• Says outcome of visitation panel predetermined
By Kuni Tyessi
Pro-Chancellor of University of Lagos, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has resigned following an alleged disagreement with the federal government on the Visitation Panel sent to the university.
He said there were too many vested interests in UNILAG crisis, who were not approaching the issues objectively.
This was coming as the Special Visitation Panel set up by the federal government to look into the crisis at the university, yesterday submitted a report of its findings.
Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who inaugurated the panel, headed by Prof. Tukur Sa’ad, received the report on behalf of the federal government in Abuja.
He said the recommendations of the panel would be thoroughly scrutinised with the aim of full implementation.
Adamu said: “I am very happy to learn that the panel worked very hard within the two-weeks given to it in order to arrive at recommendations which I hope will assist the visitor in making an informed decision to solve the lingering crisis.
“It is my hope that the panel directs all officials and all stakeholders who are supposed to contribute towards the resolution of the crisis in the course of his assignment in order to have a fair balance of issue at hand.
“The visitor of the university after due consideration of this report will take a decision on the matter as appropriate in order to resolve the crisis and produce a learning atmosphere in University of Lagos and the university system as a whole.”
But, Babalakin alleged that the visitation panel was raised to exonerate the Vice Chancellor and implicate the Pro Chancellor.
Babalakin, who appeared before the panel in protest, made it clear that the panel could not determine the issues before it and emphasised that he would also not be available again to serve as the chairman of the Federal Government’s Negotiation Team on the Agreement reached with university unions in 2009.
Babalakin’s letter of resignation to Adamu was dated September 15, 2020, but it was made public barely a few hours after the submission of the report of the Visitation Panel.
The same letter was copied President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the Visitor to the university.
The letter reads in part: “I would like to thank the President of the Federal of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari for giving me the opportunity to serve as the Pro-Chancellor of University of Lagos from May 2017 to date.
“I am also grateful that I was considered fit to be the Chairman of the Federal Government Negotiation Team on the Agreement reached with university unions in 2009, from 6th January 2017 to date. I equally want to thank you, sir, for your role in recommending me to the President.”
He cited the reasons why he led the Governing Council of the university to remove the vice chancellor of the university from office, to include corruption and financial recklessness; forgery; complicity in the collapse of the university library and planned cover-up; deliberate policy of wrongfully concealing information; and depriving the faculties in university of funds.
The other reasons, he listed, include: concealing and distorting finances of the internally generating units of the university; undermining the academic process and seeking to appoint a professor by fiat; siphoning of the university’s funds through dubious contract awards; undermining the office of the registrar; failure to follow due process in organising the university’s convocation ceremony; and sponsoring or acquiescing in the unconstitutional actions of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos chapter.
“Sir, it is noteworthy that all the federal government representatives who are the independent members on the Governing Council voted for the removal of the Vice Chancellor,” he said.
Babalakin noted that after calm had been restored in the university, the visitor acting within his powers, set up a Presidential Visitation Panel to review the actions taken by Governing Council.
According to him, the vice chancellor, who had been removed from office and himself were told to recuse themselves for the duration of the visitation panel.
Babalakin argued that he found it difficult to understand how a non-executive chairman of a governing council could be requested to recuse himself during the visitation.
“The Vice Chancellor could only recuse himself if he were still in office. Implicit in this position is that the Vice Chancellor was acknowledged as still being in office despite his removal,” he added.
Babalakin faulted the terms of reference of the committee, which he claimed were set to achieve a predetermined agenda.
He added: “The terms of reference of the Visitation Panel clearly indicated to any discerning person that the Visitation Panel was empanelled to exonerate the Vice Chancellor and implicate the Pro-Chancellor.”
He insisted that the vice chancellor was removed for various reasons and not just as a result of the findings contained in the Dagari Report.
“Unfortunately, those items deal with the interpretation of the laws of the land. The appropriate forum to determine the laws of the land is a court of law or a judicial tribunal. It cannot be determined by academics of a different discipline no matter how distinguished. These terms of reference are ultra-vires the Visitation Panel as constituted,” he said.
Babalakin also said the composition of the panel was awkward.
He said he only appeared before the panel in protest, because the panel could not determine the issues before it.