Groups condemn UNILAG for postponing 51st convocation over alleged supremacy

•  Says ‘Act will damage varsity reputation’

The University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, branch of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and its non-academic counterpart (NASU), as well as Parent Forum and students, have condemned the sudden postponement of the 2019 university’s convocation ceremonies already scheduled to hold between Monday and Thursday, next week.

The authorities announced the postponement on Thursday night, which was four days after holding a world press conference to kick-start the ceremony, through a statement made available to newsmen by the registrar and secretary to the council of the university, Mr Oladejo Azeez, apologizing to people concerned for any inconveniences the action might have caused them.

A total of 13, 489 students across levels-certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate studies- and disciplines are billed for the graduation ceremonies out of which 281 made first-class honour.

The two trade unions and parent forum as well as the students, however, said they received the news of the postponement as a rude shock and embarrassing to the entire UNILAG community.

They said the action would not only cause untold hardship to say the least to people directly affected but would also damage the university’s reputation.

Our correspondent gathered that the protracted power tussle and rift between the management, especially the vice-chancellor, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe and the chairman of the governing council of the institution, (Pro-chancellor), Dr Wale Babalakin, led to the postponement.

It was said that Babalakin claimed he was not been carried along by the management in the planning of the programme and therefore should be postponed.

A letter from the Federal Ministry of Education to the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), dated 2nd of March, 2020 and signed by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mr Sunny Achono, gave an insight into the matter.

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The letter, with reference number FME\PS\606\C.1\Vol.111\108 and entitled, Re: Invitation to the 2019 Convocation ceremony of the University of Lagos, stated that the attention of the Honorable Minister of Education has been drawn to the attached copy of letter dated 2nd of March, 2020 from the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Governing Council of the university, Dr B.O. Babalakin to the effect that the 2019 convocation ceremonies were not approved by the governing council in line with the laws of the university.

It is stated further that, “I, therefore, request that you kindly advise the vice-chancellor to suspend the convocation and ensure full compliance with due process.

“Please accept the assurances of the best regards of the Honorable Minister.”

Reacting to this, the ASUU’s Chairman, Dr Dele Ashiru and his NASU’s counterpart, Mr Kehinde Ajibade, for example, told our correspondent in a separate interview yesterday, that it was not to the good interest of the graduands and their relatives nor that of the university nor the university education for the governing council chairman to act in the way he did.

They said they were baffled with his action, noting that he (Babalakin) was not only presided over the council meeting where the issue of convocation ceremonies was discussed, he actually approved and signed the budget for the ceremonies.

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They said even if truly his claim was to be true which they are sure it was not, asking for postponement of the ceremonies unilaterally not minding the adverse consequences on thousands of graduands and their families and relatives as well as numerous others who are connected in one way or the other to the ceremonies, is uncalled for and therefore totally condemnable.

They also blamed the Federal Ministry of Education for writing to the NUC boss to ‘advice’ the vice-chancellor to suspend the convocation ceremonies without investigating the veracity of the pro-chancellor’s claim, saying the attitude is worrisome and depressing.

According to ASUU, the attitude is a blatant erosion of academic freedom and university autonomy for which our union has consistently fought for over the years.

ASUU boss added, saying, “It is also eloquent testimony to the leadership bankruptcy at the helm of affairs of our nation’s education system. And the action must not be tolerated if we as a country really want to attain economic prosperity.”

For parent forum, the group said in as much as they want to stay aloof in the matter, the sudden and indefinite postponement of the ceremonies is saddening to them all.

The chairman of the group, Mr Babatunde Majekodun, told our correspondent that, even though the university doesn’t involve them in the planning, it always sending invitation officially to the group to grace such ceremonies.

While also pointing out that the parents are aware of the constant disagreement often plays between the management and the pro-chancellor which he said the group is not comfortable with, he said the group always want to distant itself in such instances.

Babatunde however, called on all sides to the matter to resolve their differences in the interest of peace and real development of the university and the country as a whole

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