On Wednesday, 29th of August, 2018, The Press Club UNILAG paid a courtesy visit and had an interview session with the Deputy Dean 2, Student Affairs Division of the University of Lagos – Dr Johnson Agunsoye fondly called DD2 – who shed light on some of the ongoing issues in the institution with students, accommodation in halls of residence, elections, relations to student organisations, external organisations, scholarships, endowment and the likes. Below is the excerpt from the interview.
Correspondents: Aishat Adebiyi, Olaide Aminat, Chisom Mbama, Olatunji Temitayo, Victor Oladipo and Agoyi Kemisola
Good day sir, we are members of The Press, can we meet you?
Thank you for the opportunity. I’m Dr. Agunsoye Johnson, a senior lecturer in the department of metallurgical and materials engineering, University of Lagos. In addition to lecturing and research, I have the responsibility of being one of the deputy deans of student affairs and prior to this, I served a two-term tenure as Deputy Dean 2 and one time – the sub dean of school of postgraduate studies. I am from a village in Kogi state, and I’ve been here for almost 15 years. I have two children, both in the University. My wife also is a staff here; she works with the University as an administrator. So, I am a full Akokite to the core. I’m presently the Chairman of Chapel Committee, University of Lagos.
It is usually said that those who should be in the office of the DSA, should be those that schooled here, because they usually understand the students better. Sir, do you have any qualifications from UNILAG?
Yes, first of all, my first degree in metallurgical and materials engineering is from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I was born there, my father worked there for 35 years, before he retired. My mother was also a staff there. My second degree was from department of metallurgical and materials engineering, University of Lagos. After my second degree, I started as an Assistant Lecturer in the department. In 2005, I enrolled for the PhD programme here. I was lucky to get a bench work at the University of Ottawa, Canada. I did my master’s degree here and I completed my PhD here after a brief stay in the University of Ottawa. I bagged my PhD degree in 2009. After that, I was promoted to Lecturer 1 in 2011- senior lecturer – and I’m hoping to move to the next level as an associate professor by the grace of God. I think I’m an Akokite by virtue of my two degrees here.
Can you enlighten us on the specific roles of the office of your office and Deputy Dean 2, Students Affairs?
Basically, the Dean is responsible, for the overall welfare of all undergraduate students and recently, the welfare of postgraduate students. Underlying these responsibilities are anything academics, anything that pertains to their welfare – in terms of their stay in the halls of residence, their social life, enforcing regulations, disciplinary aspects. We also interface with the parents to keep them abreast of certain development. We manage complications that arise from health issues, we coordinate the activities of scholarships within the university; we are indirectly incharge of endowment for brilliant students with CGPA of 4.5 and above, also student leaders who have demonstrated high level of performance. We are not directly involved with sporting activities, but we give the guidelines and we regulate the sporting activities timetable to avoid conflict of interests among departments and faculties. But coming down to the office; we have two deans – DD1 and DD2, no one is superior to the other, both of us report to the Dean, no seniority, only our job description differentiate us. The appointment letter is the same designation, but for internal arrangement, the Dean uses Deputy Dean one and Deputy Dean two to distinguish us.
My responsibilities include but are not limited to enforcing discipline across the halls of residence. I interface with all organisations that come from outside the University to do one business activity or the other that relates to students; I review the activities of these external bodies and recommend to the Dean, advice accordingly. I regulate social activities on the campus for sustenance of peace, all geared towards making academic program undisrupted all through the session. We intervene for the students when we feel that justice has been misplaced. I also deal with the issue of elections across all student bodies. I’m glad to inform you that in the past 3 years, we instituted the online voting and it has come to stay. I also deal with security issues, ejection of students who are unruly, and recommend students who are tested positive to illicit drug usage to the disciplinary board for investigations. A committee has been set up to review the level of discipline that will be meted out to different categories of drug offenders. This is broadly part of my responsibilities.
How long have you been in office and how have you been able to curtail the challenges you’ve been faced with?
I’ve been here for 3 years. Hopefully, I should be done with my tenure by November this year. This appointment by the VC is for one year, and it’s renewable. It’s been renewed two times based on satisfactory performance. One of the challenges we have has to do with accommodation. We have a maximum bed space of 7,800 available for undergraduates of over 51 to 52 thousand. We have allocated on the basis of number admitted by each department, putting into consideration also, other medical peculiarity, scholarly students with a CGPA of 4.5 and above including students who represent the University in sporting activities. We also pride ourselves in assisting the handicapped and visually impaired students in particular rooms that are convenient for them.
Secondly, there is so much poverty in the land. I’m privileged to chair a committee called the Indigent Student Committee, we also interview students and place them on work study, where we pay them a certain token to augment their finances, we also have a welfare purse to help students who are in need, when we authenticate the genuity of their situation. We also have a student support program; where we give free lunch to students, it is a provision made by the Chapel of Christ our Light as part of their CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility – to the University community. I have a responsibility of seeing to expand the student support program and cater for more needy students.
Now, drug use has become so endemic. As I speak to you, we have over 100 students that have been tested positive and are facing the student disciplinary committee. If these students are rusticated, I can imagine them becoming a nuisance. So, the university is looking for ways of taking them to rehabilitation centre where they would be catered for by their parents. It is not all cases that we can make public, so, we intervene at our level to make sure that these students’ problems are minimised.
Due to recent demonstrations, ULSU was suspended and we put in some regulations that restrict the number of students that can come in for leadership positions. We want responsible student leaders. We observed from our profile, that those who have attended other tertiary institutions before coming here are hardened and become difficult to handle, so, we try to exclude as many of them as possible. It’s a challenge, there has been resistance, but I’m glad to inform you that it has come to stay, and you can all see that there is an improvement in the quality of student leadership.
Recently, there has been a lot of rebranding going on in the school, as part of the long term strategy plan; we would like to know the role of the student affairs in this process?
When organisations come to the University, we support this. I will give you two striking examples, one is at Jaja hall, you will see the Indomie paintings in the hall and other rebranding which includes the sporting facility inside the hall – we negotiated that. The second and most significant one is at Moremi hall, we had several million naira branding from Coca-Cola international. If you look at Cafe 2001, the whole roof was replaced and the catering services have improved; you have wifi, there is music, air condition and you can enjoy your meal at a regulated price.
In some halls, we had a security report sometime back, that some commercial sellers there were involved in peddling of drugs and we had to eject them and the place converted to student rooms. We rebranded the common room and expanded it, so, you can read there. There is DSTV there subscribed for by the hall management and you can do sporting activities there. The place is cleaner; the environment is more serene and peaceful. You can seat outside in the evening and be refreshed. There is pressure mounted on us to reopen these places, but we won’t.
Concerning the rebranding going on in UNILAG, how are the other campuses (Idi-araba and Radiography campus) being inculcated into these benefits, because it seems like these things never gets to other campuses.
I think we have the same impression. When I was soliciting for votes as the Sub dean of postgraduate school, I took a tour to some offices in Idi-araba, some staffs mentioned that their laptops, printers were bought by them, some offices do not have a fridge. In my office, I have a brand new fridge, a water dispenser, flat screen, internet, split AC, so my office is okay and convenient. I have good chairs and tables, two printers, laptops. I later on discovered that the College of Medicine was set up under an “act of parliament” that is different, so, they draw their budgetary allocation and resources separately from the federal government, independent of University of Lagos. They get their funds the same way the University of Lagos gets theirs and the provost manages these funds.
For instance, our generators here are maintained by internally generated funds in the University. So, it is the responsibility of the management of the College of Medicine to put these facilities in place. We have a Dean of student affairs there. So, the fund that comes here is for here, while the fund that goes there is for there. It is only Pharmacy that opted out of the act to be part of University of Lagos, Akoka campus. We however try to integrate in some ways; the college of medicine produced the last Registrar – Dr Ipaye, the current Registrar – Barr. Ismaila Oladejo Azeez, Esq., the current DVC-DS Prof. Ogunsola, who she is a brilliant scholar with a potential of becoming a VC in this University. Also, Prof. Akinbo, who is the Deputy Provost is also a Deputy chair of the academic program committee in the school of postgraduate studies. I’m sure that somehow, someday, we would get there.
Coming down to the level of students, how does the College of Medicine students benefit from the normal things that students here benefit from?
On endowment, it should ideally be driven by the departments; the department should draw out the list of their scholars and send it to the counselling unit. It is incumbent on the faculty and department student leaders to drive the submission of the list, so that the office of advancement can process it to the counselling unit. And I want to assure you that if you have not gotten that of last year, it is not too late to get it, you can write to the Dean of Student Affairs.
Just to confirm, there was an online notice that scholars whose name did not appear on the endowment list should fill a Google form. How authentic was this information?
We have a deputy registrar in the counselling unit, and I suspect that the information is from his office. Just make sure that your department is captured for this current academic session.
Is there a counselling unit in the College, or is it the one at Akoka we are to come to?
This is an issue I think you can take up with the provost office. Sometimes, there are issues, like when we wanted to fumigate and we did halls assessment, we found out that the worst hostels were in the College of Medicine; the paintings of the wall, the toileting facilities e.t.c. Here, each hall has generators to pump water when there is no light.
Moremi’s capacity is about 600 to 650 bed spaces but multiplied by 4 is the actual capacity. So, the facilities are under severe stress, now, imagine a facility that has 3000 students with a couple of other ‘squatters’… if there is no water for 30 minutes, you will know. Ideally, there should be toilet facilities that you’ll feel comfortable in, but the budget and funds is not favourable. This takes a lot of resources and management of the resources inclusive. But the University is doing a very good job, electricity wise.
Who is responsible for maintaining the hostel facilities?
It’s the student affairs, but we contracted it out, we have three companies that maintain everything on the inside of the hostel, but the outside is the responsibility of the school from the IGR… We do fire drills here, where the firefighters come to train students on what to do in case of a fire.
Considering the limited capacity of hostel facilities, shouldn’t squatting be legalised? And the criteria to enter the hostel be just your school ID card?
There is an ID pass for all bonafide hostel students. Inspite of “squatting” not being legalised, the amount of students in the halls are beyond the facilities – particularly in boys’ hostel. The boys’ hostels are dirty; unkempt rooms, unwashed plates, old shoes, with lots of boys in one room. The girls’ hostels are better and neater. We try as much as possible to curb these acts.
We’ve heard about a monetary compensation for student leaders that do well, how does this apply? What are the criteria?
Yes, 50,000 Naira is given. There is this award we give to best student leaders. The last student leader that won it, immediately she was announced, she was called by two corporate organisations for job offers. Another student leader that was supposed to win it – he was the one that made the PowerPoint presentation the executives of Indomie saw and they rebranded the hall – but he misappropriated funds on buying a “goat-like Ram”. He was warned by me but he did not heed, so he lost out, and you see, his goodwill was not remembered. So, you have to be careful in all you do. Even me, whenever I dispense funds to students, I take a picture with the student and money, at that moment for accountability. I don’t take anything for granted, because I fear for my name.
Recently, about the elections, rumour has it that certain leaders collating people’s matric number to vote for their candidates online, what is being done about this?
I have heard of this. It is not impossible to have such scenario. But, if a case is brought to notice and established, the students will go on rustication for one year at least. Up to date, I have not seen a student who can accuse me of foul play; I have no vested interest in any student. I help students I do not know, and I have justifiable reasons, because whatever you do will be known sooner or later.
Who handles the social media pages (Twitter, Facebook…) of the University of Lagos?
There is a unit under information unit that handles it. You can talk to the head of corporate affairs. Once your information is positive and credible, you can be allowed access but we are try to manage information.
Any advice for the student leaders and all students of the university, at large?
There is time for everything, don’t be in a hurry; take your time and you will get the best. So, this is my advice – use your time very well. There are opportunities that abound, that we never had during our own time. If you end up with good results, you can get scholarships in many states in and outside the country.