The University of Lagos (UNILAG) chapter of the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) and other members of staff have condemned the indefinite postponement of the institution’s 51st convocation ceremony.
The denunciation came on the heels of a conflict of interest between Pro-Chancellor Dr Wale Babalakin and the management of the university.
The Ministry of Education and the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) had advised the postponement following an allegation by the Pro-Chancellor that the management failed to obtain the approval of the institution’s council.
Describing the action as “unfair and overbearing,” the staff resolved to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to review the development and take a position.
ASUU chairman, Dr Dele Ashiru, said the members viewed the postponement as “wicked, inhuman, egoistic, retrogressive, unconscionable and satanic.”
He said, “These latest antics of the pro-chancellor have further confirmed our age-long fears about the destructive machinations of the pro-chancellor in the University of Lagos, in particular, and the entire Nigerian university system in general.
“Otherwise, how else can one explain the role of the pro-chancellor in the calamitous postponement of a convocation ceremony without any consideration for the psychological trauma this may cause the graduands, their parents, relatives, the image and reputation of the university? This is apart from the huge human, material and financial resources that have been committed to planning the ceremony.
“That the Ministry of Education could by fiat request the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to ‘advise the vice-chancellor (VC) to suspend the university’s convocation ceremony’ without investigating the veracity of the pro-chancellor’s claim is not only worrisome but highly depressing. It is a blatant erosion of academic freedom and university autonomy, which our union has consistently fought for over the years.”
A lecturer at the department of education said it was incomprehensible that the principal officers of the university chose to put their ego before the institution and its image.
“I believe in the rule of law and we should not condone illegality. Babalakin has a point in this matter, but I doubt it is sufficient to warrant his call for the postponement of the convocation. He clearly has an axe to grind but it should not be to the discomfort of all other parties. “It is unthinkable that UNILAG is cancelling a convocation after the VC has held a world press conference announcing the commencement. That action puts a lot of people in pain and discomfort because of plans and investments that have been put in. It is sad. All the principal actors should cover their heads in shame,” he said.
Another person blamed the pro-chancellor for being overbearing and acting contrary to the provision of the University Act. “Go and see the act. The convocation ceremony is the right of the chancellor and not the office of the pro-chancellor. If the chancellor has been duly informed, then, why is Babalakin acting against the collective interest of the university?” he asked.
Section 6 (1) of the University of Lagos Act states that “The chancellor shall, in relation to the university, take precedence before all other members of the university, and when he is present shall preside at all meetings of congregation held for conferring degrees and at all meetings of convocation.”
Section 6 (2) states: “The pro-chancellor shall, in relation to the university, take precedence before all other members of the university except the chancellor and except the vice-chancellor when acting as chairman of congregation or convocation and except the deputy vice-chancellor when so acting; and the pro-chancellor shall, when he is present, be the chairman at all meetings of the council.”
The university community is worried that the pro-chancellor could deny knowledge of the convocation programme despite his contributions, as council minutes showed.