Since his assumption of office as the Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU), the atmosphere and the image of the state-owned university have never remained the same. Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun in this interview with MOJEED ALABI, speaks about the good and the bad of the university, including solutions to the rising cases of financial and moral corruption on Nigerian campuses.
Many things seem to have changed about this university environment in terms of aesthetics and infrastructural development. How have you been able to do this?
I will start by thanking the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode for the various developmental projects executed on the campus that have been consistent with our vision. The state has tarred the entire network of roads on the campus, lighted up the university and changed a whole lot of things. And till now the government has not stopped working. It has continued to support us with huge subvention by providing at least 80 per cent of it. And, that has helped us tremendously to ensure that regularly staff salaries are paid. The government is also supporting the university with funding towards actualising our accreditation exercise. We have also continued to have good relationship with ministries and parastatals, which use our faculties in the area of research to deepen their activities.
For instance, there is a social economic studies being conducted by the state, our Faculty of Social Sciences is very much involved. It is a confirmation of the trust in us by the government. The Ready-Set-Work programme, which is entering its third phase, is another innovation of the state government, which is aimed at deepening the entrepreneurship skills and employability of our graduates.
But, there have been reports of demotion, suspension and dismissal of staffers, which have resulted in various court cases with a particular union on your campus accusing your administration of witch-hunting. How true is this?
Only journalists can independently help our institutions to overcome challenges created by issues like this. The media must come up with editorials and investigative reports to critique the system because we must all protect our value system together. This is because your pen can make or mar institutions, and this is why they say the pen is mightier than the sword.
But, the media doesn’t seem to realise this power. Don’t talk to Fagbohun or any member of my management; meet the security guards, cleaners and students and do your unbiased assessment of our activities. Any institution that fails to instill discipline will definitely have itself to blame.
We need discipline in the country and it must begin with the education sector. Look at the case of Professor O.T.F Abanikanda that you raised, who sued the university because the Governing Council took an action against him. As at today, my knowledge about that case is that the university has engaged a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) to lead our team, and till date the matter is in court.
And, on the allegation that some of those sacked had their cases reviewed, I must let you know that if a decision was taken by the Council, you have a right to complain and seek review of the case. I think about two persons, who were part of those dismissed had their cases reviewed because they wrote to complain.
So, the Council took the decision and did the review of the case. And at the end of the day, if you are still not comfortable with the review, you can go to court. However, we have a situation where some individuals who went to court and while their cases are still subsisting in court, they go to the pages of newspapers to complain.
But I will not join them in doing that because apart from being the vice-chancellor, I am also a Professor of Law. I won’t join such people to undermine the judiciary because the matter is subjudice. You sued that your dismissal is illegal, why don’t you live the adjudicator to do its work? Why are you inciting the public against the institution when your matter is already before the court?
And, you should note that if one union is running up and down to run down the management, what happens to the other unions? Are they on sleeping tablets that they are not doing the same thing? Then you must note that something must be wrong somewhere.
What is your reaction to the rising cases of moral and financial corruption on Nigerian campuses, and particularly the recent OAU saga?
Well, the fact that it is not only OAU that has such challenge, but one of the things you would recall we did on resumption into office is to institute whistleblowing policy because we strongly believe that it is one of the many ways to get information from the students and other members of the university community.
Of course, when we get the information, we quietly investigate. This is why you see that disciplinary actions have been very strict on our campus here and we will continue along that line. That is why I advise other academic institutions to toe the same path because the system assures informants of adequate protection, and due process.
In the case of sexual harassment, there are instances where students are provocatively dressed and they become irresistible to people of opposite sex. Shouldn’t there be dress codes on campuses?
You would also recall that this administration had started out with dress codes. We do not tell our students what to wear, but there is a standard you must meet by not dressing provocatively. We won’t tell you what to wear but we will tell you what not to wear. And we will enforce it. Though, we have some faculties like Law, School of Transport and the College of Medicine which have prescribed dress codes in their own ways, however, we cannot deny the fact that LASU is a subset of a larger Nigerian society where some mischief makers in the system are simply interested in crises because they benefit from such.
At the end of the day, when we discipline students, they go on different platforms to castigate us. Few days back, we started engaging our students on cultism because we have found out that the use of abusive substances is becoming rampant. It will shock you that we had intelligence report towards last convocation when staff members incited cultists to invade the convocation ground. But the students themselves are also enjoying the peace that we have here and they came to report the situation to us.
During the last admission process, LASU could only admit about 4,000 candidates despite the increasing figure of admission seekers in the institution. How do you intend to increase your admission quota?
You would notice that we are aggressively improving our facilities towards ensuring that we can increase our admission quota. We have attracted benefactors, who are complementing government’s efforts in terms of infrastructure development. For instance, The Caverton Helicopters has just donated to us a 500-seater capacity auditorium, which construction work is already ongoing. Also, through the office of the Special Adviser to the President on SDGs, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, we have received a new ambulance and the construction of a primary healthcare centre. All of these are aside the TETFund intervention projects, which we have received our allocations and we are just going through the process of selecting those to be involved. By the time all these are actualised, more access will be opened to candidates subscribing for admission into the university. You may not feel all these until the next one year or thereabouts.
The law establishing LASU did not provide for hostel facilities on campus, but now you are considering building hostels. Has the law been reviewed?
In terms of hostel facilities, I want to assure you that the law establishing LASU, which hitherto was meant to be a non-residential university, has now provided for accommodation. Hence the 6,000 bed space hostel has been approved by the state government. So, we are covered under the law. And in terms of security, the way we are going to be doing it, the experiences of the older institutions like UNILAG, UI and OAU has taught us how to go about it. The model we are putting up doesn’t give the management the responsibility of hostel maintenance; it is a private sector arrangement with PWC serving as the transaction adviser. At least, two companies have been selected to build about 13 of the hostel blocks out of the total number of 16 we are planning to build. I must add that from the starting point, we are concerned with affordability of the hostels to our students.
The university’s Law Faculty used to be very strong, but suddenly it lost NUC and the Council of Legal Education accreditation. What is the situation now?
The truth is that there was a time the university, for two years, could not admit students into the Law Faculty because we lost our accreditation with NUC. Thereafter, NUC came back and gave us full accreditation which is what we have now. But, what we ought to have done at that time was to have gone back to the Council of Legal Education and tell them we have our accreditation back by showing them the papers so that they can send their team for another round of verification or inspection. We failed to do that then, but that is already in process towards rectifying that. So our students are not in any peril.
How far about LASU external system and the backlog of certificates?
We have successfully wound up the external system and almost all the results and certificates have been processed. However, we understand there are still some of the certificate issues that are still pending, but we have retained a director to resolve all them.
What happens to the buildings being used by the external system?
Those buildings, particularly those in Jibowu and Anthony, are not owned by LASU and we have told the owners to do what they want to do with them.
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