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Can the newly-constituted Justice George Oguntade-led Governing Council of the Lagos State University tame the crises that have brought the institution to its knees, CHARLES ABAH asks For months, the Senate chamber of LASU has been a ghost of itself. Top members of the university community have not converged on the place for any kind of meeting or academic discourse since March this year

Task before new LASU Governing Council
Can the newly-constituted Justice George Oguntade-led Governing Council of the Lagos State University tame the crises that have brought the institution to its knees, CHARLES ABAH asks

For months, the Senate chamber of LASU has been a ghost of itself. Top members of the university community have not converged on the place for any kind of meeting or academic discourse since March this year.

So also is the Administrative Building of the ivory tower. In place of humans, birds, lizards and perhaps other bigger reptiles have taken over the hallowed academic and administrative premises.

Reason: all manner of fetish articles dot the premises and nobody wants go closer to buildings. In fact, the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof John Obafunwa, along with other principal officers of the school, has shunned these parts of the citadel of learning. It is only on a few occasions that one finds a handful of courageous students and workers daring to pass those surroundings.

Perhaps, the “spiritual cleansing” of the vicinity is one of the major responsibilities the new Governing Council members inaugurated by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode last Tuesday needs to tackle head on.

The story of Adekunle Folashade is another curious angle that will attract the immediate consideration of the council members.

Dejected Folashade, who enrolled in the university 10 years ago, said she had yet to get her results four years after graduation.

Folashade added, “It is four years since I finished my final papers at the Computer Science department of the LASU External campus Isolo and, up till now, I have yet to get a notification of result after I have been cleared with no outstanding course.

“It is saddening because I am not the only one affected. All the 2005/2006 sets are affected and we do not know how long more we have to wait before we can get our results. I have visited the school on countless occasions but the status quo still remains the same.”

The Folashade narrative and the un-academic environment at the Ojo campus of the university are tips of some of the facts that will confront the Justice Oguntade-led council members as they take on their new responsibilities.

Maybe, the remarks by Ambode, as he inaugurated the LASU council members alongside other councils, point to the fact that he is no stranger to happenings in the country’s five state-owned tertiary institutions.

Ambode stated, “As Governing Councils, you must be focused on the formulation of policies and programmes that will reposition the institutions to achieve their mandates of quality teaching, research and community relevance and service.

“Your mandate is to ensure that appropriate measures are put in place for a smooth and harmonious working relationship in the institutions. You are also to assist in setting the desired guidelines and pursuing relevant policies that will ensure academic excellence, better learning and teaching environment, improved welfare for the staff, quality infrastructural development and effective management.”

On paper, the governor’s mandate for the repositioning of the schools looks good. It is therefore not surprising that many analysts and stakeholders heaved a sigh of relief on hearing his pronouncement.

However, most worrisome to many stakeholders is the case of LASU, where academic activities in the 32-year-old school have been in fits and starts. For instance, this year’s convocation scheduled for last March has yet to take place because of an internal wrangling in the school. It is also believed by many that the crisis in the university forced the former council Chairman, Mr. Bode Augusto, to resign his position last August.

So, for these analysts, they are looking beyond the long list of mandates from the chief executive of the state. As far as they are concerned, they want a practical solution to the myriad of challenges facing LASU particularly.

As of Monday, the Administrative Building and the Senate chambers of the ivory tower were still under lock and key, a development many students said had stifled all academic and administrative matters in the school.

The unions in the school, comprising the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Senior Staff Association of Universities, among others, shut the buildings seven months ago when they barred the VC, alongside other principal officers citadel, from entering the premises.

The workers have been having a running battle with the VC with accusations and counter-accusations flying in the air.

So, how far will the new council under the leadership of Oguntade, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, as Chancellor; Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Lagos, as Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, go in ending the bickering.

A member of staff of the university, who craved anonymity because of the sensitivity nature of crisis, urged the council to convoke an urgent meeting with the different parties with a view to achieving a “no victor, a no vanquished situation.”

Apart from the staff-management palaver, issues bordering on accreditation of some of the programmes, questionable doctoral degrees and certificates, as well as the non-issuance of results will attract the attention of the council members.

Law, Banking and Finance, Business Administration, and Management Technology, programmes being run in the university, were said to be having accreditation issues with the National Universities Commission as of last June. Others are English, Yoruba, Theatre Arts, Music and Philosophy. How far the council will also go in resolving this remains a thing of conjecture.

According to the Student Union, Public Relations Officer, Adebanjo Fatai, the Oguntade-led council needs to put on its thinking cap in order to return the school urgently to the path of sanity.

Fatai added, “I must tell you that every student of this school is tired of the frequent crises and controversies. LASU, as a leading tertiary institution in a state of excellence, cannot continue this way.

“Now that the governor has empowered a new council to oversee the running of the school, we look forward to a lasting solution to the rifts besetting the institution. As students, we look forward to witnessing a more stable academic environment.

“We also want the re-opening of the Senate chambers and the Administrative Block, as the continuous lock of the buildings is affecting us. If not for the NUC’s waiver recently, the 100-level Law students would not have been enrolled because the documents for their accreditation are locked up in the administrative block.”

Again, the welfare of the members of staff of the university has always been a cause of disagreement in the school. So as the council begins to look into the challenges facing the school, many discerning persons look forward to seeing it giving urgent consideration to issues of promotion, and payment of salaries, among others.

Above all, the issue of funding, many say, is fundamental to bringing lasting peace to the school. According to them, now that the tuition in the school is N25, 000, the council should go the extra mile to convince the authorities to provide more funds for the running of the ivory tower.
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