The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) joins the call for the immediate opening of the Lagos State University (LASU) for academic activities to resume. However, the only guarantee of a smooth academic calendar is for the legitimate grievances of the staff unions to be addressed as quickly as possible.
As far as we are concerned in the ERC, there is no justifiable reason to continue to keep students and staff at home even after the general elections which were the ostensible reason given for the closure have now come and gone. We therefore urge the Lagos state government and University Governing Council to order the opening of the University so that academic activities can resume forthwith.
The seemingly unending crisis in LASU that has led to this unfortunate closure is actually a product of two factors: One, the characteristic highhandedness and abuses of the Vice Chancellor Prof. Obafunwa whose style of administration is more in line with the despotic style of running military garrisons than an academic environment and two, the agenda hatched sometimes last year to deal with all those, including students, members of staff and unions, that participated in the victorious struggle for reversal of hiked fees.
Bearing this in mind, we strongly consider as irresponsible and suggestive of complicity, never mind arrogant, recent statements credited to the Lagos State Government through the Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Fatai Olukoga in which he claimed that staff and students unions in LASU are the cause of the closure. According to Vanguard newspaper of the 5th day of May 2015, the Special Adviser at a media briefing made the following uncharitable comments: (1) That "The problem of LASU is just overbearance of our unions" (2) That "government would no longer tolerate indiscipline on the part of the students, lecturers and other stakeholders in the institution and (3) That "the delay in opening the school is the fault of LASU unions and Students Union, unless they go back and have a sense of reasoning before the school will be reopened".
LASU is the only University owned by the State government. Therefore we expect that if LASU is rocked by internal crisis leading to its closure as has happened for couple of months now, the Lagos State government would be sensitive particularly to the pain of students and proactive in peacefully resolving the crisis and not by further fanning the flame of disharmony by such irresponsible comments made by Fatai Olukoga. Moreso that all the issues that has led to this crisis including Prof. Obafunwa's abuse of office and his victimisation of staff have been in the public domain months before now. Indeed ASUU-LASU for instance and the Joint Action Front (JAF) led a rally to Alausa just before the elections to submit petitions bearing allegations concerning the abuses of the Vice Chancellor. Where was Fatai Olukoga then and what exactly did the Lagos State government do to address the grievances of the unions before March 16, 2015 when the workers decided to take their destiny in their hands? We respectfully ask the Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola to caution his Special Adviser if indeed these irresponsible and vexatious comments do not represent the official view of the government.
Unless the Lagos State government becomes proactive over the crisis in LASU with a view to resolving it and ensuring that academic activities resume soonest, the public will be left with no choice than to believe that the reason for the government's inaction is because the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Obafunwa, has so much support at Alausa that he can do and undo anything including victimising members of staff at will and closing a whole University without Senate approval and without considering the suffering of students whose career and future is being jeopardized in the process.
On March 23 2015, without seeking approval of the University Senate, the Vice Chancellor announced an open-ended recess or closure of the University citing the then oncoming general elections as a reason. However the real reason for the closure is the running battle the Vice Chancellor is having with staff unions of the University and especially his victimisation of members of staff and union leaders in the aftermath of the victorious struggle against fee hike in which these staff union leaders played active roles.
These victimisations were targeted particularly at individuals and unions that came together in fraternal solidarity last year to prosecute a struggle that ultimately compelled the Lagos State government to reverse the highly outrageous and anti-poor tuition regime of between N193,750 to N348,750. First the Students Union was attacked, the union's elections illegally postponed and one of the student presidential candidates dragged before disciplinary panels because of his roles in the struggle against fees. Next the staff unions came under fire. For instance, Prof. Tunde Fatunde, a 62 year-old academic was placed on half salary primarily because he wrote an article published in some National dailies last year calling on Governor Fashola to reverse LASU fees. Notably, fourteen (14) members and leaders of the LASU chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have had their PhD certificates withdrawn by the University Senate on grounds suggestive of a witch hunt. One of the affected lecturers is the chairman of the University's ASUU, Dr. Adekunle Idris. Aside ASUU-LASU, members of other staff unions like the Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) are also facing victimisation and undemocratic attacks. For instance, at least five (5) members of SSANU-LASU were interdicted by the University administration.
It was all these issues that culminated in the mass protest by staff unions on March 16, 2015 which led to the Vice Chancellor being sent out of the University. Having lost his authority, the Vice Chancellor apparently in order
diffuse the mass opposition towards him especially given the growing call for
his removal decided to close the campus indefinitely using the excuse of
The continuous closure of the Lagos State University (LASU) even after the general elections is not only illegal but also another indication of the flagrant abuse of power and despotism characteristic of the University's Vice Chancellor Prof. Obafunwa and for which his tenure has seen more crisis and disharmony than academic excellence and progress.
The ERC demands immediate reopening of the University for academic activities to commence. For a stable academic calendar, we also demand an immediate halt to victimization of staff and students. This requires that all punitive measures taken against members of staff be immediately reversed.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael OgundeleNational Coordinator National Secretary