- Amended universities act grants council power to remove vice chancellor
Documents from the Governing Council of University of Lagos yesterday revealed more details of alleged financial wrongdoings that led to the removal, last week, of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.
The council, in the documents obtained by THISDAY yesterday, also insisted that due process was followed in removing Ogundipe from office.
It added that not only was Ogundipe removed from office for financial recklessness, his removal was also due to his inability to discharge the functions of his office as a result of infirmity of the body or mind.
The documents showed that the former vice chancellor had in response to the allegations, admitted that a firm of external auditors that looked into the books of the institution noted some cases of weakness in internal control but did not detect any fraud against him.
Justifying why the vice chancellor was sacked, the council said the entire letters of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act as amended in 2003 and 2012 were strictly followed.
It noted that a committee conducted an investigation into the allegations made against the vice chancellor and reported its findings to the council.
It quoted copiously from Sections 8 to 14 to support its position that due process was followed in the removal of Ogundipe.
For instance, while Section 8 of the Act states that “the vice chancellor may be removed from office by the Governing Council on grounds of gross misconduct or inability to discharge the functions of his office as a result of infirmity of the body or mind, at the initiative of the council, Senate or the congregation after due process,” Section 9 states that: “When the proposal for the removal of the vice chancellor is made, the council shall constitute a joint committee of council and Senate consisting of- (i) ‘three members of the council one of whom shall be the chairman of the committee,’ (ii) ‘two members of the Senate, provided that where the ground for removal is infirmity of the body or mind, the council shall seek appropriate medical opinion.”
It said Section 10 states that “the committee shall conduct investigation into the allegations made against the vice chancellor and shall report its findings to the council.”
According to Section 11, “the council may, where the allegations are proved, remove the vice chancellor or apply any other disciplinary action it may deem fit and notify the visitor accordingly provided that a vice chancellor who is removed shall have the right of appeal to the visitor.”
Specifically on alleged financial misconduct, the documents stated: “Prof. Ogundipe had barely settled into office as Vice Chancellor when we began to notice a lack of transparency under his management both at the University’s Finance and General Purpose Committee (F&GPC) and Council meetings. “Prof. Ogundipe failed to share with Council and F&GPC management’s procurement and Tender Board activities. Ultimately things came to a head in 2018 when Council was forced to set up a Sub-Committee under one of its members, Dr. Saminu Dagari, an appointee of the Federal Government to review the University’s Expenditure.
“This Sub-Committee worked for a period of 6 (six) months. At the end of its investigation, the Committee made very serious findings that indicted Prof. Toyin Ogundipe and some of his management team. Amongst others, the Committee found as follows:
“a. Without Council approval and far in excess of his approval limits of N2 million, Prof. Ogundipe as Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos paid out a total sum of N112,462,990.63 to renovate the official living quarters of three principal staff. Prof. Ogundipe approved the sum of N49,434,038.45 to renovate the Vice Chancellor’s lodge where he resided; the sum of N41,817,658.32 was paid out for renovation works of the Bursar’s official residence, while the sum of N16,123,509.00 was spent on renovating the official residence of the immediate past Registrar of the University. “Also, the sum of N3,733,494.85 was spent renovating the official residence of the Chancellor, while the sum of N1,354,290.00 was spent renovating the Pro Chancellor’s official residence.
“It bears repeating sir, that none of this spending was brought to the knowledge of, or approved by Council in accordance with due process, the University Act and extant guidelines on Financial Regulations.
“b. Prof. Toyin Ogundipe’s management spent a total sum of N57,272,050.44 on waste management and janitorial services in breach of procurement laws and practices. These payments were not evidenced by any contract and did not receive Council approval at all.
“c. Prof. Toyin Ogundipe’s management spent the sum of N52,080,000.00 on the purchase of two vehicles well above the University Tender Board’s threshold limit. This was achieved by a contract splitting device that is very illegal.
“d. Prof. Toyin Ogundipe’s management spent a total sum of N57,921,581.00 on the foreign trips of himself and some of his management team. The Dagari committee found that the Vice Chancellor was able to approve these payments based on an illegal contract splitting device. The committee also found that local allowances were paid for these foreign trips in breach of the Financial Regulations of 1999.
“e. Between May 2017 and September 2018 Prof. Toyin Ogundipe’s management paid out a total sum of N41,580,300.00 to the Dean of Student Affairs through a monthly payment of N2,445,900.00. Even though Prof. Ogundipe justified this payment as a security grant, this was never to the University Council’s knowledge or approval and the Dean received these monies at a time when students were not on campus or when lecturers were on strike. Furthermore, the former Dean of Students Affairs who served in this position before Prof. Ogundipe became Vice Chancellor has denied that this is conventional practice.
“f. Council approved a budget in the sum of N85,000,000.00 for the University’s 2018 convocation ceremonies based on management’s budget, proposed by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Toyin Ogundipe. Dr Dagari’s committee found out that Prof. Ogundipe’s management significantly exceeded this approved budget by the sum of N9,739,977.89. In other words, without any Council approval or knowledge Prof. Ogundipe spent the sum of N94,739,977.89 on the 2018 convocation as against the sum of N85,000,0000.00 that Council approved.
“Prof. Toyin Ogundipe was given an opportunity to address these allegations. He has not denied any of these payments or spendings. Rather, he has sought to justify them on the basis that he was in a position to approve these payments.”
The documents also showed that the embattled former vice chancellor admitted that a firm of external auditors that looked into the books of the institution did not detect any fraud.
He stated this in his written defence at a special meeting of the council, which considered the report of a committee that found him guilty of many financial infractions and other wrongdoings.
In a six-page response titled: “That University of Lagos May Know Peace: Submission of Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, to the Governing Council at its special meeting on May 13, 2019, he said: “The pro-chancellor had authorised an external audit firm of his choosing to look into the books of the university for which he paid from his personal account. The report of his external auditors had noted there were some weaknesses in some internal control but did not detect fraud. They also made their recommendations as appropriate in a report.”
Ogundipe said among others that the composition of the sub-committee on finance was defective ab initio.
“Despite the strong reservation of some members of the council, because the council is blessed with the presence of an award-winning Professor of Public Sector Accounting and Budgeting in the person of Prof. Eddy Omolehinwa, pro-chancellor decided to appoint a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry with no accounting background or experience, Dr. Saminu Dagara,” he said, adding: “Sub-committees by convention are usually given a time frame within which to report on their findings; none was given this committee. It is, therefore, no wonder that the committee spent over six months on the assignment, sat for over 40 times and in the process incurred a bill of over seven million naira by way of sitting allowance, hotel expenditure as well as feeding at meetings, 80 per cent of which went to Dr. Saminu Dagari. It is also important to point out here that the external audit firms appointed by the council for the regular one-year audit of the university’s finances only cost N5.2 million only.”
However, a member of University of Lagos’ sub-committee that interviewed applicants for the post of Director of Works and Physical Planning, Prof. M. O. Dada, has faulted the claim by the Pro-Chancellor of UNILAG, Dr. Wale Babalakin, that Ogundipe altered the marks scored by the shortlisted candidates.
Dada, in a statement, said he was the one who added two marks to his own assessment and that he did not only sign the alteration, he explained to the committee while he had to change his mind.
Babalakin, while speaking on ARISE Television News, had alleged that it was the vice chancellor who altered the marks and consequently accused him of forgery.
But, in dismissing Babalakin’s claim, Dada, who is of the Department of Building, said he was of the opinion that someone coming from a polytechnic did not have the requisite experience in terms of exposure when compared with someone coming from the university.
In his statement which he said he issued to state the true position of what transpired, he wrote: “I did what was best for the system. As a matter of fact, I signed my change.
“I hereby declare categorically that the vice chancellor (who also chaired the interview panel) never told me to go and amend my mark and I have never said he told me to do so. I took the initiative on my own.”