When the dust of controversy in the University of Lagos finally settles, facts will become clearer as to whether or not, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the 12th vice-chancellor, misappropriated the lean resources of the institution, and violated several provisions of the laws that border on payment without valid contracts and approvals, contract over payment, contract splitting, contract award without recourse to due process, abuse of approval limits, among other infractions.
According to the report of the council committee on the review of expenditure of the University of Lagos, between 2017 and 2018, the professor of botany engaged in financial recklessness and abuse of office, amounting to breach of the Public Procurement Act 2007, Financial Regulation Act 2009 and the university’s guidelines.
First, the committee report and the documents of transactions sighted by The ICIR, showed that between 2017 and 2018, a total of N159 million were paid to companies by the vice-chancellor without contracts, and without the approval of the tender board and the finance and general purpose committee(F&GPC) of the university, an action which is a clear violation of section 17 of the public procurement act, 2017.
Babalakin said the amount Ogundipe spent on renovating the VC’s apartment is enough to build a new oneIn his defence, the former vice-chancellor argued that the approval of the contract renewal for the companies was delayed because of the union’s strike action. He argued also that petitions from aggrieved party delayed the tender board’s action.
The council, however, was unpersuaded by this explanation. The reason is that the committee had earlier put it on notice that the strike referred to by the vice-chancellor started only in December 2017, whereas the contract renewal commenced in October 2017, two months before the staff went on strike. And when the VC had the opportunity to seek approval for the contract during the council’s meeting in January, he did not do so.
Secondly, the vice-chancellor was accused of engaging two companies, Shelter Guards Limited and Nigeria Legions to the tune of NN117.9 million without valid contracts.
Promptly, the VC justified his action by reminding the committee that the university by convention has been paying the two companies since 2004 to prevent the breakdown of law and order on campus.
“This is a convention instituted since 2004 during a period of several upheavals on campus which led to the breakdown of law and order, cultism at its height, burglary and lots of insurgencies from neighbouring communities. The University was advised to engage different security outfits unit in the university. These expenditures have been in existence since then,” the VC said.
Again, the council found the explanation of the vice-chancellor unsatisfactory, saying that “convention cannot override statutory regulations”. The highest organ of the university administration, therefore, concluded that “engagement of the security outfits was done in total violation of the Public Procurement Act 2017 and the University of Lagos Financial Regulation of 2016.”
Third, the council also queried the vice-chancellor for unilaterally increasing the budget of the 2017 convocation ceremonies from N85 million to N97.4 million and jerking up the budgetary expenditure for the purchase of vehicles from N125 million to N147 million– without approval.
In his response, Ogundipe said change in the venue of the convocation was responsible for the increase, but the council frowned at the unilateral decision of the VC that cost the university nearly N10 million extra, and notified him that the extra-budgetary spending is a violation PPA 2017 and the University Act.
A case of contract splitting estimated at N78 million was also established against Ogundipe. The tender board approved the purchase of three cars from Briscoe PLC to deputy vice-chancellor (management service), deputy chancellor (development service) and the bursar at the cost N78 million. The amount was above the tenders board approval limit of N50 million. Ogundipe who chairs the tenders’ board countered the claim, saying the approval for the car purchase were obtained at different times – January 29 and February 19, – and therefore the purchase “did not exceed the approval threshold of the Tender Board”.
According to the 59-page report obtained by The ICIR, the vice-chancellor granted several other contract approval which the investigative committee described as “very suspicious”. One of them was the approval to renovate the quarters of the principal officers of the University, including the vice-chancellor, estimated at the cost of N112.5 million. Among the five officers, the VC’s lodge alone gulped N49 million.
The council chairman Wale Babalakin, speaking during sunrise, a programme of Channels Television, said the amount spent on renovating the VC’s apartment is enough to build a new apartment. He said the VC spent N49 million renovating his residence that was left in excellent shape by his predecessor “without even mentioning it, not to talk of approval.”
But Ogundipe said the N49 million was not only for renovation but also for the purchase of furniture as the former VC left with the furniture in the lodge.
The council committee headed by Saminu Dagari, a professor of chemistry from the of Federal University, Gashua, Yobe, said UNILAG, was poorly run by Ogundipe.
The ICIR contacted the vice chancellor for further comment on the issues raised in the report, but he did not respond.
A WhatsApp message sent to him on August 14 was ignored, though there was an indication he was online. He also did not respond to subsequent messages. The ICIR contacted him again via SMS on August 16 but he also did not reply the message.
At 4:37 pm on Thursday, August 20, The ICIR called the former vice-chancellor but he told the reporter to call back. “Please, call back I am in a meeting,” he said after introduction.
At 7:26 pm, another called was placed, but he did not answer it.
Ogundipe is the third vice-chancellor that has been removed from office. Before him was Jelili Omotola who was appointed in 1995 and was asked to resign in 2000.
Omotola also locked horns with the university council headed by Afe Babalola, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) as pro-chancellor. The late professor of law was accused of establishing a Korean Outreach Centre for UNILAG without the approval of the university’s council and senate, among other infractions.
Eni Njoku, also was a professor of botany like Ogundipe, was removed but not on account of fund mismanagement or financial recklessness.
President Muhammadu Buhari has set up a panel to probe the crisis at UNILAG, directing the senate to appoint an acting VC. He also asked Babalakin and Ogundipe to step aside.
WRITTEN BY AJIBOLA AMZAT
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