Elusive peace as ASUU, management square up at LASU
In this piece, Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL and UJUNWA ATUEYI examine the litany of allegations by the Lagos State University (LASU) chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) against the vice chancellor, Prof Olanrewaju Fagbohun, and the so far elusive denouement to the lingering crisis between the association and the institution’s management.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, Lagos State University Chapter, feels hard done by the institution’s hard stance – failing to yield to its demands. The university’s management feels the right way is its way. The disagreement had been in the making for a long time. It came to a head when the then LASU Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Obafunwa, was disgracefully eased out of office at the end of his tenure and Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, considered his surrogate, assumed his position.
If ASUU-LASU had any hope of respite when Fagbohun emerged as the VC, it took it just three months to realise that its relationship with the institution’s management might have jumped from the frying pan to fire.
Lamenting in its February 16, 2018 press statement, the union said, “The end of the inglorious tenure of Prof. John Oladapo Obafunwa as the vice chancellor of Lagos State University on October 31, 2015 created the vacancy that was filled by the current vice chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Adigun Fagbohun, who assumed office on January 12, 2016. After working and walking through ‘hell’ under the leadership of Obafunwa, the LASU community was hopeful of having it so good under the new vice chancellor. That Fagbohun is a Professor of Law gave hope that at least for the first time in recent times, the laws guiding the university will be applied conscientiously and respected.”
However, things did not turn out the way the union expected as it explained further in the February statement titled, “The looming crisis in LASU: ASUU-LASU’s perspective.”
The union claimed that Fagbohun’s mission is geared towards extending by proxy the administration of Obafunwa; to protect him from being brought to book for his alleged misdeeds as vice chancellor; to protect the cronies of the ex-VC from disciplinary actions; to place the former VC’s cronies in academic and administrative positions of authorities without recourse to due process; and to continue the victimisation of members of staff who saw to the removal and non-return of the former VC, Obafunwa, for a second term.
That is not all. Fagbohun is being accused by the ASUU-LASU of other ‘crimes’.On assumption of office, Fagbohun was said to be willing to discontinue the centralisation of power in the university and adopt the committee system. He announced the formation of about 30 advisory committees and asked for faculty nominations into the committees.
The aggrieved union explained what happened next, “He assured the unions and the university community that he would not tamper with the list of members of committees as they emerged from their various faculties. Faculties conducted elections for representatives into the various committees and forwarded nominations to the Vice Chancellor.”ASUU-LASU felt cheated at the end of the exercise because as it claimed that by the time Fagbohun released the official list, many names submitted to him had disappeared.
New names that were not voted for or nominated at the faculty level suddenly emerged as chairmen and vice chairmen of the committees, it added. What hurts the union more is the fact that most of the new names were those of Obafunwa’s cronies.There is more. “Prof. Obafunwa in his bid as the vice chancellor to have total control of the university’s Senate created some non-existent directorates and appointed his cronies as acting directors. The purpose was for patronage and to make them members of the Senate for the purpose of voting and decision-making. Two of such are Dr. Rasak Olowu and Dr. Abayomi Jimoh. Shortly before the expiration of his tenure in 2015, Obafunwa quickly renewed the tenure of the duo (among others) for one year against the law of the university,” the union added.
When it urged Fagbohun to reverse the illegal appointments, the latter was said to have appealed – for the sake of peace – that the union should “allow the one-year illegal term to run.” That tenure had since expired in July 2016, but the VC is now being accused of renewing the tenure of Olowu and Jimoh.ASUU further accused the LASU management under the watch of Fagbohun of overstepping his boundary.
“There are rules guiding the appointment of heads of departments. Significantly, seniority is a factor, and appointments are based on the recommendations of the dean. Where the vice chancellor disagrees with a dean’s recommendation, he is expected to consult with the dean for another nomination.
“In the first set of appointments of HODs made by Prof. Fagbohun, the university regulations were grossly violated on the basis of sentiments. For example: In the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, an academic staff who had just applied as a PhD student in the Department was appointed HOD above his lecturers and prospective supervisor. In the Faculty of Science, only three out of the nine recommended heads of departments were appointed; six were substituted without any explanation to the faculty.
“In the Department of Insurance where there is a senior lecturer and lecturers at Grade level I, none of them was appointed. The HOD was appointed (imported) from Accounting Department. Of recent, the current HOD of Philosophy was appointed (imported) from Music and Theatre Arts Department. Yet, there are four lecturers Grade I with PhD in the Department,” ASUU alleged.
Even more curious is the allegation that Fagbohun replaced an associate professor with a Lecturer 1 as director of Entrepreneurship. In a university, and in accordance with rules, directors of academic centres and directorates are usually professors. Where a professor is not available, an associate professor or a senior lecturer may be considered in acting capacity.
According to ASUU, Fagbohun turned logic on its head. The VC met one Dr. Biodun Denloye as the Acting Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship. At the end of his tenure, he replaced him with one Saka Rahman, a Lecturer I who was running his PhD programme then. There is more to the peculiar mess as the union revealed.ASUU-LASU accused Fagbohun of following in the footstep of his predecessor by victimising certain individuals in the institutions for being part of the group that pushed out Obafunwa.
“Dr. Jide Abidogun moved the motion for the local ASUU strike of 2014 in LASU. Immediately after the strike, he was issued a memo that he falsified the paper detailing his WASSCE result. The memo explained that the result on the paper is valid but the paper itself is fake. Abidogun responded that he knew nothing about the paper. The university failed to prove how the document in question got into his personal file. Abidogun was denied promotion on the basis of this for years under Obafunwa and Fagbohun administrations, until December 2017.
“Like Abidogun, the late Dr. James Okolie stood by the union and refused to sign the register opened by Obafunwa for academics to resume work during the 2014 strike. He was issued a promotion letter, which served a second purpose as an advance notice of termination. No other promoted member was issued such a vindictive letter. The letter was practically a death sentence. The union pointed this out to the vice chancellor but he refused to do anything about it.” Sadly, Okolie died few months after he was issued the letter.There are myriads of other issues that border on misrepresentation, wrongful dismissals, witch-hunting, etc.
Nevertheless, in charting the way forward, the ASUU-LASU makes a few demands: The reversal of the illegal dismissal of the chairperson and vice chairperson of its union; an immediate withdrawal of the doctored Conditions and Schemes of Service (2017), and the immediate circulation of the agreed draft as approved by the council in 2016; the full implementation of the University Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 2012 (UMPA 2012) – an executive bill to the Lagos State House of Assembly to facilitate quick passage.
Other demands made are: Vacancy adverts for the positions of registrar, bursar and librarian to be placed immediately following the end of the incumbents’ tenure in May, 2018; an end to the harassment of the union’s officers; a withdrawal of queries issued to the ASUU-LASU’s secretary, assistant secretary and the treasurer; payment of the Earned Academic Allowances of ASUU members from 2009 to date; completion of promotion cases being stalled and return to a transparent system of admitting students into LASU.
The union also called for an end to irregular appointments and the conduct of elections into faculties, colleges and directorates as provided for in the LASU Law, 2014; immediate stoppage of the meddling into the affairs of the union by stopping forthwith the meeting of a parallel union under the disguise of the ‘Association of Professors and Associate Professors’.
But the LASU management faulted the claims by the aggrieved union members describing the allegations as baseless and incorrect.The Acting Director of Communication, Mr Ademola Adekoya in an interview alleged that the members turned against the vice chancellor after their failed attempt to make him do their bidding when he came on board. “Fagboun’s tenure is not in any way an extension of Obafunwa’s tenure, the aggrieved ASUU members wanted to woo the VC to their side to do their bidding but when they did not succeed, they started raising allegations.
Some lecturers were actually accused of collecting bribes in the course of doing their work and when a random check was done, some ASUU members were found to be involved and actually guilty of corruption. Prof Fagboun has the right to appoint people to offices without recourse to ASUU or any union because when the chips are down, it is the vice chancellor that will be held responsible.”
“Everything we have done in the university was based purely on the rule of law,” Adekoya added.Special Adviser to governor Akinwumi Ambode, Mr. Obafela Bank-Olemoh, maintained that things are going on well in LASU as all the agenda of the governor on the facelift of the university are going on seamlessly, including academic activities.
“There is peace in LASU and great academic and infrastructural transformation is going on at the moment. We are happy with the present administration of the institution, as a matter of fact; this is the sanest administration in LASU. Academic activities are going on smoothly; innovative and entrepreneurial programmes for the institution are being carried out as planned; our faculty members are discharging their duties effectively and our students are happy and meaningfully engaged. And so, I do not understand the looming crisis you are talking about.
There is no crisis in LASU. “Our goal is to place LASU among the top five universities in the country by 2020, we are currently number 11 in the country. We are committed, we are focused and we are moving forward,” Bank-Olemoh said.
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