Wednesday, December 30, 2015 4:21 pm
It was Tuesday and residents of Lagos State, western Nigeria gathered at the Lateef Jakande Hall of the state Assembly with a mission to salvage the situation at the Lagos State University, LASU, through an amendment to the law setting up the institution.
The stakeholders comprised majorly of lawmakers of the state staff and union members of the institution as well as other residents who had followed the trend of crises in the institution and who are interested in seeing that the crises get resolved.
Titled: A Law To Amend The Lagos State University Law, 2004, the bill which came up for public hearing has seven proposed amendments with the first section announcing the amendment. Section 2 of the bill seeks to amend Section 10 (subsection 2) of the original law to now read: “The Vice Chancellor shall exercise general supervision of the university, in addition to any other functions confer red on or imposed on him by law, the Statute, Ordinance and Regulations and shall subject to the approval of the Council, exercise general supervision over discipline in the university.
The bill also seeks to insert a new Section 36 (1b) to now read: “The Senate shall recommend the minimum admission requirements to the Council in line with extant law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” while seeking to delete section 36 (subsection 3) of the original law.
The new section 40 of the law is to now read: “a residential policy for students shall be as may be determined by the Senate and in case of medical students in their clinical years, the provision of residence is mandatory.
While the amendment proposes a single tenure of five years for the Vice Chancellor, it also proposes that the Pro-Chancellor and chairman of the Governing Council shall be appointed by the Visitor at his discretion.
Prior to the consideration of the executive bill for the amenment, the Vice Chancellor of the institution that has now been taken over by crises, enjoyed a four-year renewable term. But there is the belief that a single term of five years would help solve part of the problems of the institution.
Giving his opinion on the single term for the Vice Chancellor, Lanre Ogunyemi, who chairs the Committee on Education and organised the stakeholders’ meeting, allayed fears in some quarters that it could result in Vice Chancellors becoming autocratic or showing dictatorial tendencies. According to him, there are other formal ways to check any such excesses.
Ogunyemi said the amendment is aimed at enhancing the quality of education being discharged in the university and that it would assist in putting an end to the protracted leadership crisis that has rocked the state-owned tertiary institution. Apart from this, the challenge affecting de-accreditation of courses in the institution would be considered.
“The single-term tenure considered in Schedule 1 of the amendment is imperative because the institution, since its establishment, has been bedevilled by internal crisis, which were targeted at sitting Vice-Chancellors, who desire to seek a second term in office,” Ogunyemi said adding that everyone must be on the same page in the quest to salvage the university from its multifaceted problems. “We must all agree together to diffuse tension borne out of the issues ranging from the tenures of the Vice Chancellor and other principal officers, the university’s residential policy, retirement age for professional cadre etc.”
In his view, the acting Vice Chancellor of the institution, Fidelis Njekama, suggested that the institution should be given power to build hostels on campus at its discretion. “As it is now, we can’t have hostels. Just permit us to build hostels,” he said. And concerning the tenure of the Vice Chancellor, he reminded that such position is often occupied by a teaching staff and that there should be a way to recognise this so that a person occupying the position could return to classroom when his tenure ends.
Speaking through its Chairman, Dr. Adekunle Idris, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, LASU chapter, suggested that professors in the university should be allowed to retire at the age of 70 instead of the current age of 65 that operates in the school. According to Idris, this is one of the reasons the institution has lost over 15 professors to other higher institutions. He also complained about other welfare packages which are lacking for professors. He suggested that professors, who serve and retire from the university should be given pension commensurate with their salaries and that those who only serve about 20 years should get the usual pension.
Dr. Idris said that ASUU-LASU had been advocating a single-year tenure of five years for the Vice Chancellor of the university and other principal officers of the institution for some time now. He suggested that other principal officers of institutions enjoy a single term of five years each. “We are proposing, as in the national law, that all principal officers like the registrar and bursar, use a term of five years instead of the others having a term of four years renewable for another four years.
“LASU has lost close to 15 professors. So let us implement the law that makes professors to work up to 70 years. Why would a brilliant chap want to come to LASU when he knows that by 65, he would be sent out when in UNILAG, he would stay up to 70? The law on retirement age for professors should be incorporated in the law. Those that are not in the professorial cadre and non-academic staff should be 65 years while academic staff in the professorial cadre should be 70 years. A professor who served the university up to the retirement age should be paid his pension equivalent to his salary while those who have served up to 20 years in same institution would get pensions as is supposed.”
Listing six propositions, the ASUU chairman suggested that one law that should be considered by the House should be the Autonomy Act which has also been amended twice. He also suggested that the Visitor should not be given the power to pick a Vice Chancellor. Rather, the power should be vested in the Governing Council which would only inform the Visitor. “The Governing Council would appoint the Vice Chancellor and it would be approved by the Visitor, the Governor of the state,” he said.
In his view, the Majority leader of the House, Sanai Agunbiade, who reviewed the bill, appealed to all staff of the institution to change their attitude and conduct in order to make the law active. He lamented that the institution’s problems had to do with the law and the conduct of some people within the system who have vowed that no law would work. “The staff know where the shoe pinches; our own responsibility is to make laws that would push the institution to the next level,” Agunbiade said.
For Obafela Bankolema, Special Adviser to Governor Ambode on Education, “what we’ve presented here is the thought of the executive. This is the only university we have and are not proud that we are always engaged in one crisis or the other.”