Students’ allegations against VC not true — Unilag DSA
Dean of Students Affairs, University of Lagos, Professor Tunde Babawale, tells BAYO AKINLOYE that all allegations levelled against the school authorities by students of the institution are untrue
As claimed by the University of Lagos Students Union
Government, why did the school authorities make prices of commodities on campus more expensive than what obtains outside?
Let me tell you categorically that the allegation is untrue. We are more concerned about the welfare of our students than any commercial venture on campus. As a matter of fact, the Students Affairs Office (of the University of Lagos) has a committee that oversees commercial activities on campus; it regulates prices of commodities. That committee includes the Students’ Union Government. The SUG’s Welfare Officer 1 and Welfare Officer 2 are members of the committee and, together with the students affairs, hold meetings with commercial vendors that operate on campus to compile a list of commodities’ prices. Once that list is drawn, everyone complies with it. Afterward, the committee has a responsibility to enforce prices compiled on that list as agreed on by the parties involved. The Dean of Student Affairs comes in when there is any complaint of violation of the prices on the list. When the protest began on Thursday (April 6), such allegation was not made. It is a new thing to me. The students did not make any complaint of arbitrary hike in prices of commodities. Such allegation is absolutely untrue.
If there were any of such, it was not brought to my attention. I had done my own personal survey and there was nothing like prices of goods on campus being higher than what obtain outside the campus. Commercial operators and food vendors are not controlled by the university. There is no problem with the commercial operators on campus as regards prices of their goods. If the allegation were true that certain commodities are against the official list agreed upon, they (the students) should bring such to my attention.
Are you saying the students are lying?
I did not say so. Now, do not get me wrong; what I have said is that the allegation about arbitrary increase in prices of commodities on campus is untrue. If true, let them prove it.
What about the four generators that the Federal Government approved for the university as the students claimed that only two were purchased by the school authorities?
I’ll also state categorically that the issue raised about the school’s generators is not true. Unilag’s Governing Council determines the school’s needs based on experience. Unilag is one of Federal Government-owned universities with relatively steady supply of electricity. To a large extent, we have done our best to ensure adequate electricity for the school. There are no Federal Government-owned universities in the South-West that enjoy what we have, to the best of my knowledge. The reality is that there are challenges Unilag is facing just like the whole country. Unilag before now had enjoyed a measure of regular supply of electricity before it began what is called load shedding, rationing of power. That is, when there is no supply of electricity by Eko Electricity Distribution Company, the school puts on its 2,000KVA generators (two units). The two generators can only meet 30 per cent of Unilag’s demand. Whenever there is power outage, the school puts on the generators; in the morning, the two sets power the library and the classrooms and vice versa. All this has been explained to the students. Until they went on strike, this issue never came up. Prior to the protest on April 6, the students had a meeting with the Students’ Affairs Office and this matter was not part of the issues discussed.
I should mention that the school had ordered for two additional generators – it is not what we can buy off the shelf. It requires the Federal Government procurement procedure. More so, the equipment has to be imported and the shipment is being awaited. We should give credit to the university’s management for thinking ahead. For anyone to be talking about the school having bought two generators instead of four is not true.
The decision to shut the school was made known to the students on Friday (April 8) and by Saturday (10 am) the school gates was shut leaving many students to scale the gates, fences and pass through a canal to get out of the school’s premises. Why did the school take what many regarded as a drastic measure?
Before the school management decided to shut down the school, the students had been protesting for some time. The university was shut down by protesting students for seven days, leaving the management with no choice but to close the school until normalcy returned. If you were in the school’s management, would you watch till the protest leads to a breakdown of law and order? Notice of shutdown was given to the students as early as 5 am on Friday after a decision was reached by the school. The students were given till Saturday – 10 am – to vacate the school premises. Nobody was forced out of their hostel. But be that as it may, we observed that the union was preventing and harassing law-abiding students not to leave the campus. So what did they do? They locked the school gates and did not give their colleagues the opportunity to go to their parents’ or guardians’ homes. The union also locked up females’ hostels. I believe in democratic ideals, where everyone is allowed to exercise their rights. But law-abiding students of the school were prevented by the protesters from exercising their right. There was nothing untoward, nothing undemocratic about the way the school was shut down.
Are you saying the school was shut down to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order?
How would shutting down the institution solve the problem of inadequate water and power supply? It is a problem that cannot be resolved locally (by the school). It is a national issue that we have to contend with. And, under the circumstance, we had done the best we could. We believe the students are our children. We want the best for them. Their welfare is paramount to us. At least, three-quarters of our time is spent on determining welfare of the students. They need to be understanding. Did they bring the issue of generators to the Students’ Affairs Office before the strike? I am accessible to them; so also is the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rahamon (Bello). He has made himself available when necessary. He is the one who restored unionism to the school after a 10-year suspension. The Vice-Chancellor resuscitated the SUG’s parliament and secretariat. He gave up them take-off grant. He ensured that its members get effective training. At the Students’ Affairs Office, we have a roster of meetings at the executive and legislative levels; statutory meetings to address complaints and nip them in the bud. Raising a red herring that the VC is not accessible is stretching the truth too far. On April 1, the VC had a two-hour meeting with the students in his office. He met with them at their behest.
With the school’s SUG at the heart of this crisis, will the school authorities consider proscribing the union?
A committee has been set up by the university; this is a committee set up by the school’s Senate. The committee will look into the immediate and remote cause of the crisis. It will look into whether having the SUG still makes sense. Let us wait for the committee to submit its report and for the Senate to make its decisions. I do not want to be guilty of sub judice.
Via THE PUNCH
Posted By Jesuisnaga