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State agency takes the lead in university corruption cases.

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State agency takes the lead in university corruption cases.

Post by Admin on Sat Feb 04, 2017 11:47 pm

A recent series of investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or EFCC into allegations of corruption against high-level university staff is challenging the traditional autonomy of university governing councils.

In an unprecedented move by the central government, the EFCC – a state anti-corruption agency – has arraigned before the High Court three high-ranking officials of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.

They are Pro-chancellor Adeseye Ogunlewe, Vice-chancellor Professor Olusola Oyewole and former bursar Moses Ilesanmi. The trio are facing 18 counts which include intention to defraud, conspiracy to steal, illegal conversion of university property and the making of unlawful deposits.

The whistle blowers were members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities or SSANU, who sent a petition, backed by facts and figures relating to the alleged corruption, to the EFCC.

Witch hunt

In response to the ensuing investigation, Ogunlewe and Olusola convened an emergency meeting of the governing council which summarily dismissed the whistle blowers and 19 members of SSANU on the grounds that their services were “no longer needed”. The three industrial unions immediately embarked on an indefinite strike describing the dismissal as irresponsible, uncalled-for and tantamount to a witch hunt. The industrial strike is yet to be called off.

Meanwhile the accused officials are back at work after securing bail. The case, which is being keenly followed, is to resume in the first quarter of this year.

According to reports by the local tabloid Sahara, the EFCC is investigating another case of alleged corruption at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, involving the vice-chancellor, Professor Adebiyi Daramola, and bursar Emmanuel Oresegun.

According to the tabloid’s report titled, “How FUTA vice-chancellor and bursar conspired to fraudulently embezzle university funds”, the two officials are responsible for a series of fraudulent transactions including illegal allowances made to governing council members, inflated costs for the procurement of properties, inflated and illegal duty travel allowances and, in the case of the vice-chancellor, the excessive diversion of intervention funds.

Misappropriation allegations

According to the tabloid, the director of Education and Research Institutions in the Office of the Auditor-General of the Nigerian Federal Government, Nathaniel Okoligwe, had last year “queried the vice-chancellor for misappropriating huge sums of money of the institution”.

On the basis of this, some university staff members sought legal advice which led to an investigation of the matter by the EFCC.

The allegations and investigations again sparked protests on campus with campus-based unions calling for suspension of the two officials pending the conclusion of EFCC investigations.

Unprecedented interest

Yet another corruption investigation involving the EFCC and targeting former University of Ilorin vice-chancellor and current executive secretary of the Joint Admission Matriculation Board, Professor Is-haq Oloyede, has aroused unprecedented interest.

As vice-chancellor, Oloyede oversaw the summary dismissal by the university’s governing council of 49 senior academic staff, including world renowned professors of the applied and medical sciences, for disruption of examinations during an indefinite strike. The vice-chancellor was ordered by the Supreme Court to reinstate the lecturers, but some clauses of the judgment are yet to be implemented.

This corruption allegation against him has attracted international attention as a result of his current position as secretary-general of the influential Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and his membership of several international Islamic organisations.

In a widely published petition to the EFCC, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, or ASUU, alleged that Oloyede’s administration and his successor Professor Abdul Ganiyu Ambali were involved in a series of corrupt practices involving US$63 million.

Petition

This petition was jointly signed by ASUU officials Dr Ade Adejumo, Dr Deji Omole, Dr Biodun Olaniran, Dr Dauda Adeshina, and Dr Kayode Afolayan.

The allegations against the two vice-chancellors include pension fraud, unremitted deductions, extortion of students, contract inflation, kickbacks and unlawful payments to ex-principal officers of the university.

Oloyede defended himself against the allegations in a paid-for, full page advertisement in some Nigerian dailies. In the insert titled, “The 49 Liars: A rebuttal”, Oloyede denied all the allegations against him by ASUU and promised to face any panel set up by the EFCC. Raining Islamic curses upon the signatories of this petition, he described them as “deranged, reckless, mischievous, psychopathic and nincompoops”.

He compared himself with Prophet Mohammed “when he was unjustly crucified on the day of Taif: God forgive them; perhaps something good would come from their future generations.”

Inroads

In an interview with University World News, a former vice-chancellor who requested anonymity said there had been unprecedented inroads by the EFCC into the universities.

“For the first time in the annals of Nigerian universities, vice-chancellors are facing a government agency for alleged corrupt practices. Corrupt practices by any staff including vice-chancellors and any member of the university are dealt with by the governing council. Those involved in any corrupt practice face a panel set up by the governing council. If they are found guilty, they are summarily dismissed. Any of them who is not satisfied with the governing council’s decision may go to the civil court. The law allows and encourages such steps,” he said.

According to the vice-chancellor, even when a member of the university community is allegedly involved in criminal cases, a joint committee of the council and senate is set up to look into the case. If the person is found guilty, the governing council recommends that such individual be tried in the civil court or can face an established tribunal where the person is charged for a criminal offence.

Age-old autonomy

“All these clauses are embedded in the laws and regulations of all the universities. The fundamental reason for integrating these clauses is to ensure the age-old British university tradition of autonomy against any undue interference by the state in the smooth running of the universities.

“We are gradually witnessing an erosion of this age-old autonomy,” he said.

“Now, a state agency has set aside the autonomy clause and is directly accusing the university staff of corrupt practices without allowing the governing councils to first investigate such cases and undertake decisive decisions on these matters.”

    Current date/time is Wed Aug 23, 2017 6:24 pm