The presidential visitation panel to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has cleared the Dr. Wale Babalakin-led governing council of alleged non-adherence to due process in the removal of Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as vice-chancellor.
The council had removed Ogundipe in August 2020, but the controversy it generated led to the setting up of a panel by the Federal Government on the matter. Government also asked both Babalakin and Ogundipe to recuse themselves from the offices they held. While Babalakin later resigned as Pro-chancellor and chairman of the council, Ogundipe was reinstated on the premise that his ouster did not follow due process.
The visitation panel, which was set up on March 29, 2021, had since submitted its report with the verdict that the removal was in order.
The seven-member panel, with Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd) as chairman, in its report stated: “In respect of the removal of the vice-chancellor, it was said that the Babalakin-led council did not give Ogundipe an opportunity to defend himself on the allegations upon which his removal was based. The statement did not reach any conclusion as to whether the council breached the law in respect of the vice chancellor’s removal.
“Babalakin appeared before this panel and presented a memorandum. His justification for removing the vice-chancellor without the participation of two Senate members was that his council fully complied with the law.”
Relying on Section 5 (9) of Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Amendment Act, 2003, the panel noted that “when a proposal for the removal of the vice-chancellor is made, a joint committee of council and Senate is constituted consisting of – (i) three members of the council, one of whom shall be the chairman of the committee, and (ii) two members of the Senate, provided that where the ground for removal is infirmity of the body or mind, the council shall seek appropriate medical opinion.”
Babalakin had insisted that the removal of a vice chancellor for gross misconduct under the 2003 Act is solely a council decision after establishing that the VC has committed an act of gross misconduct.
The panel added that the council acted in line with Section 5 (10) of the 2003 Act, which stipulates that the committee shall conduct an investigation into allegations made against Ogundipe and report its findings to the council.
According to the team, the VC received a copy of Dagari’s report, defended himself orally and via a letter dated May 13, 2019, which was made available to council members.
On allegations of financial misdeed against the university management, the panel said there were cases where principal officers exceeded approval limits by approving related expenses that ordinarily should be a single procurement.
It added that based on memoranda it received and from presentations made, many people made strong allegations of gross misconduct against Ogundipe and his management between 2017 and 2020.