As we await the position of the Federal Government on the report of the visitation panel into the crisis that engulfed the University of Lagos earlier this year, news has come in that the President has approved the constitution of visitation panels to look into the activities of federal universities in the country.
The Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Abubakar Rasheed, said in Abuja yesterday that the constitution of the visitation panels was in line with the laws that stipulate visitation of public universities once every five years, assuring that the respective panels, which would soon be inaugurated, are expected to tour the universities and bring back a 10-year report, in two separate batches of five years each. The report of each visitation panel will cover the five-year period 2011 to 2015 and 2016 to 2020.
The setting up of these new panels come at a time when stakeholders are becoming frustrated and asking why the Federal government is yet to release the white paper on the Unilag visitation panel which was submitted by the Chairman of the panel, Prof. Tukur Sa’ad to Education Minister Adamu Adamu on 17th September 2020.
The Special Presidential Visitation Panel was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Visitor to the University, to look at the removal of the suspended Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, by the Governing Council, then chaired by Dr. Wale Babalakin.
The panel was given two weeks to complete its assignment when it was inaugurated on August 26 and the Minister, while receiving the report, said President Buhari, would take a decision in order “to restore peace and conducive learning atmosphere in the university of Lagos and the university system as a whole”.
Almost two months down the line, government’s decision is still not known; instead new visitation panels have been set up for other universities. The expectation was that a quick decision would be made by the Visitor to ensure full resolution of the issues that led to the impasse and bring normalcy to the University of Lagos.
The first leg of the solution to the UNILAG crisis was played with the resignation of Dr. Babalakin as the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of the institution. That seemed to pave the way for the Federal Government to act quickly to restore more confidence in the community.
It was clear that Dr. Babalakin’s disagreement with Professor Ogundipe had polarized the UNILAG community, but an Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Folashade Ogunsola, who was elected by The University Senate as directed by the Visitor, came into office while Mr. John Momoh, has been acting as Chairman of the Governing Council during this period.
During this waiting time that the community and indeed all Nigerians have been expecting government’s decision on the visitation panel’s report, things have been relatively quiet within the Unilag community, but the Visitor should not take things for granted.
The general public and indeed the university community and other stakeholders are waiting for the Unilag Visitor to make his decision on the report of the visitation panel known now, so that full normalcy can return to the University of Lagos.
We hope this outstanding decision will not be put in abeyance to wait for the new visitation panels to submit their own reports before a general government position is made known. The reasons for the Unilag visitation panel were quite different from those of the new panels. We need to move Unilag forward, away from the limbo, where things seem to be now.
Epa Ogie Eboigbe, veteran journalist, broadcaster and public affairs specialist writes on, and analyses current and historical issues with a ‘wise pen’.