The chairman of the governing council of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Wale Babalakin, has approved the postponement of the council meeting earlier scheduled to hold between July 15 and 17, PREMIUM TIMES can confirm.
A notice of postponement, which was contained in a letter by the university’s registrar, Oladejo Azeez, was addressed to the council members.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by this newspaper, reads in part; “I have been directed by the pro-chancellor and chairman of the governing council, Dr. Bolanle Olawale Babalakin, SAN, to inform council members that the special meeting scheduled for Wednesday, July 15 to Friday, July 17, 2020, has been postponed.
“Please, find attached the letter from the pro-chancellor which you were earlier copied. All inconveniences are highly regretted.”
This is as the federal government has announced the suspension of physical meetings of more than four people, advising government officials to also suspend “all unnecessary travels for meetings.
The secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, said this on Monday during the briefing of the presidential task force on coronavirus disease.
Mr Mustapha, who doubles as the chairman of the taskforce directed that government or board meetings should be conducted virtually until further notice, even as he advised Nigerians to remain vigilant, noting that the pandemic would not go away by a wish, “neither would it go away if people refuse to keep safe.”
He said; “Please let us all resolve to play our part, while the Government does its best to save lives and livelihood. To this end, all government offices shall continue to hold virtual meetings in their offices especially where participants exceed four persons and suspend all unnecessary travels for meetings. For corporate organisations, board members, among others, the reopening of the domestic flights should not be misconstrued.
“The PTF strongly encourages virtual meetings as well; we still urge places of worship to cautiously follow the guidelines on public gatherings, and we urge members of the political class to exercise utmost circumspection in their gathering for whatever reasons.”
According to him, the decision was part of the outcome of the PTF mid-term review of the national response strategy.
How VC canvassed for virtual council meeting
PREMIUM TIMES’s investigations have revealed that the university’s vice-chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, on Monday, wrote a comprehensive letter to the pro-chancellor making the case for a virtual meeting, instead of the physical one being advocated by the council chairman.
According to the letter, Mr Ogundipe cited relevant positions of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the novel coronavirus disease and its management protocols, suggesting that it would amount to taking avoidable risk if physical meeting is hosted on the campus.
Apart from citing the virtual council meetings held by the University of Ibadan and the Obafemi Awolowo University, the vice-chancellor also cited what he described as the unfortunate incidence at the Benue State University, where the institution’s governing council chairman, vice-chancellor, among others, have reportedly been confirmed of the virus, after holding a physical meeting of the council on the campus.
He also disclosed that a staffer of the university, who reportedly had interactions with some council members recently, is currently on admission for the coronavirus disease at an isolation in Lagos.
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The letter reads in part; “My call for a virtual meeting is further reinforced by the fact that a professor in the university has tested positive to covid-19 and he is currently being treated at the LUTH isolation centre. I have it in good authority that before he was admitted at the isolation centre, he was in contact with some council members who may be attending this special council meeting.
“It would be a high risk to convene a physical council meeting at this time, given the NCDC protocol and guidelines which prohibit any large gathering and also advises that anyone in contact with a covid-19 patient should immediately self-isolate for a minimum of 14 days.”
Mr Ogundipe also wrote that the procedure for calling the special meeting was improper, and that he had only called for an emergency council meeting instead.
“Recall Sir, that in my earlier letter of June 29, I had made a plea for an emergency council meeting for the purpose of discussing and approving the 2020 budget estimate of the university. I am, however, shocked that the secretary to council made a release stating that this special council meeting was requisitioned by the vice-chancellor. For the avoidance of doubt a special meeting under section 7(9) of the university Act is one that is requisitioned by three members of council. Thus, only the vice-chancellor singlehandedly requests a special council meeting,” the vice-chancellor added.
Babalakin announces postponement
Meanwhile, in his immediate response to the vice-chancellor, the council-chairman assured that “whatever time and place the meeting is going to hold, it will comply with the rules stated by the government for holding such a meeting.”
The pro-chancellor, however, added that; “Certain issues have arisen that require consideration that will make it impossible to hold the meeting on the suggested. For this reason, the meeting of 15-17 July, 2020, will be postponed to a more suitable time. Council members will be given appropriate notice in accordance with the standing rules about council meetings.”
As a follow-up to the council chairman’s pledge, the university’s registrar issued the notice informing the council members of the postponement.
ASUU insists on congress
But the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has insisted that it would go ahead with its scheduled congress in spite of the postponement of the governing council meeting.
Speaking on the phone with our reporter, the chairman of the union, Dele Ashiru, said the congress would go on as scheduled.
“Yes, we are aware of the postponement of the council meeting but our congress would still hold as earlier scheduled,” Mr Ashiru said.