institution’s management over allegations and counter-allegations bordering on finances.

The development had led to the setting up of a committee by the governing council to look into the finances of the institution between May 2017 and September 2018.

ASUU is alleging that the council chairman unilaterally queried its members based on the report of the fact-finding committee, which it claimed was yet to be submitted officially to the council for deliberation and action.

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