Some prominent lawyers on Tuesday expressed mixed reactions over the decision of the Federal Government to rename the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in honour of the late Chief MKO Abiola.
The lawyers gave their views in separate interviews in Lagos.
President Goodluck Jonathan had on Tuesday made the announcement during a nationwide broadcast to mark the 2012 Democracy Day.
He said the name change was in honour of the late Abiola’s contribution to the nation’s democracy.
constitutional lawyer, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said the president
should be praised for his effort to immortalise Abiola, adding that he,
however, made a wrong choice in choosing UNILAG.
Sagay said: “The
president should be praised for his effort to immortalise Abiola. It
was done out of good intention but he chose the wrong institution.
“UNILAG is too well established and has its own individual personality which will be difficult to overshadow”.
noted that the president could have named one of the nine federal
universities being constructed by the government in honour of the late
acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
would have been less contentious because they are yet to be given any
names and have no identity of their own unlike UNILAG”, Sagay added.
Bamidele Aturu, a human rights activist, said the president had the
power to change the name of the institutioņ stressing that nothing was
actually wrong with the name change.
He said: “The renaming
itself is not the problem it is was a populist gesture. This must not
been seen as a way to garner the sympathy of the people of the South
“The Federal Government has the power to change the name of
any of its institution but it must be done with approval of the
“If the UNILAG Council did not approve the
name to be changed, then there will be a problem because it means that
due process has not been followed”.
Also speaking, Mr Wale
Ogunade, President, Voters Awareness Initiative, a non-governmental
organisation, said the proper way to honour Abiola would have been to
recognise June 12 as a national holiday.
“MKO Abiola is not known
to be an educationist. The best way to have honoured him is for the
Federal Government to recognise June 12 as a national public holiday”,
Ogunade said lawyers in the country would challenge the
change of the institution’s name in a court of competent jurisdiction if
it was not reversed by the government.
He said: “The University
of Lagos was enacted by an act, so nobody can unilaterally change its
name without an act by the National Assembly.
“I can assure you that this will be challenged in the court because it is an illegality”. (NAN)