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Two years on, LASU VC takes stock

Lagos State University (LASU) Vice Chancellor Prof Lanre Adigun Fagbohun is celebrating his second year in office. Many of the workers are praising him for turning things around since he assumed office on January 11, 2016. But the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) says nothing has changed under him. ADEGUNLE OLUGBAMILA reports

When Prof Lanre Adigun Fagbohun resumed as the eighth Vice-Chancellor of Lagos State University (LASU) on January 11, 2016, the institution was reeling in crisis. Two years after, the school has known peace. But to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) it is “peace of the  graveyard”. Many of the workers who are praising the VC, do not agree with ASUU.

Non-academic  Staff union leaders and students are happy about the peace that prevails in the 34-year-old institution. They advised management to consolidate on staff welfare, which was described as one of the most contentious issues in the institution.

Describing as “fragile” the peace on campus, ASUU said the management takes delight in self glorification and victimising perceived enemies.

“Indeed LASU looks calm and peaceful, but it is the peace of the graveyard, said ASUU-LASU secretary Dr Anthony Dansu.

The Fagbohun-led administration came on board on the heels of the crises that led to the exit of  the immediate past management which  contended with workers’ allegations on victimisation, non-promotion, double standard, corruption, and high-handedness, among others.

Last week, the information unit of the university came out with a lengthy statement reeling out the achievements of the Fagbohun management watch.

Tagged: Two years in office: Prof Olanrewaju Fagbohun heralds a new dawn in LASU, the institution’s Acting PRO Ademola Adekoya, who signed the document, spoke glowingly of his boss. Adekoya reeled out management’s achievements ranging from engendering peace via all-inclusive governance; encouraging human capacity development; entrenching culture of discipline and rule of Law; ensuring the take-off of LASU International School; improvement in physical infrastructure; initiating quality assurance implementation committee; and ensuring a cordial relationship between students and  staff.

Others include: improved staff welfare and promotion; instituting LASU Excellence Award; sustenance of   LASU  Scholars’ Award; replacing LASU External System with open distance learning;  establishment of directorate of advancement;  reclamation of encroached land; running a committee-based system, improved  scholarships and international ratings.

Crisis with ASUU

Last  September the governing council  sacked 15 members of ASUU and two non-academic staff. The axed ASUU members were led by the chairman and vice; Dr Isaac Akinloye Oyewunmi and Dr Adebowale Adeyemi Suenu, respectively.

Justifying their sack, the university said Oyewunmi was dismissed for demanding N50, 000 from 2003 modular year students of Political Science Education on the sandwich programme to process their results. Similarly, management said Adeyemi Suenu was fired for unilaterally altering the results of 12 students already advised to withdraw by Senate. Nevertheless, the issue has continued to generate accusations and counter accusations between the two parties with the Lagos Zone of ASUU, which last month, called on the Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to intervene by setting up an independent panel to review the case. ASUU is claiming their union leaders were being unduly victimised.

In response to a request by The Nation, Dansu, described some of management claims as dubious.

He said: “The Vice Chancellor is claiming credit for the improvement in infrastructure. It is a dubious claim, mainly because what the state government did was agreed between the Visitor and the four staff unions long before his emergence. For a university that receives close to half a billion naira monthly as subvention, the infrastructural development programme of this administration has been far from impressive”.

He continued: “Greater attention is being paid to jamboree and fanfare than the core essence of a university. The university just declared it admitted 3500 students out of possible 8000 because of infrastructural deficit. This is a lower figure than that of last year. What it means is that in terms of capacity, the university is in a worse position than it was last year. Thousands of Lagosians have been denied admission because the administration has been inept in the discharge of its basic responsibilities. It prefers to run after imaginary enemies.

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“The university administration is busy sowing the seeds of crises within the system. Union leaders are being unjustly dismissed, our condition of service jointly agreed with all the unions was recently consigned to the bin and rewritten by the administration, with the most draconian insertions imaginable smuggled into it.

“It is therefore, clear that whatever progress members of staff are making, it is in spite of the administration, not because of it. We can only hope that two years of excitement and revelry will be enough, so that the remainder of the tenure of the administration can be dedicated to serious pursuits capable of uplifting the university.”

Reacting to ASUU claim, Adekoya said the release was not initiated by Fagbohun but by the Information Unit which felt the world needs to be informed of what the management is doing.

Aside, Adekoya said ASUU should  praise management for ensuring that all promotion arrears have being addressed.

“Before this management came on board, there were staff who had remained on the same status for like seven or eight years. But I can tell you categorically that all outstanding promotion arrears have been resolved, same for salary arrears and bonuses.

“Over the last two sessions academic activities have not been disrupted by any crisis.

“It is true management admitted about 3500 students in the current admission exercise, that is the decision and management would not compromise on that.

“The reason for this is that before now, LASU used to admit many students thereby overstretching the facilities.

“Last year, management admitted over 6000 students and had to provide additional facilities for them in addition to students already in the system. However, this year, we want to manage our resources by ensuring our facilities can cater for those we have offered admissions. Most importantly, we are being careful not to run foul of National Universities Commission rules because once you continue to overstretch your resources; you are gradually at the verge of losing your accreditation status.”

 

Workers lend their voices

Workers who spoke to The Nation said Fagbohun, a professor of Environmental Law, is living up to the promises he made at State House Alausa during his inauguration two years ago; yet the present atmosphere calls for synergy if the peace in the institution must be sustained.

Chairman Non Academic Staff Union of University Comrade Albert Agosu, said management needs to consolidate on its efforts before the outstanding three years is completed.

“It will be unfair of me to say he (Fagbohun) has not tried, especially in terms of staff welfare. He has human feelings and he is making progressive impact.

Agosu continued: “Naturally, there is no perfect system but to a large extent, those challenges he inherited from his predecessor had been addressed.”

Agosu said the derelict state of many of staff quarters does not befit the ongoing rebranding agenda.

“When  Governor Ambode attended our convocation last year, he pleaded that what he wanted was peace and promised every other thing would follow. At present, there is a 600-capacity hostel in LASU courtesy of PPP; but there is a hostel nearing completion and built by the immediate past governor. Unfortunately, that hostel has since been abandoned for no reason.  That project needs to be revisited.

“Over the last two years, LASU has witnessed peace; yet there is a need to work in concert so as to ensure we can sustain this peace in the next three years.”

His counterpart in SSANU Comrade Saheed Oseni agreed with him.

“At present, there is peace in LASU but we must not allow it degenerate,” Oseni said.

“I will appeal to management to ensure issues bordering on staff discipline are treated fairly and without bias in the interest of all.

“We still have contentious issues on staff welfare and few other things. Management is trying but workers are Oliver Twist. We shall continue to ask for more.

 

Students’ Union also react

LASU Students Union President Samuel Olalere, noted that students are working in concert with management to evolve a new LASU brand.

“The hooliganism and gangasterism that used to be a part of students activities are fast ebbing away. So far, we have been able to key into the LASU brand and this has changed the perception of outsiders about us either within or outside the country.

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“The culture of discipline has also made students to sit up, and the awards of scholarships to outstanding students, is now prodding many of us towards academic excellence.

That notwithstanding, Olalere said the recent introduction of N20,000 Acceptance Fee by management is unjustifiable.

“Management said they needed to jerk up the university IGR and they are justifying it by saying our tuition (N25,000 across board) is relatively low when compared with other institutions.

“However, we feel the management is not prudent enough. As Student Union, each student pays N450 as Student Due; in the end what gets to SU is N125, and from these we are able to organise more student-centred activities. Therefore, it is we students that need more of this IGR because of our various activities.  So if despite the meagre N125, we are still able to manage and organise these programmes successfully, then I don’t see any reason why management could not operate within its present means.”

Prof Abiodun Akinpelu of LASU Faculty of Education said his sacked colleagues unfortunately were victims of the new era of discipline management introduced.

He said: “We are all made to follow laid down rules and regulations in our official transactions, else we face the consequences. Era of impunity was truly visited, and lasting discipline introduced at all levels. It was however sad that some of the cases during the period degenerated to the level of dismissal of some staff. We can see everyone working more cautiously, no more business as usual. Working however became strenuous as we had so many deadlines with quite a lot of assignments. This actually led to the unprecedented achievements. It’s now glaring that more hands would be needed especially where some staff retired and there’s no replacement for some years now.”

“The past twoyears have brought an end to groaning along the lines of promotion. Over 123 academic staff got elevated to professorial cadre within the period while a good number of non-academic staff got lifted to higher cadres too. This is quite unprecedented in the history of the university.”

A lecturer from the Faculty of Science who pleaded not to have his name mentioned, lamented that the problem of LASU is the failure to learn from history.

“When you look at LASU’s problems over the years, there is nothing spectacular.The situation has remained the same. For me, it is not only about the personality of the VC, it is about those praise singers surrounding him.

“There are lecturers in this institution who for long have left the core essence of teaching. Their job is to curry favours of whoever is in power in a bid to securing one appointment or another. These praise singers have always been around derailing the dream of every administration in power.”

A worker in SSANU expressed happiness that having gone through so much under the last two administrations, workers are now being watchful so as to avoid the mistakes of the past.

“Before, we (workers) were the ones who would say this VC is bad, and should be replaced, only to later complain that his replacement is even worse than his predecessor.

“If you recall under Prof Akanni Hussein, (LASU sixth VC who had a running battle with workers and was eventually prevented from running a second term),   people said he was bad and vowed never to allow him complete a second time which had already been approved by the government.

“When (Prof Oladapo) Obafunwa (Hussein’s successor) came on board, everybody was also happy that a new era had come; but in no time, trouble started again and workers said Hussein was even a better administrator.

“Now it’s like we have learned our lessons and are now sleeping with only one eye open. This current management has been quite open; but that does not mean workesr should go to bed yet. We all need to be vigilant,” the source said.

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