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Expectations as Oyo takes full ownership of LAUTECH

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LAUTECH

Established as Oyo State University of Technology via an edict on April 23, 1990, during the regime of then Colonel Sasaenia Oresanya as military administrator of the Old Oyo State, and by May 2, Prof. Olusegun Ladimeji, a renowned chemist and fellow of the Academy of Science, was appointed as the pioneer Vice-Chancellor.

In October of that year, academic activities began. Shortly after, in 1991, Osun State was carved out of the old Oyo State. Arising from the creation of Osun State, the name of the university was changed to Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) and the edict that established the university was appropriately amended. 

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While the larger portion of the university, with its administration, is located at Ogbomoso, its College of Health Sciences is located at Osogbo, the capital of Osun State. The technology-oriented institution was jointly run and financed by the two states without much dispute.

However, agitations for the ceding of the ownership to Oyo State began shortly after the creation of Osun State University in 2006. By 2010, Oyo State requested that full ownership of the institution be transferred to it, being the original owner but the Osun government disagreed. 

The refusal notwithstanding, Oyo State, by executive fiat, under the leadership of former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala declared itself the sole owner of the university. But his counterpart in Osun State at the time, ex-governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, declined the step, marking the beginning of a protracted battle that rendered the award-winning university prostrate. 

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Mudslinging, litigation, and several other tactics were employed by the Oyo government, yet the joint ownership remained unsevered. By November 27, 2010, Oyinlola was ousted, while Alao-Akala failed to return to Agodi Government House in 2011.

With the assumption of office of Rauf Aregbesola in Osun and the late Abiola Ajimobi in the Oyo States, on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), it was believed that the ownership tussle would be resolved.

Though the issue of sole ownership was jettisoned by the two parties, as they agreed to jointly run the institution, the school was poorly funded and experienced disruptions in its academic activities as a result of industrial disputes. A state would release its subvention, while the other would hold back, a development that adversely affected the fortunes and fame of the university, with students and staff bearing the excruciating brunt of the power play.

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As part of efforts to resolve the ownership crisis, several steps were taken, including the infamous staff audit and screening, which culminated in the sacking of some members of staff. Again, in October 2016, Aregbesola and Ajimobi decided to set up a visitation panel to look into the mess that the institution was embroiled in and make recommendations. Legal luminary, Chief Wole Olanipekun was given the task to perform.

The panel submitted its report in February 2017. Both parties, as part of the report’s recommendations, were urged to pay their subvention regularly and on time, and to establish a trust fund for the school. 

The two governments accepted Olanipekun’s report but did not implement the recommendations; rather, they set up a committee to review the report. While all this was going on, there were protests by students and staff. But in the build-up to the 2019 poll, Governor Seyi Makinde had promised to restore the glory of the school by making Oyo its sole owner. 

Upon assumption of office and in fulfillment of his electoral promise, Makinde set up a five-man committee, which was inaugurated on November 27, 2019, and headed by Prof. Deji Omole of University of Ibadan (UI) to work with a similar committee from Osun State, and deliberate on the ownership of LAUTECH.

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Makinde had said that the Oyo State government was ready to shoulder the responsibility of sole ownership of the institution to ensure it’s smooth running in the interest of the over 30,000 students, 1,200 workforce,s and the economy of Ogbomoso in particular, and Oyo State in general.

Other members were a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide; Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN); the then state’s Commissioner for Education (now in Training and Establishment Ministry), Prof Dahud Shangodoyin and his counterpart in the Ministry of Justice, Prof Oyelowo Oyewo.

To find a lasting solution to the conundrum, the National Universities Commission (NUC) stepped in. A government source told The Guardian how the NUC brokered the deal. “The Executive Secretary of NUC was in Oyo State about a month ago. He also visited Osun State to share the content of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the owner states. After that, the two governors discussed and subsequently went to Abuja to sign up on the MoU”.

Speaking on the development, Makinde said the state now has the opportunity to restore the lost glory of the institution. He also maintained that the real work to reposition the university and take it back to the glorious days when it was adjudged the best state-owned university had now begun.

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Makinde lauded Governor Gboyega Oyetola, for his cooperation while the discussion lasted, assuring of his readiness to reposition the institution in line with his campaign promises.

He added that Oyo State, under his watch, would readily reposition the school for excellence.

He said: “Now, the real work starts because we have to ensure that the university is properly funded so that it will be contributing to the economy of Ogbomoso in particular and Oyo State in general. If we are saying we want to industrialise the state and we have a university of technology adding value in Ogbomoso, the industrialisation effort can proceed very quickly.”

He added: “The arrangement that we met when we came in May 2019, was that Oyo State usually would fund the university from January to June, while Osun State would fund it from July to December. We had to intervene a couple of times last year, and between May and December, we had to intervene to get the university running.

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“I had already indicated that we wanted to take it over and because of that, Osun felt why should they be putting money while the negotiation was still on? .So, for this year 2020, Oyo State has been funding LAUTECH alone. After our January to June arrangement, from July, we have been funding the institution alone basically and we appropriated enough money in the 2021 budget to continue doing that. So, we anticipated that we were going to get to this position and we are putting our money where our mouth is.”

From Osun State, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Oyetola, Mr. Ismail Omipidan, described the development as a win-win for the two states, adding that the agreement remains sacrosanct.  

He said: “The jobs of Osun State indigenes who are in the university remain secured. Also, the jobs of all Oyo State indigenes working at the College of Health Sciences are secured. There shall be no differential between the fees of Oyo and Osun State students. He added that all subsisting agreements, including the appointment of management staff remain sacrosanct. Once their tenure expires, they may be replaced but until then, the separation will not affect their position and appointment. 

Stakeholders, including trade unions, academics, and student leaders commended the owner states for the peaceful resolution of the crisis, which has bedeviled the institution for years.

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Chairperson of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), LAUTECH chapter, Dr. ‘Biodun Olaniran, said:” Our immediate reaction is to commend the two governors for their maturity in handling the ownership matter. Based on the information at our disposal, it is our belief that Oyo State can adequately fund the university. Our expectations are so many but principally, the government should attend to all outstanding welfare issues of all workers in the university”.

On his part, Chairman, Non-Academic Staff and Associated Unions (NASU) of the institution, Adejumo Joel Oyewahunde, said: “It is a long-awaited thing and we are grateful. We believe the state has the financial capacity. Makinde has been saying there is money to fund LAUTECH and he has been doing it. He was supposed to stop his funding in June this year but he kept on releasing funds.

“Our expectation is that this government will still continue to fund this university. When one state is saddled with the responsibility of funding one university, it would also know how to take care of the staff instead of leaving it for two states to fund.  We explained to them when the NUC came, that if two people are managing one thing, they would not be able to manage it well”.

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Also, the president of the Students Union Government (SUG), Olamide Anthony Olabiyi said: “ It did not really come as a surprise to me, because talks had been ongoing about it. But, the amazing thing about it is that it is happening within a year. It is such a remarkable feat that I will commend and appreciate the two owner state governors.

“I am happy now that the major crisis that has lingered, regarding LAUTECH has been resolved amicably and mutually. This victory is for LAUTECH 100 per cent. I believe that the Oyo State government knows what it takes to actually sustain a university and that is why it could push for the sole ownership”.

On his expectations, Olabiyi said: “My expectations are actually high. I believe with this new development, there would be a new atmosphere of positivity as the sole owner of LAUTECH will want to convince the masses that truly, government is ready and the time is now. Governor Makinde has actually shown us a glimpse of what to expect by paying the workers as at when due, without any form of delay.”

Reacting, a Professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan (UI), who hails from Osun State, Oyesoji Aremu, said: “The news ceding the sole ownership of LAUTECH to Oyo State by NUC did not come to many stakeholders as a surprise. As a matter of fact, the severance of ownership of the university between the two states was long in coming. 

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“On this, the two governors must be lauded for making it happen and for not playing politics with the future of the university and thousands of students who had for years in the past, bore the brunt of the dirty politics on account of the university’s ownership. 

“However, the severance of the long-held ownership comes with some implications and challenges, which the two states should handle very well to avoid acrimony and mudslinging. The first one is the sharing of assets. Often, this always generates acrimonies. The two states should work this out and also, give room for giving and take, while at the same time, avoid winners take all. One other challenge that would obviously ensue (now or in the future) is that of personnel. Again, it is always the case when such a separation happens. What always follows is perceived or obvious skewness of personnel demography. 

“However, going by the assurances coming from the two states, there should not be anything to worry about. Even at that, it would require sustainable goodwill on the part of the Management of LAUTECH to make that happen. The overriding drive should be the future of the university and industrial peace in Oyo and Osun states”.

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Also, Prof. Omotoye Olorode, a former ASUU Chairman at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, said the crisis that engulfed LAUTECH was really part of the general crisis of confusion the ruling class created for the people. “They forgot that it was somebody from Ogun State who started this university. That was Sasaenia Oresanya.

The Oyo State Chairman of Alliance on Survival of COVID -19 And Beyond (ASCAB) said: “ I hope the resolution would give the university a respite. It is not just about giving it to one state; governor Makinde should understand that this is a very important responsibility, which would go down in history if he is able to handle things well. This is not just about asking the poor people to pay school fees to be able to maintain the school, he should fund the institution and he should not think that the way to go is to transfer the burden of funding to the students and their parents”.

With this latest feat, it is expected that Governor Makinde would match words with action, in repositioning the university and restoring its glory in line with the vision of its founding fathers. 

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