The chairperson of the federal government’s special Visitation Panel to probe the leadership crisis at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has faulted the government’s decision to reinstate the embattled vice-chancellor of the university, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.
The Ministry of Education on Wednesday announced the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to reinstate Mr Ogundipe who was controversially sacked by the governing council of the university.
Tukur Saad, a professor of architecture at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who was appointed to head the panel in August, in different correspondences to the Chief of Staff to the president, Ibrahim Gambari, and the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, cast doubts on the integrity of the report.
Expressing reservation about the decision to reinstate Mr Ogundipe, the panel’s chairperson, said “The recommendation that the VC should be reinstated was limited to the procedure of his termination. It did not mean he should be absolved of all wrong doing.”
He said the report of the panel was one-sided because majority of the members were biased towards Mr Ogundipe and the Terms of Reference (ToR) were also skewed against the estranged chairperson of the governing council, Wale Babalakin, who had since resigned from the position.
Mr Saad said although Mr Ogundipe, a professor, was wrongly removed, he was not given a clean bill of health as he was indicted in some wrongdoings, including contract splitting.
The panel chairperson also accused Mr Babalakin of “committing hara-kiri” by removing the VC and appointing another one, and by his decision to step down from his position when the crisis got messy.
Mr Saad said he was cajoled into signing the report with the understanding that the content would be subjected to review by the Chancellor of the University, the Shehu of Borno.
The panel chairperson said he agreed to sign the report to abort another stalemate and in order to save the government from embarrassment but regretted that he had now been “stabbed on the back” by people he trusted.
“As Chairman, I didn’t want to sign the Final Report but I felt that would be a slap on the face of the government and it would generate so much bad publicity in the public domain, that I would rather sign on the understanding that the matter would be referred to the Shehu of Borno as the Chancellor,” he wrote to Mr Gambari.
‘Stabbed in the back’
The professor of architecture said he felt betrayed by the conclusion reached by government after he was made to believe in a different course of action.
He said because of a number of anomalies in the administrative processes and sensitivity of the matter, “Final recommendation of the panel was that the matter should be referred back to the Chancellor, irrespective of what the panel recommended.”
“As it stands now I feel I was made a fool of and stabbed on the back by people I trusted.”
Drawing attention to some of the recommendations contained in the report submitted by the committee, Mr Saad said it will be impossible for any Council to manage a university in this country, if the recommendations of the panel are implemented in a White Paper.
He complained that “A White Paper based on the report submitted by the panel and neglecting the final recommendation of referring will raise many questions.”
Mr Saad had in a letter to Mr Adamu, dated October 7, 2020 and titled ‘Re: Submission of Report of The Visitation Panel on University of Lagos Crisis to Honourable Minister’, drawn attention to a number of instances where he said the report was skewed to favour Mr Ogundipe.
“When you read the Report you will notice that it was very one-sided, so to speak, the option was for the Chairman to refuse to sign the report and that would have been a slap on the Government’s face. In any case, the issue is not that the report was false but it contained half truth in order to protect one party and magnified the facts from the other party by pushing the blame to one side, omitting what could have balanced the report.”
Pointing out the finding and recommendation on allegations of contract splitting against Mr Ogundipe, Mr Saad informed Mr Adamu that what was in the report did not represent the findings and position of the panel on the matter.
“Take the issue of splitting contracts so that the figures would be within his approval limits; in the renovation of his house and that of some Principal officers the evidence was clear, one Contractor would be given four contracts on the same project on the same day each packaged to be within VCs approval limit.
“A number of such cases were evident, but the only way the Chairman could get that in the report was to compromise by rendering such as “Contracts were packaged in a way that bordered on contract splitting, in order to keep them within approval limits.
“The recommendation was that the VC should be cautioned against contract splitting. To me this was enough for Government to reject this recommendation and subject the culprit to the consequences.”