UNILAG Crisis: Soyombo faces opposition as he resumes as Vice-Chancellor

The resumption of Theophilus Soyombo as the interim vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos, has, once again, been met with stiff opposition by the university’s staff union, ASUU.

This is in spite of Mr Soyombo’s Wednesday meeting with the university staff, where he pleaded for support and acceptance.

Save the council which appointed him last week, after removing the incumbent vice-chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, for alleged misappropriation, Mr Soyombo does not have the backing of key parties in the school.

The alumni association, the staff school’s unions and the national ASUU as the school Senate have faulted removal of Mr Ogundipe and the subsequent appointment of Mr Soyombo as acting vice-chancellor.

It appears, therefore, that Mr Soyombo hoped to use the meeting to rally support for his tenure as the head of the university.

“I want to thank all our unions. I see it as a call to service to the university; it’s in this regard that I accepted the post,” Punch reported him saying.

“We all came here to work and it behoves us to make it better than we met it. We should not allow the ship of this university to drift.”

“My major focus will be on staff welfare. My belief in this regard is that human resources (staff) are the core assets of the university and any organisation. Otherwise, we cannot achieve anything,” he said.

But UNILAG’s ASUU would not have any of these.

The chairman of the union, Dele Ashiru, maintained that as far as the union was concerned, Mr Ogundipe remained the vice-chancellor of the institution.

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“The Senate of the university is the highest decision-making organ on academic affairs; the Senate has spoken and that remained unchanged. A VC will not assume office by addressing pressmen and some disgruntled members of staff. You take charge when you take off,” Punch reported.

In reaction to his rejection, Mr Soyombo showed optimism, saying the disagreement would be resolved through dialogue.

“ASUU is our union, I am a member of ASUU. We will continue to dialogue with ourselves. It is rare to have 100 per cent agreement in any organisation or group, there will always be different opinions.”

Senate’s rejection

Meanwhile, last week, when the university’s Senate took its resolution to President Buhari, it told reporters that the “purported removal (of Mr Ogundipe) was illegal” because “due process was not followed.”

The spokesperson of the Senate, Chioma Agomo, said its resolution was that the status quo remains.

“We are not saying the council cannot remove the vice-chancellor but we are saying due process was not followed,” Mr Agomo said.

The professor of law said to remove the vice-chancellor, a joint committee of both council and Senate ought to be set up.

Universities miscellaneous act says a vice-chancellor can be removed by the council after a joint committee of council (3 members) and Senate (2 members) finds them guilty, after which the Visitor, the Nigerian president, is notified for approval.

“If there is a vacancy and there is (a) need to appoint an acting vice-chancellor, the council has the right to do (so) on the recommendation of the Senate. This has not been done.”

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On that note, she said, “the Senate affirms its confidence in the vice-chancellor and lost confidence in the council.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the council, Wale Babalakin, has maintained that due process was followed, adding that Mr Ogundipe has not denied the infraction allegations levelled against.

This is even as Mr Ogundipe denied wrongdoing, according to the council’s report seen by this newspaper, with which he was indicted.

Leadership tussle

The management of the university has, since last week, been in a leadership quagmire with the school’s council.

On one hand, the council, led by the school’s pro-chancellor, Mr Babalakin, said it had removed Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as vice-chancellor over alleged gross misconduct and forgery.

From his end as the head of the management, Mr Ogundipe said he remains the vice-chancellor because due process was not followed.

The council would later announce an acting vice-chancellor in Mr Soyombo, who has since called for peace.

Mr Ogundipe is also bracing to seek legal redress, the newspaper reported.

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