OWNERSHIP TUSSLE OVER LAUTECH

By NBF News
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The lingering crisis over the ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, jointly owned by Oyo and Osun states, is distracting and unnecessary.

The 20-year-old citadel of higher learning was founded on April 23, 1990 by the then military government of Oyo State under the late Col. Sasaeniyan Oresanya, as Oyo State University of Technology (OSUTECH).

Following the creation of Osun State from Oyo State on August 27, 1991, the institution was renamed Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) in honour of the late politician and erstwhile Premier of the defunct Western Region, who died in the January 15, 1966 military coup.

Since 1991, the two sister states have been managing the affairs of the institution. They have been overseeing the appointment of key staffers to the institution and admission of students to reflect the joint ownership of the school.

The hitherto prevailing peace in the administration of the school was recently disrupted when the Oyo State government under Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, unilaterally sacked the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Benjamin Babatunde Adeleke, whose five-year single term will expire in September this year, and replaced him with Prof. Moshood Olanrewaju Nassir, the Rector of The Polytechnic, Ibadan, in acting capacity.

The action was seen by Osun State government under Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, as illegal and an attempt to commence the rumoured process of taking over the institution by Oyo State without intimating its co-owner. To lend credence to this, Oyo State has, in some paid advertorials, claimed that the process of disengagement of the Osun State government from the ownership and running of the university was ongoing. However, this illegality did not go unchallenged.

Initially, the sacked Vice Chancellor, Adeleke, filed a suit at the Osogbo High Court, asking for a reversal of the decision of the Oyo State government and a return to status quo ante. Justice Ade Falola, in his ruling of May 14, granted Adeleke an injunction restraining Prof. Nassir from parading himself as the Vice-Chancellor of the university, until the determination of the suit instituted against the government of Oyo State by Osun State government.

As the matter continues, not even the intervention of prominent Yoruba leaders including former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, could settle it, as both parties to the dispute are still in the trenches.

As this politicking is going on, academic work and other pressing issues in the university are likely to suffer. There are no signs that the crisis is about to be resolved as none of the parties to the dispute is willing to yield any ground.

While Alao-Akala wants sole proprietorship of the university, whose main campus is in Oyo State, Oyinlola wants the joint ownership structure left by its founding fathers to remain.

The bickering so far engendered by the disagreement does not augur well for the smooth running of the institution. The LAUTECH example has brought to the fore one of the dangers of joint ownership of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. It is absurd that the two joint owners of the school are involved in this needless crisis considering that there are laid down rules and agreements guiding the joint ownership of the university. Let the two sister states come together and iron out the grey areas in their agreement and settle their differences.

It is important that this matter is quickly resolved so that students are not subjected to undue suffering on account of the logjam. On no account should students be made to bear the brunt of what is not of their own making.

We, therefore, appeal to the governments of Oyo and Osun States to see themselves as brothers and resolve the matter in the interest of all the stakeholders. Asking the courts to settle it will not only waste money, it will also be time consuming. Whatever is at stake can be settled amicably by the two governors.