Months after denouncing the leaked report of a panel on the UNILAG crisis as a fake, FG has yet to produce or act on the original

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Three months after denouncing the leak of the report of the presidential visit panel on 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 said the visiting panel’s findings accused the university’s vice-chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, of wrongdoing.

The leaked content was released a year after the panel submitted the report, with the government failing to release a white paper or take any action on the report. The government has also failed to substantially address the issues raised during the crisis at the university following the reinstatement of the vice-chancellor and the resignation of board chairman Wale Babalakin.

The Special Presidential Visiting Panel was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari after UNILAG fell into a crisis which led to the controversial dismissal of Mr. Ogundipe by the university’s governing board.

the report has been submitted to Education Minister Adamu Adamu by Visiting Panel Chairman Tukur Sa’ad on September 17, 2020 in Abuja.

The panel had had two weeks to complete its mission when it was inaugurated on August 26 of the same year, indicating that the government wanted to deal with the issue with unusual speed.

After it was handed to him by the panel in Abuja, Adamu said the visitor to the university, President Buhari, would make a decision on the report in order to restore peace to the university.

“The visitor to the university, having duly considered the report, will make a decision on the matter as appropriate in order to restore peace and an atmosphere conducive to learning at the University of Lagos and in the university system in its together, ”he said.

Adamu said justice would be served to all parties to the crisis, in line with the report’s recommendations.

A full year after the report was submitted, some newspapers in September published some of the panel’s findings and recommendations as obtained from a leak 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 ahead to accuse the media of counterfeiting.

“And even from the content of what is published in the media, which is 100 percent, no page is the same, is a complete forgery. It has nothing to do with this report, ”Mr. Echeono said at the press conference in Abuja.

“I’m surprised even the editors didn’t try to contact the panel chair or the ministry to say we have this information, can you deny it, accept it or corroborate it?” I would have asked for approval to table this report even to the public, even before we set up the White Paper Committee so Nigerians would see and avoid any claims that the government altered or changed the report.

Further, the ministry, in a memo titled “Re-presidential visit blames Unilag VC, Mgt,” signed by its director of information and public affairs, Ben Goong, called the leaked report’s allegations “false, unfounded and to say the least, malicious, because they have nothing to do with the report submitted by the panel. “

Following Mr. Echeono’s comment, PREMIUM TIMES sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the Ministry on October 11 for a copy of the report to verify the Ministry’s infringement allegation. Education and to clarify the findings and recommendations of the visiting committee.

This happened in the context of the leaked report indicating that the panel also indicted Mr Ogundipe who nevertheless continued to serve as vice-chancellor while Mr Babalakin, who resigned his own post as chairman of the board. administration, has not been replaced.

The Freedom of Information Act states that requests made under the law must be answered within seven working days, unless an extension is requested by the organization from which the information is requested.

But the education ministry has neither responded to the request nor requested an extension.

PREMIUM TIMES sent a reminder to the ministry on November 9. But he did not respond to the recall either, until November 18.

In a letter of November 18 to PREMIUM TIMES, signed by its deputy director of legal services, Ozoemena Ikechi, the ministry declared: “I am responsible for informing you that your request to the ministry is being examined and that the ministry will communicate to your business in due time. “

This newspaper sent a reporter to follow up with the ministry to give a specific date on which it intended to provide it with a copy of the “original” report, as stated in FoI’s request.

During one of her visits, the journalist approached the permanent secretary, Mr. Echeono, during a photoshoot in front of her office, but referred her to the official who wrote the letter.

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However, when the reporter spoke with Mr. Ikechi (who wrote the letter), he said he could not give an exact date when the report would be made available to PREMIUM TIMES.

Pass

There had been a prolonged confrontation between the leadership of UNILAG and the university’s board of trustees, which peaked in March 2020 when the University’s Convocation 2020 was canceled just before its start.

The board then set up a special group in August 2020 to investigate allegations of corruption against the university’s management. After the panel indicted management, the board announced the dismissal of Mr. Ogundipe as vice-chancellor and his and his replacement by Theophilus Soyombo.

But Mr Ogundipe rejected his dismissal and was backed by the university staff unions who stressed that only the visitor can dismiss a university rector.

The House of Representatives then plunged into the crisis by setting up a committee to investigate the crisis at the university. The committee’s report, however, absolved university management of the allegations.

Mr. Ogundipe was later reinstated as Vice-Chancellor by President Buhari, Mr. Babalakin having tendered his own resignation in protest.

But in November 2020, two months after the presidential visiting panel submitted its report, the panel’s chairman, Mr. Sa’ad, faulty the government’s decision to reinstate the ailing vice-chancellor.

Mr Saad had condemned the report of the panel he chaired, saying it was biased because the majority of members were biased towards Mr Ogundipe. He said the committee’s terms of reference (TOR) were also flawed against the chairman of the board, Mr Babalakin.

Expressing reservations about the decision to reinstate Mr. Ogundipe, the panel chairman said: “The recommendation to reinstate the VC was limited to the procedure for his dismissal. This did not mean that he had to be absolved from any wrongdoing.

He said the panel report was biased because the majority of members were biased towards Mr Ogundipe and the terms of reference (TOR) were also biased against the former chairman of the board, Wale Babalakin, who had since resigned from the position.

Mr Saad said that although Mr Ogundipe, a professor, was wrongly removed from his post as vice-chancellor, the panel did not give him good health as he was charged with certain wrongdoing, including breach of contract.

The panel chairman also said he had signed the report reluctantly, on the understanding that it would first come under the eyes of the university’s chancellor, the Shehu of Borno, before it was submitted to the federal government.

He said that due to a number of anomalies in the administrative processes and the sensitivity of the case, “the panel’s final recommendation was that the case should be referred to the Chancellor, regardless of what the panel recommended “.

A visit panel accuses Ogundipe

The visiting panel, according to its leaked report, charged Mr. Ogundipe with financial impropriety.

For example, the document viewed by PREMIUM TIMES notes that “the university also uses spending approval limits for key officials, the board and the tender committee. There are instances where key executives exceed approval limits by approving related and similar expenses that would normally be one piece of procurement. This could be interpreted as a division of contracts or services so that they are within an agent’s limit and avoid the rules governing large tenders, violation of public procurement laws and tax liabilities. “

Leaked actual visit panel report – Member

Despite the vehement 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 entirely consistent with that of the report submitted by the panel to the federal government.

The source, who declined to be named because he did not consider it appropriate to speak out on the matter before the government released its white paper on the report, said it was embarrassing the government denied the authenticity of the leaked report.

When asked if the government has indicated its dissatisfaction with the panel’s findings and recommendations, the source said there has been no feedback to members since the panel submitted The report.

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