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Fresh crisis brews in UNILAG over Babalakin’s query to lecturers

The leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos (UNILAG) chapter, has, again, accused the chairman of the institution’s governing council,  Dr Wale Babalakin SAN,  of being dictatorial and engaging in illegality in the administration of the university.

In its letter to the union members and signed by its chairman, Dele Ashiru, ASUU said it has received complaints from seven lecturers who were issued queries by the university registrar, Oladejo Azeez, on the instruction of Mr Babalakin.

The letter was titled; “Creeping Tyranny and Looming Anarchy in the University of Lagos.”

According to the union, some lecturers received queries signed by the registrar on why they embarked on duly approved trips. The lecturers were also asked in the letter to submit their responses to the council chairman directly.

The letter reads in part; “Our fears that a vicious, vindictive and meddlesome leviathan is at the head of the University of Lagos Council has sadly been confirmed.

“Our union has received an avalanche of complaints from members who are in receipt of “queries” most recklessly and illegally authorised by the Pro-Chancellor, Dr Wale Babalakin through the registrar.

“This dictatorial, unprocedural, illegal and deliberate by-pass of the university administration, whose duty is that of day-to-day running of the university is strange and dangerous. It is sad and shameful that the purported report(s) which the pro-chancellor is acting upon has not been received by the university’s council. This arbitrariness and ‘one man show’ is repulsive and unacceptable to our union as it smacks of vindictiveness.”

Premium Times reported that ASUU has, therefore, advised the concerned lecturers to immediately contact the union for “proper guidance and further actions.” The union assured its members that it would stop at nothing to resist what it described as “creeping tyranny and looming anarchy.”

Babalakin denies wrongdoing

But the governing council chairman has denied any wrongdoing, saying his action is backed by the Act establishing the university.

In his response to a text message by our reporter, Mr Babalakin challenged ASUU to back up its claim with facts and figure. He said no specific law has been violated by his action.

The message reads; “It is important that ASUU backs up its allegation by referring to (a) specific law that has been violated. Please refer to Section 7 of the University Act, which defines the power of (the) Council. The registrar and secretary to (the) council is in the best position to advise on the procedure of Council. Thank you.”

What Section 7 says

Section 7 of the University of Lagos Act referenced by Mr Babalakin reads as follows:

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act relating to the Visitor, the Council shall be the governing body of the university and shall be charged with the general control and superintendence of the policy, finances and property of the university, including its public relations.

(2) There shall be a committee of the Council, to be known as the Finance and General Purposes Committee, which shall, subject to the directions of the Council, exercise control over the property and expenditure of the University, other than that of the colleges, and perform such other functions of the Council as the Council may from time to time delegate to it.

(3) Provision shall be made by statute with respect to the constitution of the Finance and General Purposes Committee.

(4) The Council shall ensure that proper accounts of the University and the colleges are kept and that the accounts of the University and of each of the colleges are audited annually by auditors appointed by the Council from the list and in accordance with guidelines supplied by the Auditor-General for the Federation; and that an annual report is published by the University together with certified copies of the said accounts as audited.

(5) Subject to this Act and the statutes, the Council and the Finance and General Purposes Committee may each make rules for the purposes of exercising any of their respective functions or of regulating their own procedure.

(6) Rules made under subsection (5) or this section by the Finance and General Purposes Committee shall not come into force unless approved by the Council; and in so far as any rules so made by that committee conflict with any directions given by the Council (whether before or after the coming into force of the rules in question), the directions or the Council shall prevail.

(7) There shall be paid to the members of the Council, of the Finance and General Purposes Committee and of any other committee set up by the council respectively allowances in respect of travelling and other reasonable expenses, at such rates as may from time to time be fixed by the Council.

(8) The Council shall meet as and when necessary for the performance of its functions under this Act, and shall meet at least three times in every year.

(9) Any three members of the Council may by notice in writing signed by them require the Pro-Chancellor to convene a special meeting of the Council.

ASUU insists no law backs council chair’s action

The ASUU chairman, Dele Ashiru, in a telephone interview with our reporter, insisted that there is nowhere in the section referenced by Mr Babalakin that empowers an individual to take a position on behalf of the Council without being authorised by the Council.

According to Mr Ashiru, the governing council has more than one member and decisions of the council are not reached “in corners of anyone’s room but at the council’s chamber in the presence of other members.”

He said; “We are familiar with the University Act and we have read it many times. There is just nowhere an individual can take any unilateral decision on behalf of the council. Let the council chair also tell us where Section 7 being mentioned by the chairman replaces the use of ‘council’ with the ‘council chairman.’

“Good enough, our chairman is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and some of our members are lecturers of law. What we cannot take is arbitrariness and someone not believing in any constituted authority. We won’t be taken for a ride. Let the chairman tell us when the decision on the action he has just taken was decided by council members.”

A cat and mouse relationship between the university’s chapter of ASUU and Mr Babalakin had developed  over some decisions taken in the past.

During the union’s prolonged nationwide industrial action, the council chairman had, last year, summoned a meeting with some lecturers which was fixed for the university’s Senate chamber.

ASUU had kicked against the decision, which it said was targeted at balkanising its union. It, therefore, fixed its congress for the same venue and same time.

Premium Times 

More young people, especially girls attempting suicide – Study

A new study that shows adolescents are attempting suicide by overdose at increasing rates is further evidence that the pervasive public health problem needs more conversation and money, experts say.

This is contained in the report, published recently in The Journal of Pediatrics, by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and the Central Ohio Poison Centre.

It was founded that medication overdose suicide attempts have more than doubled since 2000, and more than tripled for girls.

“I think this all adds up to an opportunity to educate and build awareness and find out what solutions are out there for this.

“We have so many opportunities across our system to do better. This should be a call to mobilise resources,’’ said John Ackerman, Suicide Prevention Coordinator.

The stakes are high. Joanne Meyers, of Northfield, Illinois, knows firsthand – her daughter Elyssa died by suicide at age 16 in 2004.

In 2006, Meyers formed Elyssa’s Mission, a Northbrook-based nonprofit that works with about 200 schools in Illinois, Ackerman, also clinical psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and one of the authors of the new study, said.

It trains staff and teaches students about the warning signs of suicide and how to get help for themselves or their friends.

Students are then screened at the end of the programme and referred for help.

“It’s important to me that we talk about it because talking about suicide is the only way we’ll save lives.

“We didn’t know back then,” Meyers said.

In the past few years, Meyers said more schools seem interested in suicide awareness, and in 2018 the group added 50 new schools.

Suicide prevention in schools is an important part of a public health solution to this increasing problem, said Ackerman.

Suicide screenings should also be commonplace at primary care physicians’ offices, he said, and parents should know what resources are available.

“We need a public health approach … like we’ve had with cancer, with HIV, with motor vehicle accidents,” he said.

“There’s a clear gap in how often we directly confront the issue of suicidal influence and behavior. It’s an uncomfortable topic that demands adults and young people to become comfortable.”

In the latest study, Ackerman and other researchers analysed data reported to the poison centre from 2000 through November 2018, finding more than 1.6 million suspected suicide attempts by self-poisoning in children and young adults, ages 10 to 24.

They found that from 2000 to 2010 there was a decrease in suicide attempts by overdose among 10 to 15-year-olds, but then a “dramatic and persistent” increase from 2011 to 2018, ranging from more than 120 per cent to nearly 300 per cent.

The increase was driven mostly by females, who experts say tend to attempt suicide more often than males – using overdose most often as a method – but do not die from suicide attempts as often as males.

The study also showed an increase in suicide attempts by overdose among 16 to 18-year-olds during the 19-year period, but no significant difference for those 19 and older.

While researchers could not explain why these suicide attempts are increasing in young people – or why there appears to be a shift around 2011 – experts point out a rise in social media usage and the opiate crisis as possible explanations.

Study authors also say more research is needed, and that reasons for suicide are often complex and multifaceted.

In another recent study, also from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, researchers noted a spike in suicide deaths among 10 to 17-year-olds in the month following the March 31, 2017, release of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”

The series was widely panned by suicide prevention experts as glorifying suicide.

The research is the latest in a string of evidence in recent years showing suicide is on an upward trend, including last year’s report from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that showed suicide was a leading cause of death across the U.S., with increasing rates in nearly every state.

Even with improved mental health awareness in recent years, Ackerman said, “we need more hands on deck, more investment in policy.

“The infrastructure on how we support at-risk kids is pretty weak.

“There’s a lot of stigma and a lot of shame. We make people who are vulnerable jump through a lot of hoops to get help.”

Funding is a barrier, he pointed out, with local nonprofits doing much of the suicide prevention work in their communities.

“There has to be more money put into this,” said Jonathan Singer, Associate Professor of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago and the president-elect of the Washington, DC-based American Association of Suicidology.

The funding should match the need, he said, noting that research shows suicide is the second highest leading cause of death among young people, ages 10-24.

“If we had a billion for suicide prevention research and intervention efforts, then what we could do is actually fund research that answers some of the questions like, is this really a social media thing or not.

“We could pay to have somebody dedicated in each school district … who is a suicide prevention coordinator,” Singer said.

According to him, if suicide prevention efforts and screenings are increased in schools, communities will need more services to treat children identified as needing help.

At Elyssa’s Mission, educators reached no fewer than 43,000 students last school year, said Jodie Segal, Director of Education.

Of those students, 2,700 were identified as needing help through the screening test given at the completion of the group’s presentation.

She added that 74 of those students were hospitalized for an imminent risk for suicide.

“There’s been a big shift in schools recognising that this is a big issue. Potentially, those 74 kids’ lives were saved … and that’s just last school year.

“We want to be proactive. If they can get support and treatment, they’re not going to get to the place where they have a suicide attempt,” she said. (dpa/NAN)

Another Nigerian ‘killed’ by South African police

Ben Okoli, president, Nigerian Citizens Association South Africa (NICASA), has raised alarm over the circumstances surrounding the death of Ebuka Udugbo, a Nigerian citizen, allegedly killed by South African police.

Okoli conveyed this message in a letter to the consul general, Nigerian consulate, Johannesburg, South Africa, a copy of which was obtained by NAN in Abuja on Friday.

He explained that Udugbo was arrested by South African police over a quarrel with Linda, his girlfriend, on April 28, and later pronounced dead by the police.

“The information we got initially was that he committed suicide while in the South African Police custody in Cape Town. We conducted our own preliminary investigation over the circumstances surrounding his death,” he said.

“What we discovered was really shocking and disheartening from our findings.

“The late Udugbo had a quarrel with his girlfriend and left the house at about 9 a.m on April 28 to avoid further altercation with his girlfriend.

According to him, the girlfriend called the police and along with the officers they had gone out in search of Udugbo. He was later found by the police while he was driving on the road in town.

He said that Udugbo’s vehicle was stopped, and he was arrested and handcuffed.

“The police took his car keys, left the car by the way and drove with him back to his house in the Police car along with the girlfriend,” he added.

“He was severely beaten by the cops in his house and he fainted. At this point the landlord’s son feared and told the Police to take him to the hospital.

“The police refused, and instead they took him to the Police Station where they claimed that he had allegedly committed suicide.

According to him, past 10am, one of Udugbo’s relatives went to the station and was told that Udugbo had committed suicide.

“We do not accept this police story, we believed that he was killed right in the Police Station and hanged afterwards,” read the letter.

“His case was that of domestic violence, and does not warrant the Police to beat him since he did not in any way resist arrest.”

He said that all circumstances surrounding his death was a clear indication of bias, hate, xenophobia and premeditated action and police high handedness.

“We believed that the late Udugbo was killed and to cover it up the Police hanged him to make it look like suicide,” Okoli said.

“The police cell is not a place for anybody to commit suicide. It is meant to be a place of safety and protection.

“The South African Police service had considered Nigerians as inconsequential and unimportant.

“They tend to always get away with it because they had been allowed to go free in numerous murder cases where they had killed Nigerians.

“NICASA shall protest this unnecessary police brutality, bias, death in police custody, xenophobia and high handedness against our nationals.”

The death toll of Nigerians killed in South Africa has continued to rise, with more than 120 lives lost since 2016.

Udugbo’s death comes barely a week after Tony Elochukwu, another Nigerian from Nnobi, Anambra state, was killed by an unidentified gunman in South Africa.

Police probe ‘rape of Abuja sex workers’

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) police command says it has set up a “high-powered team” to investigate the alleged assault of some suspected sex workers by some of its officers.

In April, a joint task force comprising of the department of development control of Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), the Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB), and the Social Development Secretariat raided Caramelo, a popular strip club, in the nation’s capital.

The task force also arrested “sex workers” in different parts of the nation’s capital.

Some of those arrested were allegedly molested by some of the police officers who conducted the raid.

One of the ladies said many of the alleged rapists were policemen attached to Utako, Life Camp and Gwarimpa police stations.

Another lady said she was raped by policemen when she could not pay the money they demanded in exchange for her release.

In a statement on Friday, Gajere Tanimu, deputy spokesman of the command, said they have invited some individuals who “may assist in getting to the root of the matter”.

“The attention of FCT police command has been drawn to serious allegations of rape against some of its members on social, print and electronic media,” Tanimu said.

“This was said to have occurred on 27th April, 2019 when some suspected commercial sex workers were raided by the FCTA Joint Task Team comprising of the Department of Development Control, Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB), and the Social Development Secretariat at Caramelo night club, Utako, and also while they were kept at Utako Division.

“The Command as a responsible corporate citizen, views the allegations seriously. Consequently, a high powered team was constituted to investigate the veracity of the allegation.

“In this regard invitations were sent out to relevant individuals that may assist in getting to the root of the matter.

“The command wishes to assure members of the public of its zero tolerance for unprofessional disregard to human rights and stiff punishments will be meted out to erring officers.”

Gowon slumps at David Ejoor’s funeral in Delta

Gen Yakubu Gowon, former Nigerian head of State, has slumped during the funeral of late Major General David Akpodiete Ejoor in Ovwor-Olomu Community, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State.

The incident  happened  at the grave side while the funeral oration was on going.

Gowon was promptly rushed by some top military officers into a special tent for emergency resuscitation just as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa and James Ibori, former Governor of the Delta State, dashed into the tent to ensure he recovers.

A military as well as the Delta State ambulances were immediately moved in to front of the tent in case the former Head of State’s health deteriorates further.

After a moment of suspense, Ibori and  Okowa were seen coming out from the special tent, an indication that the former military ruler had recovered.