A senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Ebun Olu Adegboruwa, has suggested to the Federal Government to immediately dissolve the Governing Council of the University of Lagos. Contending that the federal government can’t maintain any silence in what is going on in the university which he described as a “charade,” Adegboruwa insisted that “They must look into the University of Lagos and dissolve that Council and allow the proper method of law to take place”.
Speaking Friday morning as guest on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Adegboruwa noted that the events going on at the University of Lagos concerning the Vice-Chancellor, was most unfortunate. Condemning the manner in which the vice-chancellor of the university, Oluwatoyin Temitayo Ogundipe, a professor of botany, was removed on Wednesday by the Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council, Adegboruwa regretted that “Having regards to the struggle of students, academic and non-academic staff of the universities these many years, we never expected that we’ll get to a level where we will still be entertaining dictatorship within the university system”.
According to the lawyer, “What has gone on at the University of Lagos can only be described as a total charade. There is no place in law at all or even in morality”.
Giving an insight into the processes that must be followed before a vice-chancellor can be removed, and how the law which was enacted in 2003 had been breached in the removal of Ogundipe, Adegboruwa explained that the law governing the removal of a vice-chancellor had been unified throughout all universities, not only in the University of Lagos. “The Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2003; in this regards, Section 3 sub-8, 9, 10 and 1, and the procedure is so very simple, even to a non-lawyer. If you want to remove a vice-chancellor, because the vice-chancellor is the one who is next in authority to the Pro-Chancellor; so, he’s the academic chief executive of the institution. If you need to remove that person who is the brain and head of that institution, the process is very simple. It can only be initiated by three people – the Council of the university, the Senate of the university, or the congregation of the university.
“And at the process of initiation, you will sign a document indicating that you intend to remove the vice-chancellor. The document will be authored; it will be signed by either members of Council, members of Senate, or members of the congregation. After signing that document and submitting it to the Council, the Council will then set up a joint committee; that joint committee will comprise three members of Council, two members of the Senate, making five persons; a member of Council will head that committee and the terms of reference will be to investigate allegations of gross misconduct against the vice-chancellor”.
Adegboruwa further stated that when the committee is set up, it would then draft allegations and give to the vice-chancellor, and give him an opportunity to respond to those allegations. He said the vice-chancellor could do so through a written response or do so through a legal practitioner. “After the committee has taken the response of the vice-chancellor, the committee will then make a finding and make a recommendation back to Council. The Council will then convene a meeting and still invite the vice-chancellor to respond to the recommendations of the sub-committee; then the Council will then convene another meeting and take a decision whether or not to remove the vice-chancellor. After a decision has been taken, the Council will then communicate to the visitor to the university, who is the President, and the President would then wait and call upon the vice-chancellor because the vice-chancellor has a right of appeal against the decision of the Council.
“Both the vice-chancellor and the Council will wait for the President to determine the appeal of the vice-chancellor. It is after all these processes you can then announce whether the vice-chancellor has been removed or not” the legal luminary posited.
Upbraiding the governing Council for breaching these processes, Adegboruwa stated: “Now, what happened in the University of Lagos? On the 10th of this month, August, the registrar of the Council issued out a notice that the chairman of Council had directed him to convene an emergency meeting of Council for the 12th of August. Under the standing orders of the University of Lagos Council, an emergency meeting is only meant to determine minor issues; there shall be no resolutions. There shall be no decisions taken at any emergency meeting. The same Council made its own standing orders; and now, according to the standing order of that Council, if you want to convene an emergency meeting of the Council, you must state the agenda and list the issues to be discussed”.
He disclosed that it was even the vice-chancellor who wrote a letter to the chairman of Council requesting for an emergency meeting to consider the issue of budget because the Council had not been meeting. Shedding light on how the vice-chancellor was ambushed by the Governing Council, Adegboruwa observed that “The convocation was suspended, the university is not running, and so, they said we can’t be spending money without approval of Council. So, this meeting was supposed to be convened to consider the issue of budget for the university and that meeting was convened for Abuja because the chairman of Council had been declared persona non grata by the whole university community. He’s a lone ranger. So, when they got to Abuja for the emergency meeting, the chairman of Council then got up and said there is no reason to discuss anything; what they want to discuss is the issue of a report of a committee. So, he asked the vice-chancellor to leave the meeting. The vice-chancellor protested and said we are here to discuss the issue of budget.
“He insisted; and then he told the deputy vice-chancellor to also leave the meeting. Then Council members then protested; they said we are not here for all these, what is this drama? We are here for budget. Anyway, in order not to cause commotion, the vice-chancellor left the meeting as an obedient citizen; the deputy vice-chancellor left the meeting. And thereafter, the chairman of Council then called upon a member to present a report; the report was presented and the chairman said let us vote to remove the vice-chancellor. And the members said what are you talking about? We are not here for removal of vice-chancellor; this is an emergency meeting of Council. And the chairman then went out and came back and gave them his phone number. The standing order of the University of Lagos Council says if you want to vote in the Council meeting, it will be by showing of hands, or by secret ballot. Everybody must be present; the chairman would then preside over that meeting to know the outcome of the vote”.
A visibly agitated Adegboruwa however lamented that “But in this case, the chairman of Council gave them his phone number and said members should indicate their choice through Whatshapp message to him. So, he left the meeting and the people that were there were then sending messages to him and he came back and said he had taken a decision; people voted for the removal, so we are removing the vice-chancellor and that the meeting would reconvene by 5 o’clock to appoint an acting vice-chancellor”.
Faulting the procedure adopted in sacking Ogundipe and in the appointment of an acting vice-chancellor, Adegboruwa insisted that “Under the law setting up the university, if you remove a vice-chancellor, you must inform the university community, the Senate, the congregation who are the owners and the people in the university. The Senate will then meet; and according to Section 3 (11) of the Universities Miscellaneous Act, recommend to the Council the person to be appointed as the acting vice-chancellor. The same day the Council purported to remove the vice-chancellor without information to the Senate, without any meeting with anybody, then you then purported to announce an acting vice-chancellor, causing total crisis in that university; a university that is one of the best in Nigeria”.
Asserting that the matter is very straight forward, Adegboruwa said the Federal Government cannot maintain any silence in this matter “because we are talking about the destiny of youths and the leaders of this nation. The Federal Government has already issued a release through the ministry of education that they are waiting to be briefed because according to the law setting up the University of Lagos, there are four members of the Federal Government who must be in the Council; there must be a representative of the ministry of education”.
He however regretted that when the representative of the ministry of education came, “Dr. Wale Babalakin refused to allow him to participate claiming that he came late. So, even the Federal Government was not allowed to even be part of the meeting and this cannot happen. And I am advising the Federal Government, first of all, to look at the composition of that Council. In that Council of the University of Lagos, one of the best universities in Nigeria, Dr. Babalakin has a member of his chambers sitting on the Council said to be representing Rivers State whereas that person is from Ekiti State. We can’t continue like this. The federal government can’t maintain any silence. They must look into the University of Lagos and dissolve that Council and allow the proper method of law to take place. That is my advice to the federal government; they should dissolve the Council”.