Three months after denouncing the leaked report of the panel of presidential visits of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) crisis as false, the Federal Ministry of Education has not yet produced the original report.
A leaked panel report published by some newspapers in September indicated that the visiting panel’s findings accused the university’s rector, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, of wrongdoing.
The leaked content was released a year after the panel released the report, and the government did not publish a white paper or take any action on the report. The government has also failed to substantively address the issues raised in the crisis at the university following the reinstatement of the vice chancellor and the resignation of the president of the governing council, Wale Babalakin.
The Special Panel of Presidential Visits had been created by President Muhammadu Buhari after UNILAG fell into a crisis that led to the controversial removal of Mr. Ogundipe by the university’s governing council.
The the report was sent to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, by the chairman of the visiting panel, Tukur Sa’ad, on September 17, 2020 in Abuja.
The panel had two weeks to complete its task after its inauguration on August 26 of that year, indicating that the government wanted to address the issue with unusual speed.
After it was handed over to him by the panel in Abuja, Adamu said that the university visitor, President Buhari, would make a decision on the report to restore peace to the university.
“The visitor to the university, after due consideration of the report, will make a decision on the matter as appropriate in order to restore the peace and atmosphere conducive to learning at the University of Lagos and the university system as a whole”, He said.
Adamu said that justice will be done to all parties to the crisis, in accordance with the report’s recommendations.
A year after the report was released, some newspapers in September published some of the panel’s findings and recommendations derived from a leaked copy of the report.
However, the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Sunny Echeono, quickly called a press conference to vehemently deny the authenticity of the leaked report.
He went on to accuse the media of forgery.
“And even for the content of what is published in the media, which is 100 percent, no page is identical, it is a complete fake. It has nothing to do with this report, ”Mr. Echeono said at the press conference in Abuja.
“I am surprised that even the editors did not try to contact the panel chair or the ministry to say that we have this information, can they deny, accept or corroborate it? I would have sought approval to present this report even to the public, even before we establish the white paper committee for Nigerians to see and avoid any accusations about the modification or change of the report by the government. “
Furthermore, the ministry, in a memorandum entitled “Re-presidential visit accuses Unilag VC, Mgt”, signed by its Director of Information and Public Affairs, Ben Goong, described the claims in the leaked report as “false, unfounded and for To say the least, naughty, as they have nothing to do with the report presented by the panel. “
Following Echeono’s comment, PREMIUM TIMES sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the ministry on October 11 to obtain a copy of the report in order to verify the Ministry of Education’s allegation of falsification and to provide clarity on the findings and Visitor panel recommendations.
This was in the context of the leaked report indicating that the panel had also indicted Mr. Ogundipe, who has nevertheless continued to hold the post of vice chancellor, while Mr. Babalakin, who has resigned his own position as chairman of the council. of government, has not been replaced.
The Freedom of Information Law stipulates that requests made under the Law must be responded to within seven business days, unless the organization from which the information is requested requests an extension.
But the Ministry of Education did not respond to the request or ask for an extension.
PREMIUM TIMES on November 9 sent a reminder to the ministry. But he also did not respond to the reminder until November 18.
In a November 18 letter to PREMIUM TIMES, signed by its Deputy Director of Legal Services, Ozoemena Ikechi, the ministry said: “I am writing to inform you that your application to the ministry is under review and the ministry will contact your company. In time.”
This newspaper sent a reporter to follow up with the ministry to give a specific date on which it intended to deliver a copy of the “original” report, as indicated in FoI’s request.
During one of her visits, the reporter approached the permanent secretary, Mr. Echeono, during a photo session outside his office, but he directed her back to the official who wrote the letter.
However, when the reporter spoke with Mr. Ikechi (who wrote the letter), he said that he could not give an exact date when the report would be available to PREMIUM TIMES.
There was a protracted confrontation between the UNILAG leadership and the university’s governing council, which peaked in March 2020 when the week-long 2020 University Call was canceled just before it began.
Subsequently, the governing council established a special panel in August 2020 to investigate allegations of corruption against the university administration. After the panel indicted management, the governing council announced the removal of Mr. Ogundipe as vice chancellor and his replacement by Theophilus Soyombo.
But Ogundipe rejected his removal and was backed by the university staff unions, who noted that only the visitor can remove a university rector.
Later, the House of Representatives got into the crisis by establishing a committee to investigate the crisis at the university. The committee’s report, however, acquitted the university management of the allegations.
Subsequently, President Buhari reinstated Ogundipe as vice chancellor, and Babalakin submitted his own resignation in protest.
But in November 2020, two months after the presidential visitation panel presented its report, the panel chair, Sa’ad, failed the government’s decision to reinstate the embattled vice chancellor.
Mr. Saad condemned the report of the panel he chaired, saying it was one-sided because most members were biased towards Mr. Ogundipe. He said the committee’s Terms of Reference (ToR) were also biased against the chairman of the governing council, Mr. Babalakin.
Expressing reservations about the decision to reinstate Mr. Ogundipe, the panel chairman said: “The recommendation that the CV be reinstated was limited to the procedure of his dismissal. It does not mean that you should be acquitted of all wrongdoing. “
He said the panel’s report was one-sided because the majority of members were biased towards Mr. Ogundipe and the Terms of Reference (ToR) were also biased against the separate chairman of the governing council, Wale Babalakin, who had since resigned. to position.
Saad said that although Ogundipe, a professor, was wrongly removed as vice chancellor, the panel did not give him a clean health certificate as he was charged with some crimes, including contract splitting.
The panel chairman also said that he reluctantly signed the report on the understanding that it would first pass under the eyes of the university’s rector, the Shehu of Borno, before presenting it to the federal government.
He said that due to a series of anomalies in the administrative processes and the sensitivity of the matter, “the final recommendation of the panel was that the matter should be returned to the Chancellor, regardless of what the panel recommended.”
Visiting panel accuses Ogundipe
The visiting panel, according to its leaked report, accused Ogundipe of financial wrongdoing.
For example, the document viewed by PREMIUM TIMES notes, “The university also uses spending approval limits for the Chief Officials, the Council, and the Bid Board. There are instances where senior officers exceed approval limits when approving related and similar expenses that normally should be a single procurement piece. This could be interpreted as a division of contracts or services so that it is within the limit of an official and avoid the rules that govern large tenders, non-compliance with the Acquisition Laws and Fiscal Responsibilities ”.
Real Filtered Visitor Panel Report – Member
Despite strident condemnation of the report leaked by the Ministry of Education as falsified, a member of the visiting panel further confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that its content is fully consistent with those of the report presented by the panel to the federal government.
The source, who declined to be named because he did not consider it appropriate to speak on the matter until the government had published its white paper on the report, said it was shameful that the government denied the authenticity of the leaked report.
When asked if the government had expressed dissatisfaction with the panel’s findings and recommendations, the source said there had been no comment from members since the panel presented the report.
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