The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, FAS, who was purportedly removed from office yesterday by the Governing Council of Unilag has briefed top-notch and leading constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, to head to court and challenge his alleged illegal removal from office and redress the wrong done to him.
The Council headed by Dr Wale Babalakin, SAN, had allegedly sacked the very hardworking VC at an emergency meeting held at the National Universities Commission (NUC), Abuja, on 12th August 2020.
The VC is saying that the Council breached all known rules of natural justice and section 36 of the 1999 Constitution in purportedly removing him as VC, as he was never heard at all, or ever made to face any panel or committee to defend himself against allegations of his alleged unauthorised expenditure of university funds leading to his purported removal from office. It will be recalled that even the House of Representatives had on 17th August 2019, completely exonerated him of any wrongdoing after hearing from both the Babalakin-led Council and Prof Ogundipe.
Breaking news yesterday had highlighted that journalists and cameras were already positioned at strategic places at the NUC before the emergency meeting in what was believed to have been a premeditated done-deal decision to sack the VC.
The VC was observed by journalists leaving the venue of the meeting with another Council member, Prof Bola Oboh when they protested in vain that the main issue for discussion at the emergency meeting was not the VC’s investigation or removal which was item 5 on the agenda, but the 2020 budget of the university. It is believed that even the Representative of the Federal Ministry of Education, Prince Adetokunbo Adebanjo had also protested the proceedings, and voted against the VC’s removal by WhatsApp message as was directed by Dr Babalakin (the Chairman of Council) even in the absence of the VC.
One of the issues in contention apart from denial of fair hearing is that the voting process was fundamentally flawed as votes of those who voted against the VC’s removal like Prince Adebanjo were allegedly not counted.
The Unilag Act available to us makes it clear that the VC must first be tried by a joint committee of the Senate and Council before any recommendation for his removal is sent to the Council for debate and action. Even then, the Council cannot remove him without the Senate first concurring, all of which were said never to have taken place at all. The Registrar of the University and Secretary to Council, Oladejo Azeez, Esq., had immediately published a “Notice to the General Public on the Removal of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos”.
The VC had immediately fired back in his reaction on the same day, contending that ” the purported removal is an illegality and cannot stand as it is in clear violation of the University of Lagos Act”. He urged all “Stakeholders of Unilag and the general public to disregard this mischievous disinformation about the sitting Vice-Chancellor of Unilag. Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, FAS still remains the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos”. Already, Unilag chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has joined the fray on the side of the embattled Vice-Chancellor, saying it was “seriously amused by Dr Wale Babalakin ‘s charade which purportedly removed the Vice-Chancellor of our great University, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe”.
ASUU, Unilag chapter said the latest action confirmed it’s earlier position that “Dr Wale Babalakin is a lawless, egocentric and vindictive Pro-Chancellor”. It will be quite interesting to see how this case plays out in the coming days and weeks.