Some members of the Lagos State University (LASU) chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have accused the Vice- Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, of non-possession of PhD certificate and backdating his professorial promotion, among others. In this interview with MOJEED ALABI, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria-designate defends himself against the allegations. Excerpts:
Controversies seem to be rearing their ugly heads again at LASU as some members of ASUU are accusing your administration of victimizing them. How true is this?
It is erroneous to hold a belief that there is controversy in LASU. LASU is at peace and things are going on smoothly. The few people, who are unhappy, are grossly insignificant, and they are those enemies of progress who are in the habit of benefiting from the old system of unrest and constant closure, among others. They are not happy that within the last two years, LASU has not witnessed any form of protests and our academic calendar has run smoothly. Our students are happy and the members of staff are proud of LASU’s new image. You can walk round the university and witness the improved infrastructure and the ambience.
We must commend the Governor of the state and Visitor to the university for supporting our vision and for backing it with sufficient funds. As I am talking to you, we have a programme on research going on; the Faculty of Science is also holding a conference on climate change and vulnerability. Also, on Wednesday, August 15, a former Minister of State at the UK Foreign Office and now Chairman, African Matters Limited, Baroness Linda Chalker, is coming here to share her ideas with the university and the larger Nigerian leaders of thought across major sectors.
On August 28 we will have a distinguished guest lecture, and some of those who are going to inspire our students include celebrated thespians – Mrs. Joke Silva, Segun Arinze and one of our former students, a pilot, Mrs. Anne Dan-Faparusi. The wife of the state Governor, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode has graciously agreed to deliver the keynote address.
Then, later in September we are going to have the much anticipated Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s Spirit of Africa Awards. So, you should know that great programmes like this cannot take place where there is no peace. But, the new atmosphere is a result of our strict adherence to the rules and regulations, and so those who don’t want to fall in line with our improved ways of life are those seeking means to cause confusion.
But there is an allegation over your professorship. Some claimed that it was fraudulently backdated to allow you qualify for the position of Vice- Chancellor. What is your reaction to this?
I think there are about four issues raised by some ASUU leaders against my person. They said my professorship is backdated; they also said the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) could not have given me a Chair. I think another issue that they raised was that I didn’t have a PhD before my promotion and that I did not meet the 10-year post professorship qualification before applying for the position of vice-chancellorship of LASU. To begin with, all of these issues are unfounded and baseless. When they circulated that document, they attached to it a 2014 Governing Council decision.
They said in the Council decision of 2014 that there was nothing about backdating my professorship. In other words, they said since that decision was taken in 2014, my professorship should read 2014 and not 2007/2008. First, the Registrar of the university at that time never knew that I could become the Vice-Chancellor in 2016, so he could not have started doctoring documents for me in 2014. I also did not know that I would be vying for Vice-Chancellorship in 2016, and so I could not have met anyone to doctor any document for me.
Apart from that, in 2012, I wrote a petition that I was entitled to be promoted as far back as 2007/2008 and that the manner they have implemented the rules was unfair to me. That same period I moved to the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS). I wrote the petition because I wanted to protect my seniority. My seniority ordinarily should go back to 2007/2008, so there is nothing illegal in my petitioning the university and saying I was entitled to have been promoted. Council took all the petitions and not my own alone.
The Governing Council took a decision that they should inform me to go ahead and fill the APER Form for 2007/2008. It was pursuant to that process that they went ahead and when they eventually took my paper they confirmed that this man is worthy of being a professor. Of course, they had already taken a decision that I should fill the APER Form as at 2007/ 2008. So, it is automatic and I was not the only one that they did that for. In fact, that is the regular practice of the university. The current Dean of the Faculty of Law was also a beneficiary.
What they would say is that when we backdate your promotion to when you ought to have taken it, you would not enjoy financial remuneration, you would only have three months notional remuneration but your date of promotion would date back to when you ought to have taken it because that is the only way to preserve your seniority. On March 26, 2012, I got a letter that the Council had considered the report of the Appointment and Promotions Committee, and approved the recommendations. So, to say that the former registrar doctored documents for me to get a chair is a lie. It is just another futile attempt at creating chaos in the university.
What of the allegation that the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies ought not to have accorded you a professorial chair?
That is also laughable. It will be of interest to note that the second Vice-Chancellor of this university, Prof. Jadesola Akande was also given a chair by that same institution. I am LASU’s eighth substantive vicechancellor, and for somebody to wake up now and query why NIALS took its decision is shocking to me. The one about PhD, all you need to do is to approach the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), where I graduated from. You can contact the Faculty of Law or the Postgraduate School and if you want me to give you a copy of my certificate, I will produce it. There is no secrecy about it.
There is also the issue of the 10- year professorship condition they alleged you did not meet before applying for the position of vicechancellor?
You see, when the university advertised for the position of vicechancellor, I was not even with the university. So, I couldn’t have influenced its contents. The Governing Council superintended all the exercise through its Joint Committee of Council and Senate. This committee is the selection team that runs the process. The advert came out in three different papers, listing the conditions to be met by interested applicants, and there is nowhere 10-year professorship was mentioned. They can produce evidence if they have. Meanwhile, 17 of us applied at that time, and 14 were shortlisted.
The 14 of us were interviewed and I came first at the interview. Those making all these frivolous allegations are doing so because I have said that I am not above the law, and if as the vicechancellor I obey the laws, anyone found wanting would face the wrath of the law. So, my advice to the very insignificant figure that are not comfortable with the peace and progress this university is achieving should have a rethink and join the moving train as we are committed to preserving this great legacy of our founding fathers.
You seem to be very proud of your achievements as a vice-chancellor. Could you briefly tell us what has changed in the university?
Let me correct an impression, whatever achievements we may have recorded in the university within the last two and a half years, are products of collective efforts. I have been privileged to be surrounded by industrious, dedicated and intelligent people. The Governing Council, the Chancellor and the Lagos State Government have all been very supportive.
We must also commend the staff and students for endorsing our change agenda. As at January 2016, when this administration came on board, we inherited the following challenges – outstanding 18 months arrears arising from FG 2009 Agreement running to the tune of about N532 million; outstanding promotions of academic and non-academic staff dating back to many years with promotion arrears running into N68,951,491.00; all income-generating programmes were in comatose with the exception of LASU External Programme, which was also winding up; over 60,000 students were stagnated for years on the external system programme; persistent disruption of the academic calendar and lack of internal cohesion; de-accreditation of a number of courses, among many others.
But since we took over, outstanding arrears have been cleared; outstanding honoraria with some dating back to as far as 2008/2009 were paid; outstanding promotions were cleared with less than one per cent left to be cleared. We have also paid outstanding promotion arrears; addressed the issue of the stagnated students of the external system stagnated; we instituted a committee system to ensure inclusive governance; we have been paying salaries on regular basis; we have entrenched equal opportunities in the disbursement of TETFund allocations, among numerous others.
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