The Lagos State Government Wednesday, 11th June, 2014, made good its promise to review the school fees in the state university, Lagos State University (LASU) as it announced the approval of up to 34 to 60 percent downward review of the fees across faculties and courses in the institution.
The Government, in a 17-paragraph resolution on the State Executive Council’s consideration of its Ad Hoc Committee’s Report on Lagos State University presented by the Special Adviser on Education, Otunba Fatai Olukoga, directed that the University’s Governing Council will,”in accordance with the law setting up the University” work out and issue details of what is payable by students in each department and deal with all other management matters of the University. It also directed all individuals and groups within the University community to relate to the Council accordingly.
The government thanked the students for taking up the invitation to participate in the resolution of matters affecting their lives when they met the Governor adding that their response by way of detailed observations and suggestions has assisted government in taking a second look at the issues in contention. “This is a commendable approach that must be encouraged in resolving disputes within the university community”, it said.
Providing insight into the development that led to the review, Olukoga, while presenting the Resolutions at a Joint media conference held at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, Alausa, said it was sequel to a meeting between the State Government and the leadership of the Students’ Union culminating in the articulation and submission to the State Executive Council of a position paper by the students’ body on the advice of the State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN). An ad-hoc Committee was, thereafter, set up by the Executive Council to consider the position paper resulting in the Resolutions on the various issues at stake.
Government, he said, accepted to review downward “the fees and charges payable by students for incidental services and materials” in the institution because “some of the fee components have been applied to students across all levels when, in fact, they can be justifiably limited to students at a particular level only” while “some of the charges included can still be reduced on compassionate grounds”.
According to the Resolutions, notwithstanding the approval, Government was still committed to the provision of enhanced scholarship and bursary as well as maintenance of the sponsorship of Research Fund “to foster a culture of research and innovation in the University” adding that it is still committed to free Education up to Secondary School level as well as the provision of 90 percent of the about N10 billion recurrent and capital expenditure for LASU in the 2014 Budget.
Moreover, he continued, Government would continue its increased spending on infrastructure and physical development of the campus which, according to him “has already begun to enhance the stature of the State University as a leading institution of higher learning in Nigeria”.
Appealing to the Staff Unions of the University to call off their on-going strike immediately, Olukoga said since the school fees issue has been finally resolved; Government hoped that both they and the students would return to their duties and ensure the resumption of normal academic activities appealing also that they join Government “in its bid to bring LASU to a preeminent position”.
On the issue of retirement age of employees, including Professors, in the University, the Special Adviser noted that as earlier clarified by Government officials, the age could not be unilaterally extended by the employees themselves “unless the employer were to cede total control of the institution to employees, which is an impossible situation”.
He said Government also considers the tenure of office of the Vice Chancellor “a State prerogative exercisable by Law pursuant to the Concurrent Legislative Power of the State Government to establish universities and make statutory provisions for their management and not that of its employees or proprietors of other universities”.
According to the resolutions as read by Olukoga, “Government will retain the option of a second term for Vice Chancellors in order to benefit from good leadership whenever the occasion arises”, adding that in the same vein employees cannot unilaterally insist on being promoted or appointed to positions that are not vacant “especially where there are over two hundred vacant positions yet to be filled in the same institution”.
“The calibration of staff across the faculties has obvious planning, policy and financial implications which the employer had considered carefully in deciding to decline the lecturers’ demand for appointments and promotions to positions already filled”, the Special Adviser said.
The Resolutions reiterated the commitment of the State Government to the development of LASU as a centre of academic excellence adding that Government would continue to deploy resources at its disposal towards the provision of a conducive learning environment with up-to-date facilities.
He, however, explained that although the State Government is, by virtue of the Law setting up the University, the promoter and owner of the institution, the organs created by the Law remain self-accounting and independent as far as the day to day management of the institution is concerned.
“Those internal structures must, therefore, be allowed and supported to play their statutory roles, subject only to the interventionist or mediatory role of the State Governor in his capacity as Visitor of the University”, Olukoga said.
On the damage to property and blockage of highways for which some students of the University are being prosecuted in court, Olukoga said Government resolved that such acts and others that constitute public nuisance are punishable offenses under the Criminal Law of Lagos State and cannot be justified or excused under the guise of public protests “otherwise society will be at risk of perpetual disturbance by sundry interest groups”.
“While Government recognizes the right of individuals and groups to associate freely and protest, it notes with emphasis that these rights do not suspend the criminal laws. Neither can they justify actions that show disrespect for or trample upon the freedom and rights of other members of the society”, the Resolutions stated.
Reiterating the commitment of the State Government to the maintenance of Law and Order in the interest of the people of Lagos State, the Special Adviser, however, commended the students for taking up the invitation to participate in the resolution of matters affecting their lives when they met with the Governor.
In his contribution after the presentation of the Resolutions, the State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, said the specifics of how much the reduction would come to would be worked out by the Governing Council of the University and that the State Executive Council does not want to usurp the responsibility of the Council in running the institution.
While answering another question on the fate of students who were being prosecuted for disturbing public peace during the protest, the Commissioner said the students were not arrested by the State Government and are not being prosecuted by the Government adding, however, that advice would be sought from the Attorney General on what could be done on the issue since the students are still students in the state owned institution of learning.
Ibirogba said he was very sure that as reasonable members of the academic community, the academic staff union of LASU that are on strike would call off the strike now since a reduction in school fees and other issues they stated as the conditions for calling off the industrial action had been addressed.
Also present at the occasion were the Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Raji and his counterpart on Media to the Governor, Mr. Hakeem Bello.