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INVESTIGATION: Inside UNILAG’s multi-million naira budgetary abuse and academic discord

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INVESTIGATION: Inside UNILAG’s multi-million naira budgetary abuse and academic discord

The University of Lagos located in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, has been embroiled in controversies with allegations bothering on misappropriation of funds to the tune of N5 billion, forgery, and misconduct among other administrative vices.

In this report, Olanrewaju Oyedeji reveals exclusive details on the crisis.

 

Allegations of financial fraud and petitions from members of the UNILAG community had culminated in a situation which saw the governing council suspending the Vice Chancellor, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe. This led President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a presidential panel to investigate the crisis that was threatening to engulf the ivory tower.

Ogundipe was later reinstated, but the chairman of the governing council of the institution, Wale Babalakin resigned from his position.

Anti-corruption bodies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) were called in, but even they were accused of inactivity, and doing nothing to bring perceived guilty parties to book.
With Prof Ogundipe and Babalakin at the center of the raging crisis and allegations, Ripples Nigeria went in to ascertain the true position of things.

Documents seen by Ripples Nigeria showed that large sums of monies were awarded in questionable contracts to companies, and entities that were in some cases untraceable. For instance, a total of  N49.43 million was spent for renovation of the Vice Chancellor’s lodge in 2017. In 2018 another N2.2 million was expended for refurbishing the guest chalet in the same lodge, while an extra N550,284 was spent on acquiring furniture for the building. In 2019, the varsity spent another N2.04 million on the lodge refurbishing while spending same amount in 2020.

One of the staff quarters In Unilag

In three years the University of Lagos management spent N55 million naira on the Vice chancellors’ lodge.

In 2017, another sum of N41.82 million was spent for the renovation of the bursar’s apartment while N16.12 million was spent on renovating the residence for director of works (former residence for registrar). When contacted, the University‘s bursar, Mr Olalekan Lawal refused to comment on this, noting that he was not authorized to speak on such issues.

A search on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) for the contractor listed as Taiwo and Sons Enterprises that handled the renovation of the pro-chancellor’s resident proved abortive, as the company was not listed. However, similar organizations found in terms of name were inactive on the CAC portal (meaning they failed to file their returns). Others were registered outside the date of execution of the contract for the renovation of the Pro-chancellor’s lodge. The renovation was worth over one million naira.

Budgetary process abuse

The approval limit of the Vice Chancellor is 2.5million naira for goods and services. however, the UNILAG Vice Chancellor, Professor Ogundipe was accused of failing to seek approval for funds outside his approval powers.

For instance, the university administration consistently spent several millions of naira on renovation of residential buildings for its top officials constantly for a number of years.

In one case, a total of N112 million was spent on renovation of principal officers’ quarters. But  the Tenders board limit is put at N50 million. The Vice Chancellor in his defense in documents seen by Ripples Nigeria, noted that deficiencies that gave room for snakes and rodents ingress made the increments of  over N50 million naira necessary.

The renovation work includes both civil works and housing furniture. In accordance with the Memorandum of appointment (MOA), outgoing VCs leave with their furniture. Consequently, the total furniture stated in the report should be broken down into renovations and purchase of furniture and equipment respectively. On assumption of office, after evaluation of the state of the property, the Works and Physical Planning Department identified certain deficiencies that needed attention. For example, leaking roof, old louvres (which gave opportunity for rodents and snakes ingress)”, he stated.

A top member of the dissolved governing council of the University, who spoke to Ripples Nigeria, also confirmed this development, noting that efforts to get accountability in this case failed.

The Vice Chancellor was also accused by the former governing council of Wale Babalakin of paying the Dean of student affairs over N2 million monthly as security votes, between May 2017 and September 2018. The council alleged that the payment was done without its knowledge. Although, the Vice Chancellor noted that the payment was historical as according to him, previous deans enjoyed same benefit.

The Vice Chancellor was also accused of approving allowances for foreign grants above his approval limit, including adding a ’Local Running’ or ‘Incidental expenses’, which the governing council said is illegal in the varsity system.

Checks by Ripples Nigeria revealed that companies that were inactive, or not listed on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) portal were in operation with the University of Lagos.

An inactive company is one that has not made any Significant Accounting Transaction during the last two financial years or has not filed Financial Statements and Annual Returns during the last two financial years.

The new CAMA law of 2020 classified many of such organizations as inactive.

A non-listed company in this case is one that cannot be found on the CAC portal.

An instance is Mr Wash Nigeria Limited. Although registered in 2003, the company was listed as inactive by the CAC as of the time of this report. Despite this, Mr Wash Nigeria was the one that handled a N33.62 million project for the varsity.

The Project details include; Maintenance Service Contract for the Hostels Facilities in Eni-Njoku Hall, Makama Bida Hall, Fagunwa Hall, Madam Tinubu and Shodeinde Hall.

Picture of Fagunwa Hall, one of the hostels maintained by Mr Wash

The contract awarded to Mr Wash brewed controversies as the works committee department noted that it was not allowed to supervise the contract or determine if it was executed.

Mr Wash must have been listed as inactive due to it’s inability to file returns. However, in January 2020, the organization made a request for payment valuation certificate (a payment certificate is to inform the client about release of payment to the contractor) for the sum of
N33.618 million. During the duration of their inactiveness, the organization still made transaction with the University of Lagos.

Attempts to reach Mr Wash Nigeria proved abortive as the organization did not have a known website or any readily available contact details online.

Madam Tinubu Hall, one of the hall maintained by Mr Wash

Madam Tinubu Hall, one of the halls maintained by Mr Wash

Another organization that got contracts from the University of Lagos was Myne Maxima Treasure, an organization also listed as inactive on the CAC portal.

N4.25 million for MTN E-library at Akintunde Ojo building

The project was for the Procurement of external electrical power back–up system

Earlier, a Professor, Oye Boniface had alleged that project had no letter of award and that it was reported as completed in November 2018.

It was alleged that there was no Tender Board approval, no Finance and General Committee nor Council approval. This is a violation of the Public Procurement Act of 2007 and the University Financial Regulations of 2016.

Awarding contracts to companies without tax clearance, an anomaly —Lawyer

A legal expert, Barrister Awosusi Kehinde (Esq), while speaking with Ripples Nigeria noted that the normal process of winning contracts involves preparing Tax clearance.

“You cannot take contracts from government because after filing your annual returns, you are expected to get a tax clearance certificate from the Federal Inland Revenue Service and you get a certificate of your annual return from the corporate affairs commission. That is when you are eligible to be awarded any contract. The annual return is duly signed by an accountant, a practicing accountant preferred to be a chartered accountant”, Awosusi noted.

Speaking further, he said it was the duty of the organization awarding the contract to demand for a Tax clearance certificate for the year ending.

He also noted that for an organization to have been listed as inactive on the CAC portal, they must have failed to file their returns for at-least two years.

N444m paid for new library building, but contract non-executed five years after

Another company, Dutum Company Limited was awarded a contract worth over one billion naira, for the construction of the university’s new library. Checks however revealed that Dutum has been listed as inactive by the corporate affairs commission, meaning that it failed to file its returns.

Contract Award was worth N1.94 billion while N444.61 million representing 21% of contract completion was recorded to have been paid. The project was recorded as a failed one.

An Investigative Panel by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) invited all the parties to probe causes of the failure of the project.

Also, the varsity governing council in a report seen by Ripples Nigeria had faulted the process that led to the emergence of  Dutum as the organization to build the Varsity’s library.

The Panel was of the view that Dutum Company Limited was not qualified to be awarded the contract for construction of the new library project. It stated that the organization should not have been prequalified, as “its lack of experience in the construction of multi-storey building on pile foundation was manifested in the course of implementation of the contract”.

The contract was inherited by the administration of Professor Ogundipe from the former Vice Chancellor, Professor R. A. Bello

Dutum reacts

When contacted, the director of Dutum, Tope Runsewe did not deny receiving over N400 million from the University of Lagos. He noted that the payment was in line with standard practices. He however denied that the project has failed, blaming ‘hyper-inflation of construction materials’ among other issues for the delay

“The project in question cannot at this stage be qualified a failure. In truth, there has been some delays on the project due to reasons beyond our control. These include internal adjustments on the part of the project owner, covid-19 related shut downs, hyper-inflation of construction materials, which resulted in the need for price review, amongst others.

“Despite these, we are making progress towards resumption and continuation of the project. We remain hopeful that work should resume within weeks so we can deliver another quality project as we have been engaged to do” Mr Runsewe said.

The project which was commissioned in 2016 remains non-executed five years down the lane. The organization was given an Advanced Payment in November 2016 to the tune of over N290 million, In December 2017 another N94,358 million was made. In January 2018, a sum of N25.84 million was paid to Dutum. In June of same 2018 a sum of N20.82 million was paid to Dutum while in August, 2018 another sum of N13.33 million was paid totaling M444.61 million and representing

22.95 percent of the total project money.

Iwaya perimeter fencing dilapidated despite N32m spent on project 

Documents seen by Ripples Nigeria showed that the University of Lagos spent over thirty-two million naira on perimeter fencing, however, checks and visits to the project by Ripples Nigeria revealed sparse work going on and signs of abandonment.

The contract winner, Unilag Consult is an organization with University of Lagos having 99% holding of its shares while University of Lagos Holding has 1%.

According to the description of service rendered by the organization on its official website, the organization describes itself as one which renders consultancy services.

“Unilag Consult is not only able to offer comprehensive, flexible and well-coordinated consultancy services, but it also has the capability and capacity to put together, in a timely manner, a multi-disciplinary team to meet all the specified requirements for providing an effective technical support” the website of the organization reads.

Read also: INVESTIGATION: N7.3bn paid for unnamed projects; how Nigerian govt spent N2.2trn in six months

When Ripples Nigeria spoke to a worker at the location, he told the newspaper that “they (workers) were waiting for certain things for work to commence further at the site of the building”

Although, in 2010, there was a legal dispute between the Eleye family and the University of Lagos authorities over a parcel of land at Balogun Street Extension in Iwaya area of Yaba. Documents seen by this newspaper also confirmed this development. This however, did not stop the varsity from paying over thirty two million naira (N32,508,416.00 ) to Unilagconsult for the construction of the fence. The total contract award sum was N57,264,158.52.

State of Iwaya Fence in the University of Lagos

When contacted, a receiver at the end of the Unilag Consult’s phone contact asked this reporter to send an email. However, after sending the email and confirming it’s receipt on the organization’s official mail address, there has been no reply to comment on the role of Unilag Consult in the state of this project.

Centre remains dilapidated despite N29 million spent on it 

The renovation of facilities at the varsity’s Sports Centre was contracted to Enbridge Engineering Nigeria Limited with over N29 million paid. But Ripples Nigeria observed the poor state of the sports facility during a visit.

The contract details include;

Rehabilitation of main pavilion with replaced roofing sheets, reconstructed damaged seating slabs, new 800 units plastic seats, Restructuring and resurfacing of basketball courts including provision of upright, Rehabilitation of 3 Nos. tennis courts.

Current State of Unilag Sports Centre Pitch

The works department of the varsity led by Engineer Oloko Babatunde had described the project as failed while recommending termination of the contract.

Current state of Tennis Court Unilag

A top staff of the institution also in the know of the contract told this reporter that the Vice Chancellor changed the internal staff responsible for the project.

Enbridge is also inactive on the Corporate Affairs Commission portal.

The varsity indoor sports hall

The varsity indoor sports hall

Over N400 million spent on cleaning (Janitorial) services in three years

Documents seen by this newspaper revealed that the university spent over N466.72 million on cleaning services within 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The sum which is under a Janitorial contract was for different faculties and departments.

Janitorial Services for Faculties and Libraries which had an effective date from May 2017 was put at a Contract sum of N51, 263,215.22.

Another sum of N79,787,449.10 was the contract sum for Provision of Waste Management and Cleaning Services.

The contract expired on September 30, 2017.

Over N57,372,050.44  was paid after the contract expired for cleaning services.

A  contract sum of over N75,200,000 for Facilities Maintenance and Janitorial Services of Students’ Halls of Residence was paid. This expired on October 31, 2017.

After the expiration of the contract, another payment of (N71,789,428.76 was made.

For  Janitorial Services for Faculties & Library which expired in April 2018, a contract sum of N51,263,215.22 was paid with  payment after contract expired totaling N7,802,312.62.

Janitorial Services for Auditoria, Sport Centre, Centre for Information Technology (CITS) and Medical Centre which expired on 30th November, 2017 had contract sum of N50,047,659.96. Payment after contract expired was N19,232,931.62 and another N2,964,046.72, totaling N22,196,978.3 .

A financial analyst, Abayomi Samuel, noted that before a contract can be valid, there has to be a tender and offer, he stated that it is illegal for a contract to be carried on after its expiration, even if work  were to be carried on by the contractor after such expiration.

Academic discord as crisis leads to factions in UNILAG

The Vice Chancellor, Prof Ogundipe was also accused of arbitrary appointments, abuse of university process in appointments including in transfer and dismissal of officers.

This accusation led to academic discord and in-battle within the institution.

An instance is the alleged transfer of the Director of Sports (now former), Cecilia Arinye who was transferred to the Health & Safety Unit. It was gathered that her appointment was based on an advertised position for the position of Director of Sports, UNILAG.

Sources within the university told this reporter that despite transferring Cecilia Arinye to the Health and Safety Unit, she was still being paid as Director of Sports. Prof Ogundipe was accused of arbitrary use of power in this matter.

A top staff of the university told this reporter that there is now division within the university with lecturers in two camps, those supporting the Vice Chancellor and those believing that the Vice Chancellor is truly guilty of mismanagement. The crisis has also eaten deep into ASUU, the academic staff union of the university, with the current chairman of the union, Dr Dele Ashiru and some stakeholders of the varsity including those of the union within the university not being on same page on the crisis within the university.

“We do not share a cordial relationship and it is that way with most lecturers, we do not see eye to eye and that tension is on campus” a top staff told this reporter on condition of anonymity, detailing infractions within the university.

Many other persons who spoke to this newspaper under anonymity over what they termed as fear of victimization, accused the Vice Chancellor of authoritarianism and high handedness.

The report of the presidential visitation panel is also said to be brewing tension within the university, with many persons now skeptical about pitching their camp within the two factions in the institution.

Engineer Oloko Babatunde had challenged the Vice Chancellor over his removal as director of works, stating that his removal did not follow due process and accused the Vice Chancellor of victimization.

Earlier, in 2020, the academic staff union of universities led by its national president (now former) threw its weight behind the Professor Ogundipe-led administration, accusing the Wale Babalakin-led governing council of foul play and denying the Vice Chancellor fair hearing.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Dr. Wale Babalakin should be reminded that the knowledge of procedures and processes for appointment and removal of Vice-Chancellors is not the exclusive preserve of legal luminaries because the sources are out there in the public space. Curiously, he has been quoting a strange law – the “Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act of 2009”, which is not known to any other stakeholder, and the basis of his Council’s decision”, a statement by the body read.

When Ripples Nigeria contacted the incumbent president of ASUU, Professor Osodeke Victor, he accused the Babalakin-led council of discussing the Presidential panel’s report on national television when the report had not been publicly unveiled.

He stated that the union was in touch with the education ministry and at such there are stages to offficialising a report and one of such is a white paper which has not been done.

Bad blood? Babalakin criticizes Julius Berger over contract from which he was sacked

Former Unilag  Council Chairman, Wale Babalakin

Professor Osodeke insisted that due process was not followed in the earlier suspension of the Vice Chancellor by the Wale Babalakin led council.

Professor Oye-Adeniran, a retired professor of the university of Lagos, claimed that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ogundipe was converting the University’s fund to his Automated Teller Machine. He also noted that the Vice Chancellor was given the opportunity to defend himself by the former governing council led by Wale Babalakin.

Professor Adeniran told Ripples Nigeria that he had earlier petitioned the economic and financial crimes commission as a concerned Nigeria to report what he described as the anomalies in the university.

Attempts to reach the University Vice Chancellor, Professor Toyin Ogundipe proved abortive as he did not pick calls nor respond to text messages as at press time.

However, his personal assistant, Bolarin Ajigboye told this reporter that the office of the Vice Chancellor is not aware of any anomaly in records as at the time of this report.

Efforts to reach the University Public Relations Officer of the University as at the time of this report proved abortive.

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