Presidential visitation panel nails UNILAG VC for fraud, clears Babalakin

Following a fierce disagreement between the then Governing Council of the University of Lagos (UNILAG),  the visitation panel set up by President Muhammed Buhari, the institution and the management finally submitted its report on September 7 to the Federal Government, with an indictment of the Vice-Chancellor (VC), Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.

Although yet to be officially released, the report examined the affairs of the university and issues that led to the crisis and concluded that all the allegations made by the then Dr. Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council against Ogundipe were substantiated by the panel, contrary to the position held by the Special Panel set up at that time, after the removal of the VC.

Constituted on March 29, this year, the seven-member Presidential Visitation Panel was asked to look into the affairs of the institution between 2016 and 2020, which incidentally fell within the period that the Babalakin-led Governing Council removed Ogundipe as VC, over alleged financial malpractices.

The VC was alleged to have misappropriated the university’s funds.
But few months after the removal of the VC, Buhari approved the report of a Special Panel to the university, which had then recommended, among other things, the reinstatement of Ogundipe and also dissolved the Governing Council headed by Babalakin, who had earlier resigned his chairmanship. 

Following the Special Panel’s report, Ogundipe was reinstated to his position, which he currently occupies. However, the visitation panel, in its final report, revealed that Ogundipe could not provide any defence for his actions. It alleged that the UNILAG VC was involved in splitting of contracts.

The report highlighted many contracts that were illegally awarded by the Ogundipe-led management. It alleged that, in violation of the Procurement Act, the management of UNILAG under Ogundipe regularly diverted, by way of virement, the sum of N1.8 billion from the university’s recurrent expenditure to fund award of clearly illegal contracts.

The visitation panel came to the conclusion that the Bursary of the University was characterised by concealment, fraud, misappropriation, misrepresentation and incompetence.

Furthermore, the report revealed that the management under Ogundipe concealed the accounts of the university for over three years from the Governing Council, which under Section 7 of the University of Lagos Act, was statutorily conferred with the power of superintendence of the accounts of the university.

The Babalakin-led council had appointed a seasoned accountant, Olutola Senbore and Co., to examine the books of the university. It was gathered that although the Governing Council adopted the Senbore report, but the university’s management refrained from utilising it.

In this regard, the visitation panel advised that an international accounting firm should be appointed to straighten out the books of the university.

The panel exonerated the Babalakin-led Governing Council of any wrong-doing in the removal of Ogundipe, and stated that the Council of the University properly indicted the VC and the principles of fair hearing were adhered to during his indictment.

The visitation panel also found that the removal of Ogundipe by the then Council was consistent with the University Act.

It further stated that it did not know the rationale for the conclusion of the Federal Ministry of Education that the appointment of an acting Vice-Chancellor by the Babalakin-led Council was wrong.

The panel said it was at a loss as to how anyone could have come to the conclusion that Ogundipe was not given a fair hearing, or that the Babalakin-led Council breached any provisions of the law.

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