By Tajudeen Adebanjo and Kofoworola Belo-Osagie
The Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Theophilus Omololu Soyombo, formally stepped down on Saturday, 24 hours after the Federal Government mandated the institution’s Senate to nominate someone else for the position.
Soyombo, who was appointed by the suspended Pro-Chancellor/Chairman Governing Council of UNILAG, Dr. Wale Babalakin, penultimate week, said he was leaving with immediate effect.
Government, on Friday, set up a special visitation panel to probe the situation in the university which culminated in the August 12 sack of Vice Chancellor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe by Babalakin for alleged financial irregularities.
Ogundipe and Babalakin were asked by government to step aside while the visitation panel carries out its assignment.
Ogundipe’s sack precipitated a split in the university community, prompting government’s intervention.
The UNILAG branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday hailed the action of the government.
Soyombo, in a statement on Saturday, said: “With this, I am stepping down with immediate effect as Acting Vice-Chancellor of the university.
“I wish to express my sincere appreciation to all members of staff and our dear students, the staff unions, alumni and the general public for their wonderful support and cooperation in the past 10 days since my appointment as Acting Vice-Chancellor of the university on 12th August.
“As I noted in my address to a cross-section of staff on 19th August, I accepted the offer to serve as a call to service, with the objective of restoring peace and stability in the university.”
He prayed that the “peace and stability that we so much need and desire at this time be restored very quickly, so that the University of Lagos can continue to march on as the University of First Choice and the Nation’s Pride.”
He urged staff and students to continue to go about their lawful activities in a peaceful manner.
ASUU commends Buhari for recognising UNILAG Senate
The UNILAG branch of ASUU yesterday commended the President and Visitor to the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Muhammadu Buhari, for recognising the role of the institution’s Senate in its governance.
In an interview, the Chairman, ASUU-UNILAG, Dr. Dele Ashiru, said it was praiseworthy that Buhari allowed due process to follow by respecting legal role of the Senate – a role that the suspended Governing Council chairman, Dr. Wale Babalakin, failed to recognise.
He said: “It is a right step in the right direction. Worth gratifying is the recognition of the position of the Senate as a critical organ in the governance structure of the university.
“The same Senate which Wale Babalakin treated with disdain, with contempt, with absolute lack of respect, the Visitor of the University through the Honourable Minister should be commended for standing firm in defence of the rule of law – particularly by asking Senate to reconvene with a view to selecting an Acting Vice-chancellor in compliance with the law.”
Ashiru added that with the Visitation panel, all accused would be given fair hearing.
“An accused is deemed innocent until he or she is proven guilty. This visitation panel will afford each party the opportunity to give their own side of the story,” he said.
Regarding the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Theophilus Soyombo’s statement that he had stepped aside, Ashiru said he was not recognised by law in the first place.
“And for the so-called vice-chancellor – the surrogate vice-chancellor, he needs not step down because he never existed in the face of the law,” he said.
When asked to react to the backing out of the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) from the joint resolution of workers’ congress to protest Prof. Toyin Ogundipe’s sack, Ashiru said: “That question should be better answered by SSANU and NASU. But I feel sorry for them. I feel very sorry for them,” he said.
On his part, NASU-UNILAG chairman, Comrade Kehinde Ajibade, said: “It is a welcome and good development.”
Commenting on the matter, SSANU Chairman, Sola Sowunmi, said the union is calling for calm among its members and prayers for the university over the bad publicity.
“I don’t have any comment. My only side of it is that we are just urging our members to be prayerful, be calm and peaceful, and we just believe that God’s counsel would prevail.
“It is a development that is not too pleasant for us because the university’s name has been dented one way or the other,” he said.
The visitation panel of seven members is headed by Prof. Tukur Sa’ad.
Other members are Barrister Victor Onuoha, Orofessor Ikenna Oyindo, Prof. Ekanem Braide, Prof. Adamu K. Usman, Chief Jimoh Bankole and Barrister Grace Ekanem who will serve as secretary.
The panel is expected to conclude its assignment within two weeks.