I read with shock and dismay Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa’s comments in his column – Learned Expressions in the Tribune Newspaper of November 3, 2020. His article titled “betrayed his showed that he lacked proper awareness of what he was writing about. His comments were definitely not “learned expressions.” The article was below par.
How does one respond to a person who believes that the University of Lagos (“University”), as it is today, is a great institution? In the words of Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa: “Unilag had become a brand name and a national pride for Nigerians and indeed Africa. It won millions of dollars in research grants across the globe…”
What a display of sheer ignorance! The university, as of today, has no serious rating in Africa, let alone the world. It is a university with a population which is far larger than its facilities. The lecturer-to-students ratio is terribly bad and scandalous. The University lacks requisite research facilities. Many students of the University are usually unable to complete their research timely due to inadequate or unavailable facilities.
At the instance and insistence of the Pro-Chancellor, the Governing Council had undertaken a physical inspection of all faculties in the university. It was the first time any Governing Council of the University had conducted such a physical inspection since the establishment of the university. During the inspection, the Governing Council discovered that the university was really a basket case. For instance, in the Faculty of Engineering, the Governing Council found a lathe machine that was acquired in 1964 but was still being used for teaching students in the faculty till date. The classrooms in the faculties were embarrassing eyesores. Further, there are no proper tutorials in the university. The university had lost accreditation for some of its courses and merely had qualified accreditation for others. The so-called grants are so insignificant for the size of the university.
The situation above is what Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa described in such glowing terms. My guess is that his entire exposure about education is limited to Nigeria and definitely not the heydays of Nigerian universities up to 1985. Having displayed such ignorance or lack of knowledge, the appropriate thing would have been to discountenance his article. However, the danger in doing so is that some gullible members of the public may take him seriously considering that he is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria. It is for this limited reason that this response is imperative.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa claimed that several issues arose including the control of funds, award of contracts and management of the university. This is a blatant lie! The Governing Council of the university never participated in any award of contract, nor did it seek to control any funds of the university. How can a legal practitioner make such an allegation without any factual basis? All what the Governing Council of the university insisted upon, was that due process should be followed in the award of contracts and management of the university.
No external member of the Governing Council of the University sought to participate in the award of contracts or control of funds. It is on record that the Pro-Chancellor of the University, Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), is the first ever Pro-Chancellor of the University who did not obtain any financial benefit in the university for the three years he chaired the University’s Governing Council. On the contrary, Dr. Babalakin voluntarily gave money to the university for a number of years until his last three months in office when he discovered that the actual problem of the university was not funding.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa claimed that the procedure for the removal of the Vice-Chancellor was strange. According to him, many saw it as a clear violation of the extant laws. It is strange that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria will come to a conclusion about statutory interpretation without testing the issue before an appropriate tribunal or court. How can the popular view be regarded as the correct position of the law? The primary responsibility of our courts is to adjudicate disputes between parties, as presented by their counsels. The courts, with their expert knowledge of the laws and mastery of rules of statutory interpretation, are exclusively saddled with the responsibility of interpreting laws. Who is Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa to decide whether a procedure prescribed by law was appropriate or not?
The Visitation Panel that was set up by the Ministry of Education was made up of six members including a secretary. The two lawyers in the Panel were an academic with no noticeable presence in legal circles and the Director of Legal Department of the Ministry of Education. The remaining members were academics. Are these the calibre of persons that were truly expected to properly determine issues of statutory interpretations which had never been tested in any court or judicial panel? When non-lawyers express support for the Visitation Panel, this may be understandably ignored. However, when a Senior Advocate sits in judgment over a matter without having a grasp of the full facts and the requisite experience to do so, then our country is in a big trouble. The issue of whether Professor Ogundipe was properly removed, which involves the interpretation of statutes, could not be decided by the Visitation Panel as constituted.
It is unfortunate that Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa did not attempt to undertake any independent investigation and make independent findings about the university. At almost every meeting of the Governing Council, various allegations of corruption were made against Professor Ogundipe for which he had no response or defence.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa’s comment about the appointment of an Acting Vice-Chancellor is very unfortunate. The Acting Vice-Chancellor was appointed in accordance with the relevant law. One cannot interpret a law in vacuo. There was a need to appoint an Acting Vice-Chancellor; however the University Senate had not functioned for five months. Was the Governing Council expected to forward the name of the Acting Vice-Chancellor to a non-existent Senate? The alternative was to leave the university without a Vice-Chancellor.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa’s comment about the Visitation Panel further exposed his very suspect understanding of the laws in this area. The issue of whether the Visitation Panel was properly set up is still outstanding. Under the relevant law – the University (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, when a Vice-Chancellor is removed, his remedy is to appeal to the Visitor. Professor Ogundipe did not appeal to the Visitor but went to court. The following cases were filed in court:
Suit No. NICN/LA/278/2020 – Professor Oluwatoyin T. Ogundipe v. University of Lagos & 5 Ors.
Suit No. NICN/LA/283/2020 – Senate of the University of Lagos & 3 Ors. v. The Council of the University of Lagos & 4 Ors.
One of the cases was filed by Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa. Having gone to court to commence an action, he had chosen a different path contrary to the clear provisions of the relevant law. Through his actions, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa had prevented the Visitor from intervening. The Visitor’s intervention was belated and indeed invalid. It is certain that one of the parties in the above actions would challenge the setting up of the Visitation Panel as being contrary to law. It is important that this is done for the sake of proper university governance.
In his article, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa did not disclose that he was an interested party. He did not tell the public that he was partisan in the whole affair. He presented his position as an objective analysis. The disciplinary committee of the Nigerian Bar Association must be active in preventing this sort of attempt to portray biased and partisan lawyers as independent observers.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa claimed that “we all followed the proceedings of the panel with great expectations.” How did he follow the said proceedings? The panel sat in secret. It did not allow any third parties to participate in the panel’s sittings or sessions. There was no presence of the press or media. There were no observers. One would like to know how Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa managed to follow the proceedings.
The proceeding was very unfair to Nigerians. How can a Visitation Panel hold in secret? Because it was held in secret, the panel hounded all the participants who came to give evidence against Professor Ogundipe over allegation of gross mismanagement and fraud in the University of Lagos. Some of them were abused. .
The members of the panel had copies of their memoranda. If the panel report does not capture all the memoranda submitted by various members, then the panel’s findings cannot be sustained. Happily, the members of the panel claimed that the whole process was recorded. It is time for the Ministry of Education to release the transcript of the various submissions that were made by all the participants at the panel sittings. Anything short of this will deny the panel any credibility.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa’s submission must be discountenanced by all well-meaning Nigerians.
Professor Oye-Adeniran, mni, a retired Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos and member, University of Lagos Governing Council, 2017 to 2019, sent this piece.
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