Corruption:Festus Keyamo Dares Fashola!

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Counsel to the striking Unions in Lagos State University (LASU), Mr. Festus Keyamo has asked Lagos state government to withdraw with immediate effect the ultimatum given to the workers' unions (Dec. 4) in the institution. Keyamo in a letter to Governor Fashola wondered why the Executive arm of Government would demand the aggrieved workers to go back to work without addressing the allegation of corruption levelled against the Vice Chancellor, Professor Lateef Akanni Hussain.

The striking labour unions at the Lagos State University (LASU) had earlier asked Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State to suspend the Vice Chancellor of the institution. The union also subscribed to position of their lawyer by declining on the call by the State authority to resume to their various duty posts on Friday, 04 December 2009. Leader of the group and Chairman of LASU branch of ASUU, Dr. Kabir Olusegun Akinyemi accused the government of trying to protect the Vice Chancellor by allowing him to remain in office. The Unions involved in the strike includes Association of Staff Union of Universities, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Non Academic Staff Union, National Association of Academic Technologists. gathered that Lagos State Government had already set up a visitation panel to look into the crisis rocking Lagos State University (LASU) just as the report of the 6-man committee of the State House of Assembly on the lingering crisis indicted the vice chancellor among other things, for contract splitting, violation of the N2 million approval limit, irregular appointment, discrepancy between the approved, budget and the figure being quoted by the university. Members of the panel are Justice O.O. Silva (rtd) chairman, Professor Itse Sagay, Alhaja Lateefa Okunnu, Mrs S. Muri-Okunola and Mrs. Kaoli Olusanya.

Further checks by revealed that the panel has a period of four weeks from the date of inauguration to complete its assignment and forward its report to the Visitor. Reacting to the setting up of the panel, Dr. Kabir Olusegun Akinyemi, Chairman ASUU/LASU further maintained. His words:

“I will not say anything likely to pre-empt what they want to do. I hope they will do justice and be fair to all and sundry. I cannot comment on the individual members of the visitation panel. But they are people that have conscience and will come out with the truth. I expect Professor Sagay, a scholar and expert in constitutional law and the other highly respected members will come out on how LASU will be run and meet up with current trends in the academic world.”

Meanwhile, Akinyemi and other executive members of ASUU/LASU frowned at government's decision not to order the Vice Chancellor, Professor Lateef Akanni Hussain step aside until the panel completes its assignment. It would be recalled that Lagos State Information & Strategy Commissioner Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele had earlier in the week insisted that the Vice Chancellor will remain in office until all the matters are resolved, saying that asking him to step aside will amount to “crucifying him.” He explained that the issues involved in the LASU crisis go beyond removing the VC from office, because the removal of Prof Hussain or any other officer will not immediately solve the problems in the university. According to him, the VC is neither a casual worker nor a contract staff which can just be removed.

Consequently, some measure of progress has ensued into the lingering crises in the institution, just as the report of the 6-man committee set up by the Lagos State House of Assembly on the protracted crisis in LASU has been released. Members of the committee were Hon. Kolawole Taiwo (Chairman), who is the majority leader of the House, Dr. A.M. Balogun, Mrs L.F Akande, Alawiye-King W, Sadiq A.Y. Mr. E.O. Olaosebikan (Secretary) and Mrs Alaja – Browne O.O. (Secretary). Terms of reference of the committee are; (i) To determine the immediate and remote causes of the crisis in LASU; (ii) To investigate the allegations leveled against the University's incumbent Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lateef Akanni Hussain by ASUU, and other groups such as SSANU, NAAT, NASU and SUG; and (iii) To make recommendations that would resolve the challenges confronting the university.

Facts available to show that the inaugural meeting took place on Tuesday, 12th October, 2009. For purpose of cross-examination and seeking clarification raised during the public hearing, the committee met on several days thereafter. Some of the findings were: Splitting of Contracts: The committee was shocked when it learned from the vice chancellor that there were cases when he was involved in splitting contracts because of the urgency involved. Recommendation: The committee views the issue of splitting contract with disdain. As a matter of fact, contract splitting is done to circumvent financial guidelines or beat protocol. Therefore, the committee recommends that the vice chancellor should henceforth desist from this anomaly and comply strictly with the University's laid down rules on contract award and execution. Violation of N2m Approval Limit. The committee discovered that the vice chancellor on a number of occasions violated the N2m approval limit set for him by the governing council. The committee considered this anomaly seriously and guessed that the vice chancellor might have been taking some actions unilaterally without consulting with or receiving approval from the Governing council of the university.

The committee recommends that the Vice Chancellor should henceforth desist from taking actions unilaterally on financial matters or any other administrative decisions that require authorisation from the Governing Council or inputs of the Department /Faculty Heads. Prof. A.G.A. Bello. The Committee requested Prof. A.G.A. Bello to make clarification on his appointment as a Professor and Head of Department of Philosophy and he availed the committee of the following: 1. That he was on deferred leave from University of Ibadan (UI) in November 2005 as a senior lecturer.2.that, he became Professor in LASU in 2007 when he was on sabbatical appointment;

3. That, he is now Head of Philosophy Department on leave of absence from UI;4. That, his leave of absence expired in October, 2009 and that he had asked UI to transfer his service to LASU.

The committee considered the case of Prof. A.G.A. Bello and recommended that the Professor should expedite the process of transferring his service to LASU, to justify his headship at philosophy department of the university.However, the professor is not qualified for the position of the full professor because at the time he became a professor in LASU in 2007, he was on sabbatical from UI, and could not have been qualified for appointment for a professorial chair except if he had resigned his appointment with UI at the time; and that he is still a senior lecturer with UI and could only be referred to as a “Visiting Professor” in LASU.Mrs Olapeju Aina Awoliyi, Bursar, LASU

The committee, while examining the LASU Bursar, made the following observations:

(a) that, there was a discrepancy, between the approved budget on Retained Revenue for LASU by the House of Assembly and the figure being quoted by the university.For clarity, whereas the sum of N5.7 Billion was approved as Retained Revenue, only the sum of N3.5 billion was being quoted as correct figure for year 2009.(b) that LASU receives N2.9 billion yearly as subvention and N240 million monthly.

( c) that LASU allegedly has up to 3000 staff strength.

Given the above findings, the committee requested the Bursar to furnish it the following documents -

1) Statement of Income and Expenditure of the University in the last five (5) years.

(2) Bank statement showing all revenues for the same period;

(3) Salary schedules of staff;
(4) Names of Banks being patronised by the university;

(5) The Governing council's extracts on expenditure costing N2 million above.

However, a number of serous minded parents have resolved not to have anything doing with LASU let alone having their children as students in the citadel of learning. This decision would not be unconnected to the incessant crises by various warring cult groups in the school, examination malpractices, extortion of money from students to upgrade them and influence their marks, forgery, and harassment of female students by their male lecturers among other things. Governor Fashola gathered has been under serious pressure by some political power brokers in the state, and the Governor was left with no choice than to throw his weight behind the drawning VC, Prof. Lateef Akanni Hussain. But whether the striking unions will concur to the dictates of the Governor or upturn the executive directives, only time will tell.

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