The visitation panel set up by President Buhari to look into the crisis that erupted in the University of Lagos after the Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council of the institution sacked the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, has submitted its report in which the VC was indicted. The Babalakin-led governing council had in August 2020 sacked Ogundipe over acts of wrongdoing, gross misconduct, financial recklessness, and abuse of office. Babalakin had explained that “We agreed to have a secret ballot that we have always had when there are contentious issues. The votes were counted, they were not just votes, everybody wrote their own comments and I read it out to everybody.” But few months after the removal of the VC, President Buhari approved the report of a Special Panel to the university, which had then recommended, among other things, the reinstatement of Ogundipe and also dissolved the Governing Council headed by Babalakin, who had earlier resigned his chairmanship. Following the special panel’s report, Ogundipe was reinstated to his position, which he currently occupies. Thisday reports that the visitation panel has submitted in its final report and it revealed that Ogundipe could not provide any defense for his actions. It alleged that the UNILAG VC was involved in the splitting of contracts. According to the panel “The explanations given were mere justifications to the breached contract tender processes that resulted in contract splitting, not out of ignorance of the requirements of the rules and regulations that have been substantively enacted.” According to Thisday, the report highlighted many contracts that were illegally awarded by the Ogundipe-led management. It alleged that in violation of the Procurement Act, the management of UNILAG under Ogundipe regularly diverted, by way of Virement, the sum of N1.800 billion from the university’s recurrent expenditure to fund award of contracts, which were clearly illegal. “The university operates a structured budget processing system. The budget process seems complete except that a bulk allocation of funds was made to each department, and they are each at liberty to allocate amount available as they deem fit. This is totally inconsistent with the structured process and needs to be revisited. “The format of the periodic budget performance report presented to the Governing Council has major deficiencies. It lacks the critical aspect of good management information, performance review criteria and presentation. There is no section for the statement of financial positions that could have disclosed the fixed asset and all financial assets and liabilities of the university. “It is half-baked reporting template used over the years for the quarterly financial reporting, however, it might not have been intentionally generated with the view towards hiding useful financial information from the Governing Council and the management of the university. “We also noticed some inconsistency between the figures of the approved budget and that of the budget performance report. It points to the fact that subordinates are not being supervised as required. With a staff strength of 120, such errors should not be continuous and mistakes are not expected from the Bursary Department. “The budget performance reports concentrated on the monetary aspect of operations and also failed to determine the variance between the budget and the actual performance of each critical areas of the university, which include direct teaching, research and human resource development.” According to the panel findings, even the monthly donation of N500,000 to the Law Faculty by Babalakin for the purchase of law reports was diverted by the university management or the Faculty of Law by paying the sum into an unofficial account. This enabled the indicted officers to spend the money in a manner not authorised by the donor, it stated. The visitation panel came to the conclusion that the Bursary of the University was characterised by concealment, fraud, misappropriation, misrepresentation, and incompetence.
Furthermore, the report revealed that the management under Ogundipe concealed the accounts of the university for over three years from the Governing Council, which under Section 7 of the University of Lagos Act, was statutorily conferred with the power of superintendence of the accounts of the university.
It said it was the insistence of the Governing Council to know the accounts of the university that led to the commissioning of the Professor Omolehinwa Committee, which unravelled the true state of affairs of the university.
“The decision arose from the findings of the Chairman of Council that the budget estimates submitted to the National Assembly and the one presented to the Finance and General-Purpose Committee was at variance and irreconcilable,” it stated.
The report also revealed that there were 29 income-generating units in the university, but for several years only 10 of these companies were reported in the books of UNILAG. The others were concealed and whatever these companies generated were not accounted for.
The panel also found that the books of the university were so poorly prepared and full of non-disclosures that it did not represent the true state of affairs of the university.
The panel report revealed that the bursar was not able to produce the ledger of the university for the entire duration of the panel sitting, even though they had requested same from the bursar at several times.
Similarly, the bursar was not even able to produce an approved budget for 2020, implying that all the expenditure made for the said 2020 were extra-budgetary payments.
In addition, the visitation panel said
“The Bursar was found to be very incompetent and did not demonstrate any capacity to handle the portfolio. The Vice Chancellor and the Bursar regularly diverted money of the university as shown in the consistent diversion of about N1.8 billion from recurrent expenditure to capital expenditure without approval.
“Virements of a total sum of N1, 858,458,137 were consistently made from recurrent votes to finance capital projects during the period under review. This is a major breach in budgetary control and has been consistent year to year.
“The practice is totally out of place in the budgetary system of financing operations, it results in killing activities that could have qualitative benefits in favour of capital projects that were not initially budgeted and consequently culminating in the sinking of scarce resources over a long period of time with low financial returns.”
The panel exonerated the Babalakin-led Governing Council of wrongdoing in the removal of Ogundipe, and stated that the Council of the University properly indicted the VC and the principles of fair hearing were adhered to during his indictment.
The visitation panel also found that the removal of Ogundipe by the then council was consistent with the University Act, stating that the interpretation placed on the statutes by Babalakin is plausible. Even the management led by Ogundpe was aware that the interpretation was convincing and sought an amendment of the law, the panel noted.
“The current wording of S3(8) seems to suggest that it is Council that determines or could determine the identity of the two senate members of the Joint Committee of Council and Senate. There is arguably an imprecision of language which does not augur well for good governance.”the panel said
The visitation panel further stated that it did not know the rationale for the conclusion of the Federal Ministry of Education that the appointment of an acting Vice Chancellor by the Babalakin-led Council was wrong.