•Probably the only VC in Nigeria to allocate security votes to himself
Tobi Soniyi and Bayo Akinloye
As the crisis at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) rages on, the institution’s Pro Chancellor, Dr. Wale Babalakin, has opened a can of cankerworms in which he accused Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, the ousted Vice Chancellor of the university of financial recklessness and forgery.
In an engrossing interview on ARISE TV, Babalakin lambasted the embattled don, claiming his tenure as the vice chancellor of UNILAG was fraught with flagrant disregard for the rule of law.
According to Babalakin, Ogundipe was once found guilty of forgery but the university community and the institution’s alumni association pleaded with him to let him off the hook.
Pointedly, the UNILAG pro chancellor accused Ogundipe of using N49m to renovate his official residence and allegedly gave another N41m to the institution’s bursar to fix his premises.
Babalakin explained further, “I’m a lawyer. I’m not given to making loose statements. Whatever I say I must be able to back it up. Prof. Ogundipe was accused of financial recklessness and I can boldly say that you cannot find any action of Ogundipe that followed the proper process.
“Prof. Ogundipe spent N49 million renovating his residence which a former vice chancellor who had just left was in excellent shape without mentioning it to anybody. Without even mentioning it, not to talk of approval.”
The pro chancellor added, “It was a committee of the university that discovered it. Prof. Ogundipe in a very complicit manner gave N41 million to the bursar to renovate his premises. The bursar’s house can be built from scratch with N41 million. We struggled to have Prof. Ogundipe’s management to give us a proper account.”
Babalakin further disclosed that like state governors, Ogundipe had security votes which were not accounted for.
He stated, “Every single account that has been submitted by Prof. Ogundipe is fraught with fundamental errors. All the accounts were cooked and not a fair representation of a fair presentation of the university books.
“Prof. Ogundipe, I’m sure, is the only vice chancellor in Nigeria who allocates security votes. Every month he pays security votes to the dean of student affairs without an account. In a university, you’re paying money every month without an account of the money. There has never been an account of how that money was spent.”
He recalled one of the disgraced VC’s alleged penchant for underhanded dealings during a process to appoint a director of works for the university, claiming that Ogundipe engaged in forgery in order to get his own man to be appointed.
Babalakin said, “Ogundipe is a serial offender. Soon after the council was inaugurated, we were trying to elect a director of works. Ogundipe as chairman of the committee to appoint the director of works chaired the occasion. It’s a sub-committee of the council. He chaired the occasion. When the interview was concluded, all the parties collated their marks and some guy from Lagos State Polytechnic came first… Ogundipe now went to collate results. When he came back, that candidate came second because Ogundipe had altered the marks.”
The issue, the UNILAG pro chancellor explained, generated heated debate in the council and the exercise was cancelled.
“Ogundipe altered the marks to favour a member of staff who had been indicted twice for fraud and total incompetence. It’s in Ogundipe’s interest to surround himself with people who cannot stand up for the truth. Ogundipe would have been removed then because forgery in a university is totally unacceptable,” he revealed.
Speaking further, he stated, “But the alumni and all the bodies in the university appealed for Ogundipe and I told him that where’s I’m coming from there’s zero tolerance for this. You can’t do this but the elders also came and I told them that we were drawing a fundamental line: we’d not tolerate this kind of attitude anymore. From then until he was removed, there was nothing Ogundipe did properly.”
In addition, Babalakin claimed that the sacked VC was more interested in selfish gains and not the development of the university.
“Then, you have a culture represented by Ogundipe: ‘let us fritter away the money’; ‘let us mismanage this place’; ‘let us create a charade.’
He also accused the institution’s alumni association, the management and the ASUU chapter of the school of not being on the side of the truth.
Speaking of the alumni, he stated: “Let me shock you: a budget that was presented to me as pro chancellor of the university, the amount of internally-generated revenue and the amount of recurrent expenditure were equal. So, every money that was generated was spent without improving the university. How do you reconcile these kinds of people? The alumni spoke to me on a few occasions. What are you telling me? I should compromise forgery? I should compromise stealing? I should camouflage breach of process? What if there’s a visitation tomorrow?”
Again, as he did in his media briefing, he said due process was followed in removing Ogundipe and that he was given a fair hearing.
According to Babalakin, the ousted vice chancellor made a written defence and even gave a one-hour speech to prove his innocence. He added that it was within the power of the governing council to remove a vice chancellor and not the President (Visitor).
“If you read the Universities Miscellaneous Act 2009, the visitor has no role in the removal of vice chancellors. It’s a decision of the council and if the vice chancellor believes that he hasn’t been removed properly, the appropriate thing to do is, as stated in the law, for him to write an appeal to the visitor.”
He urged that if Ogundipe was dissatisfied with the verdict of the council, he should write an appeal letter to the President Muhammadu Buhari through the Ministry of Education and not try to disrupt the peace of the university, bringing it into disrepute.
On the question that the council he presided over did not give Ogundipe a fair hearing, he replied, “That’s a false narrative. A full committee of council discovered that Ogundipe was conducting the affairs of the university in a reckless manner unbecoming of any public officer. The full committee of the council then mandated a sub-committee to look into it. The sub-committee came back with a plethora of wrongdoing by Ogundipe. This committee’s report was forwarded to Ogundipe for his comment. Ogundipe wrote his defence in writing and he sent it to the council.
“He then stood up in council for one hour to defend himself. So, anybody saying he wasn’t given a fair hearing doesn’t even know the facts. I’m hoping that this will bring out a lot of facts so that Nigerians don’t react to issues when they’ve not read documents.”