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Controversy as Council sacks UNILAG VC

Fresh crisis is brewing at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) over yesterday’s sacking of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olawatoyin Ogundipe, by the Governing Council of the institution. Ogundipe was accused of wrongdoing, financial recklessness and abuse of office.

His sack was announced during a meeting of the Council held at the National Universities Commission (NUC) building in Abuja. However, the embattled VC insisted that he remains in office. He accused the Council of breaching the University of Lagos Act in their action. The university management, led by Ogundipe, had been in a running battle with the Governing Council, led by the Chairman and Pro-Chancellor, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN). The university, in a statement signed by its Registrar and Secretary to Council, Mr. Oladejo Azeez, said that at an emergency meeting held on Wednesday, August 12, and in accordance with the statutory powers vested in it by the law, the Governing Council of the University of Lagos removed Prof. Ogundipe as Vice-Chancellor of the university with immediate effect.

In the statement, titled: “Notice to the General Public on the Removal of the Vice-Chancellor University of Lagos,” the Registrar said that the decision was based on Council’s investigation of serious acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness and abuse of office against Ogundipe. At the meeting, seven members of the Council were said to have voted for the removal of Ogundipe, while four voted against. One of the members voted that the VC should be placed on suspension.

The meeting presided over by Babalakin at the NUC Conference Hall, Abuja, was attended by the Vice Chancellor, among others. In a swift reaction, Ogundipe, in a statement, said he still remains UNILAG’s Vice Chancellor.” The statement reads: “The attention of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Management has been drawn to a notice to the general public on the removal of the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, dated Aug. 12 and signed by Oladejo Azeez, Esq, Registrar and Secretary to council.

“It states that the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, has been removed from office with immediate effect. “The purported removal is an illegality and cannot stand as it is in clear violation of the University of Lagos Act as amended by the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act, 2003. “Therefore, members of the University of Lagos community and the general public are advised to disregard the information as contained in the notice. “Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe remains the Vice- Chancellor of University of Lagos.”

Fresh trouble began after the indefinite postponement of a special Governing Council meeting earlier scheduled to hold between July 13 and 15, that the university management fixed an emergency meeting of the Council for August 12 to 14. The university moved the meeting from the Governing Council Chamber at the Akoka, Lagos main campus of the 58-yearold institution, to Fraiser Suites Hotel in Abuja, due to the threat by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which had declared the Council Chairman persona nongrata on the campus. According to the notice of the meeting signed by the Registrar, and dated August 10, the emergency meeting was sanctioned by Babalakin in response to a request by the Vice-Chancellor, via a letter dated July 15, and addressed to the Council Chairman.

Some of the issues listed on the agenda of the proposed meeting include the approval of the university’s 2020 budget estimates, advertisement for needs assessment intervention fund, university’s COVID-19 action plan, outstanding reports of council subcommittees, pending matters and requests, among many others. The protracted crisis between the university management and the Governing Council got to a head in March, when the 52nd convocation of the institution was abruptly cancelled after some activities scheduled to be part of the event had already started. The cancellation, which was alleged to have been ordered by the National Universities Commission (NUC), was also said to be in response to a directive by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.

In the letter addressed to the Vice-Chancellor by the Council Chairman, the Vice-Chancellor was accused of failure to share important details of the ceremony with the Council. The development, however, had been condemned by relevant stakeholders, especially the graduating students, parents, alumni members and workers of the institution.

Prior to the abrupt cancellation of the convocation in March, there had been allegations of fraudulent practices bordering on contracts award and clash of interests levelled against the management, led by the Vice-Chancellor. The crisis degenerated to the level that the House of Representatives ordered its Committee on Public Procurement to wade in and submit the report of its findings within weeks. The committee cited communication gap between the university management and the Governing Council as the basis for the crisis.

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