Three months after denouncing the leaked report of a panel of visits to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) as false, the Federal Ministry of Education has not submitted the “original report”.
A leaked panel report published by some newspapers in September showed that the university’s rector, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, was accused of corruption and mismanagement.
The report also indicated that the seven-member panel, led by a former Army Chief of Staff, Martin Luther Agwai, endorsed actions taken against Ogundipe in 2020 by the institution’s governing council led by Wale Babalakin.
The Agwai panel was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 29 of this year to probe the affairs and management of the university, especially given the crisis that rocked the university in early 2020.
The committee presented its report to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, in June.
The panel report arrived About a year after another special presidential panel, headed by a former vice chancellor of the Federal University of Technology (FUT), Minna, Tukur Sa’ad, investigated and presented a report on the 2020 crisis at the university.
Real or fake?
Months after Martin Luther Agwai’s panel presented its report, some newspapers, in September this year, obtained a leaked copy of the document and published some of the findings and recommendations it contains.
However, the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, 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, ”said Mr Echono 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 that the government modifies or changes the report. “
Furthermore, the ministry, in a statement titled “Represidential Visitation Indicts Unilag VC, Mgt”, signed by its Director of Information and Public Affairs, Ben Goong, described the claims in the leaked UNILAG report as “false, unfounded and to say the least. minimal, mischievous, since they have no relation to the report presented by the panel. “
An ignored FOI request
Following Mr. Echono’s claim and his ministry, PREMIUM TIMES sent on October 11 a request for the Freedom of Information Law to the ministry for a copy of the report in order to verify the accusation of falsification by the Ministry of Education and provide clarity on findings and recommendations. of the visit panel.
That was in the context of the leaked report indicating that the new panel also indicted Mr. Ogundipe, who has nonetheless continued to hold the post of vice chancellor despite being accused of corruption.
The Freedom of Information Law stipulates that requests made under the Law must be responded to within seven 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 directed to inform you that your application to the ministry is under review and the ministry will contact your company. In time.”
This newspaper then sent a reporter to the ministry for 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 met with the permanent secretary, Mr. Echono, on the matter, but he directed her to return 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.
The year 2021 is almost over and this newspaper has yet to hear from the ministry about it. Echono did not respond or return multiple calls made to him Tuesday.
Real Leaked Visitor Panel Report – Committee Members
Despite the Ministry of Education’s assertions that the leaked UNILAG report is not genuine, two members of the visiting panel confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that the content published by the newspapers is fully consistent with that of the report presented by their panel to the government. federal.
The sources, who declined to be identified because they did not consider it appropriate to speak on the issue until the government publishes 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 its report.
One member said: “The reason why I have not publicly commented on the claim of the permanent secretary of the ministry of education is because he is not the one who gave us the job. You are free to say what you want. I have gotten older and more mature and I cannot hire such a man in a task that the president himself gave us. If the president says our report is false, we know what to do.
“For now, we will not be drawn into the antics of people who have interests to protect. We have done our job to the best of our ability and have presented our report. We hope the government finds our report useful and publishes a White Paper soon. “
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. Theophilus Soyombo was immediately appointed to take his place as an actor.
But Mr. Ogundipe rejected his removal and was backed by the university staff unions, who pointed out that only the visitor could remove a university rector.
Subsequently, President Buhari reinstated Ogundipe as vice chancellor after a special presidential panel led by Professor Sa’ad presented its report. Mr. Babalakin resigned in protest.
However, in November 2020, two months after the presidential visiting panel presented its report, the panel’s chairman, Sa’ad, criticized the government’s decision to reinstall the conflicting 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 that the panel report was one-sided because most members were biased towards Mr. Ogundipe and the Terms of Reference (ToR) were also biased against Mr. Babalakin.
Saad said that although Ogundipe, a professor, was wrongly removed as vice chancellor of UNILAG, 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 with 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.”
The second panel of the Visit accuses Ogundipe
Another visiting panel led by General Agwai, according to his leaked report, also accused the UNILAG administration led by Professor Ogundipe of financial irregularity. The panel also supported the processes adopted by the Babalakin-led governing council to remove Ogundipe from office in early 2020.
Those recommendations appeared to have failed actions taken by the government to reinstate Mr. Ogundipe as vice chancellor and dissolve the Babalakin-led council that tried to hold Mr. Ogundipe accountable and enthrone sanity at the university.
Insiders from the Education Ministry said some senior officials at the agency protecting Ogundipe were shocked by the Agwai-led panel report and had continued to work to undermine the document.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated to correct some inaccuracies contained in the previous version.
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