UNILAG Council Faults VC, Backs NUC over Suspension of Convocation

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Peter Uzoho

The Governing Council of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has blamed the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, for the decision of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to suspend the planned convocation by the university because UNILAG’s management did not seek the commission’s approval as required by law.

The council, in its resolutions at the end of a meeting on March 7, 2020, that was signed by the Registrar and Secretary of the Council, Mr. Oladejo Azeez, a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY yesterday, explained that on March 4, 2020, the governing council received and considered a letter from the Executive Secretary of the NUC directing the management to suspend the 2019 convocation ceremonies previously slated for March 9 to March 13.

According to the council, the NUC directive for the suspension of the ceremonies was based on the exchange of correspondences between the Pro-Chancellor & Chairman of Council, Dr. Bolanle Babalakin, and Ogundipe regarding claims that the management failed to obtain approval for the convocation ceremonies.

The letter said: “Council was guided by the audio recording of the special meeting held on Tuesday, 21st January 2020 and Wednesday, 22 January 2020 in order to clarify claims by the Vice-Chancellor that the convocation ceremonies were brought to council for approval.
“The audio recording, the minutes of these meetings as well as the Agenda/Notice of Meeting confirmed that the convocation budget was the only item formally brought to the January 2020 special meeting.

“Council was also verbally informed of the proposed convocation lecturer and this choice was discussed. However, the convocation programme was not listed as an item on the Agenda of the Special Meeting of Council and there were no supporting documents on the programme tabled during the January 2020 Special Council meeting.”

With respect to the award of Honorary Degrees, it stated that Council had directed that it would only consider nominees for honorary degrees after receiving a detailed presentation from management, which would include the curriculum vitae of the honorees, the recommendation of the Honours Committee of the Senate and the Senate itself as prescribed by the Rules and Regulations and Law of the University.
The Council stated: “The management never presented any memorandum/supporting documents to the Council on the subject matter. No Council approval was given to the management.

“It is noteworthy that the Council had expressed dissatisfaction to management about the manner Honorary Degrees were handled for the 2018 Convocation Ceremonies, and had stressed specifically at its meeting of March 2019 (as confirmed by minutes of that meeting) that management must provide all the relevant details of nominees for honorary awards to the Council early enough to enable Council deliberate properly on it.

“Council had also cautioned that honorees must have made a demonstrable contribution to the society, the nation or the world at large. The honorary degrees will not be treated as a chieftaincy title to be given to the highest bidder.

“The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council explained that his communication with regulatory authorities only took place on Monday, 2 March 2020, and this was necessitated by his letter to the Vice-Chancellor of Friday, 28 February 2020, which the Vice-Chancellor received on the same day but ignored, and proceeded to hold a Press Conference regarding the Convocation Ceremonies without deeming it fit to address the serious concerns and legal issues he raised in his letter under reference.

“The position of Council was confirmed by the audio recording of the meeting of Council which was fully played to the entire Council on Wednesday, 4 March 2020.”

It also accused the management of disregarding the procedures for the conferment of honorary degrees.
It said no Council approval was given to the management on the list of honorary awardees released by the university.
Meanwhile, in a separate letter seen by THISDAY, dated February 28, 2020, that was written by Babalakin and addressed to the Vice-Chancellor, the Council Chairman, had said the content of the letter inviting him to the convocation was strange.

“I saw the programme of the convocation ceremonies for the first time when it was brought to my attention during the FGN/ASUU 2009 Agreement Renegotiation meeting. The programme was never brought to the attention of the Council and it was not mentioned to me at all. I was taken aback by the contents.

“It is also noteworthy that no memo was presented to Council about the convocation ceremony. We discussed the proposed budget for the convocation ceremonies and I specifically wrote that the budget should be implemented in a manner consistent with the Procurement Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Babalakin added.