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AAU Governing Council Accuses Edo State Government Of Corruption - Education - Nairaland

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AAU Governing Council Accuses Edo State Government Of Corruption by ThompsonJoo: 6:42am On Jun 01, 2021
MY STEWARDSHIP AT AAU, EKPOMA" BY CHIEF (SIR) LAWSON .A. OMOKHODION, PRO-CHANCELLOR, AND CHAIRMAN OF THE DISsOLVED AAU GOVERNING COUNCIL

Following the May 11, 2021 dissolution of the AAU Governing Council by the State Government it is necessary to set the records straight for all stakeholders to know how our Council protected the sacred trust it was given.

A. GENERAL UNIVERSITY MATTERS

1. The Governing Council over which I was Chairman was inaugurated on October 30, 2018.

2. Our Council was guided by Article 7 (section 1) of the University Law that "Council shall be the governing body of the University and shall be charged with the general responsibility for the policy, finance, personnel, and property as well as the public relations of the University.


The University establishment Law 1999 as amended was the legal framework for the activities of our Governing Council. All our actions are derived from the Law.

Council identified three priorities viz: promotion of academic excellence; establishment of due process/keeping impunity in abeyance and infrastructural development.

4. Council established a planning framework and commissioned a Due Diligence exercise to cover the period October 2016 to October 2018. Report of the exercise was presented to Council and the Visitor in May 2019. The report unearthed a myriad of anomalies in the University.

S.Arising from the findings of the Due Diligence exercise, Council embarked on a comprehensive Intervention in various aspects of the University. Specifically, Council reformatted the misleading AAU financial statements for 2016 and 2017; Council reconciled the N1.64 billion overstated admin expenses and N2.227 billion understated in salaries and allowances in the accounts Council established a fixed asset capitalization policy that was non-existent; Council worked down the fake E-Transact debit of N199.7 million in the 2017 account; Council reintegrated the Over N1.3 billion pension liabilities previously omitted from the audited accounts; Council approved an annual budgeting process for the University unlike the past practice where the Education Ministry determined AAU's budget; Council sought to validate the N224.8 million students' debtors in the 2017 accounts and Council approved the full automation of the semi-manual AAU accounting system. Council agreed to redress the poor staffing quality in Bursary.

6. Only a few of the initiatives outlined above remain outstanding.

7. However, a Council audit/investment committee was set up to review the performance of faculties, directorates and departments every quarter for early signals of distress.

8. in the first budget after the Due Diligence exercise Council realized a revenue surplus of N800 million in the 2020 budget of the University. Subsequent developments crippled the efforts.

A.1 GOVERNOR'S MANDATE TO PROBE ALLEGATIONS OF CORRUPT PRACTICES AGAINST THE VC

9. In February 2019, the State Governor forwarded a 14-point petition to the Council for investigations into "the corrupt practices of the Vice-Chancellor of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma: Prof. Ignatius Onimawo".

A 5-member Council committee investigated the allegations and reports were subsequently discussed by Council and sent to the Governor.

10. Council discovered that N350million of AAU funds was transferred from its various bank accounts/revenue units between October 2016 and December 2018 into the private bank accounts of two personal assistants to the VC namely Christopher Omo-Iribhogbe and Eugene Eraikhuemen; a practice which violated the University's financial regulations. This practice may have continued till May 11, 2021. The Zenith bank account numbers of the two PAs are known.

The full investigation report is available at AAU.

11. Large sums transferred into the private accounts of the VC's assistants were subsequently paid to the VC, his wife, and his children. No wonder our Council found the VC 8uilty after the investigations.

A.11 OTHER INITIAL INTERVENTIONS

12. To avoid a situation where all heads of departments and deans of faculties were signatories to different bank accounts, Council centralized all departmental and faculty dues collections under the approved University signatories. The funds were to be assessed based on the need of the respective units under the VC's overall supervision.

13. To avoid leakages of funds, all cash transactions in the University were forbidden from June 1, 2019, and POS units were deployed to various revenue centers for ease of the process.

14. To control the significant increases in wage bills of prior years the ban on staff recruitment was re-emphasized but we found the VC uncooperative.

15. Council established two scholarship schemes in the University for 1) the best and brightest students and 2) for the brilliant but indigent students. It was to commence in 2020.

15. The Staff Audit exercise authorized by Council found cases of unknown staff and falsification of records in the files of both academic and non-teaching staff. Efforts to discipline the culprits were crippled by certain government officials.

17. The fixed assets classification exercise commissioned by Council was completed and the resulting value of N14.3 billion was entered into the asset register of the University. Assigning asset numbers in the register was the next stage.

18. In respect of the heavy burden of pension liabilities, Council began a discussion of a new pension scheme for staff of age 50 and below.

A committee to identify pension experts and find administrators were set up and discussions were still ongoing as of February 2020.
19. Three of the University-owned companies viz: AAU Consult Limited, AAU Bakery, and AAU Water plant were all loss-making. Council approved that both the Water plant and bakery be leased to private operators to stem the outflow of funds. Their fortunes were reversed and the University now earns a regular N800,000. monthly from the concessionaires.

20. Council discovered that AAU Consult Limited had outstanding receivables of N120 million and owed the University N70 million in advances but no University staff knew from where the receivables could be collected. Council suspected foul play.

21. Council discovered that a credit balance of N75 million in the liquidated Allstates Trust Bank in favor of AAU and held in the NDIC records had been collected by certain individuals in the University. Council-appointed auditors were forced to abandon their search for the truth.

22. New boards of directors were formed to provide a focused policy direction for all AAU-owned companies and the major beneficiaries were AAU Farms Limited and AAU Schools which showed signs of healthy growth. Council also planned to set up AAU Bookshop Limited.

B. STRIVING FOR ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE

Council decided that all AAU academic staff striving for the professorship cadre should have their published papers passed through the anti-plagiarism software. This is important for the credibility of the academic staff. Many lecturers revolted against the move. But Council insisted.

The practice whereby lecturers would commute every day from Benin to Ekpoma was declared unacceptable by Council and the existing policy that all staff should reside within a 20-kilometer so the University was to be rigorously enforced. The residency limit was extended to 30- meter radius of the University. Some lecturers had the habit of coming to AAU once a week

AAU Lecturers were to be rostered for in-service training and short-term courses tor intellect ures to expand their world view. VC was to deploy TETFUND facilities for this exposure.

A SCheme to ensure that AAU lecturers' attended their assigned lectures and for students to perform an annual grading of lecturers' effectiveness was being developed.
.students were required to resume lectures within a maximum period of two weeks from the official date of resumption otherwise they would be declared ineligible for the session.

My friends at Aret Adams Foundation approved an N100 million endowment for a professional chair in Business Studies at AAU. This achievement was the first of its kind in the University.

Similarly, an N3O million grant was secured from Gen (rtd). Tony Ukpo tor research in any field of agriculture at AAU over 10 years at N3 million per year. Tony Ukpo was a recipient of the AAU DBA honorary degree at the 2019 convocation ceremony.

8. Compulsory CBT courses for all classes were approved to ensure that in all class years certain common courses for uniform academic standards of graduating students were taken.

9. A Code of Conduct for all academic staff was also being developed to ensure internal self-policing of staff so that abuses of the past were not repeated.

10. Council established zero tolerance for staff falsification of students' results, the practice of sex for grades, and money for results and made it punishable by summary dismissal.

11. All 3 class first degree holders were to be removed from all academic responsibilities.

12. Practice of the past where students could graduate with three carry-overs was replaced by Council directive that students ill have to pass all mandatory courses before graduation.

13. The past culture of waste where the VC and principal staff were never on campus because of frequent travels overseas was reviewed and the VC was approved to travel at University cost twice a year to Europe/America. But if funded by donors VC could travel.

14. Using the resources provided by TETFUND, Council approved the construction of a University International Policy Centre where critical intellectual topics would be discussed by invited eminent speakers and the Students Recreation Centre where the AAU students and teachers would have the opportunity to interact in a conducive on-campus environment between classes.

15. However, staff being promoted to the professorial cadre were required to surmount all disciplinary cases against them before Council could affirm their accession as Professors.

16. All outstanding staff promotions and employment regularisations in the periods 2017 and 2018 were concluded by Council. Only the 2019 promotions due in 2020 were affected by covid-19.

17. Following reports of indecent and sordid activities being encouraged in the Industrial and Production Engineering and Political Science departments, in February 2020 Council approved two separate committees to review the departmental academic and non-academic activities and submit a report for action. The case reported by Engr. (Mrs) live Okoro remains bewildering.

18. The past practice where AAU academic staff were acting as both contractors and staff in the University was outlawed. All University contracts were to be given to registered 3" parties, not Staff. touring advances given to staff were to be properly accounted for and on time.

INSISTENCE ON DUE PROCESS
Our Council ensured that all high-value projects went through the Tenders Board. The
Chairman AAU Tenders Board was the Vice-Chancellor. As Chairman of the Tenders' board,
the VC has the intimate details of all TETFUND contracts. It is important that the AAU TETFUND account held in UBA Abuja with account num -1022245884 be investigated for
details of AAU project contractors; their owners and funds paid out. The government needs to pierce the corporate veil to know the role played by VC and his cronies in contract execution industrial harmony was encouraged and promoted through Council fair and even-handed decisions and the involvement of staff unions in conflict resolution.

3 All cases brought to the attention of the Council were investigated by Council committees and
sanctions and rewards were apportioned without fear or favor.

4. The staff disciplinary committees were mandated to expeditiously handle cases brought to their attention to avoid delayed consideration of disciplinary infractions.

5. A review of staff files found several cases of age falsification and staff who shamefully altered their dates of birth as many as 3, 4, 5, and 6 times. The falsification of staff records is a punishable offense and these staff were sent to the staff disciplinary committee.

6. Many staff who graduated from their Universities since June 1973 were also found not to have the NYSC discharge or exemption certificates in their files and this constitutes illegality in Nigeria. This staff was also sent to the disciplinary committee.

7. The University management was mandated to refrain from highhandedness in the handling of staff and must follow due process to avoid expensive litigations being suffered by AAU.

8. Council established a systematic process for setting up new departments and faculties based on both financial and environmental justifications unlike in past years. The dept. of Mass communication is undergoing the approval process and campus radio/TV is underway.

9. A comprehensive review of all University courses was carried out to make them marketable and relevant in the marketplace.

10. council founded that the Entrepreneurship Development Centre was operating outside of
University requirements and yet was shielded by the VC. The Centre was being critically reviewed by Council before the Covid-19 crisis final audit of this unit is outstanding.

11. Council found the financial management practices of the former VC and Bursar very strange and opaque one Bursar was questioned for paying AAU monies into the private accounts of VC personal assistants and he claimed the VC approved the practice. In this way, the funds of the University were recklessly abused. The statements of the Zenith Bank Savings accounts of Christopher Omo-Iribhogbe and Eugene Eraikhuemen covering the period June 1, 2016, to May 10, 20,21 should be tendered to see the actual amounts of AAU funds transferred into their accounts. The amount could be more than NI billion. From January 2020 to date Council lost track of these accounts due to the Covid-19 pandemic/ASUU strike.

12. Council was concerned about the handling of students' grades by the ICT directorate. Council approved the recommendations of the ICT service provider that the exam results of
students should be uploaded directly into the University portal by the respective lecturers the departmental and faculty boards had approved the results. This was to avoid the corrupt practice where all students' marks were first sent to the lCT director, who reviewed the results before posting them on the University portal, The ICT director in a scheme to enrich himself and his co-lecturers while corrupting the quality of the Grades and killing academic standards.

13. Council also had a running battle with the management over the actual number of university students. he figures from the Registrar's office never tallied with the figures from the ICT.
Students' numbers always varied between 34,000 and 37,000 students. The explanation was that many who called themselves students did not register for courses or paid tuition fees Council then resolved that students' class registration and payment of tuition fees must De Did and a print-out must be generated to so confirming a successful operation. It is necessary to monitor this system. The past VC was indifferent.

Similarly, the quantum of tuition fees paid should tally with the student's number
students' number is understated the quantum of fees would be understated. AAU revenue comes from government subvention, tuition fees, hostel fees, acceptance fees, post JAMB
fees, fees from primary and secondary schools, earnings from AAU Owned companies, and endowments. With an accurate students' number AAU annual self-generated revenue is about NGbillionn, enough to operate with minimal subvention as found out by our Council.

15. In the years of 2018/2019, 2020/2019 and 2020/2021 the acceptance fees paid by new
should alone was not less than N1.95 billion. Some Govt. officials and the VC frustrated the Council's choice of independent external auditors. They feared that their hidden transactions would be exposed by the skilled audit team of Messrs. Patrick Oshiobugie and Co.

16. The financial resources inherent in AAU are immense and an estimated annual internally generated revenue of over N5.5 billion exclusive of government subvention is huge. Council was determined to monitor these funds but VC used his contacts in government to frustrate efforts.

17. Cases of reckless employment by management were discouraged but the VC was impervious. In February 2020, Council was forced to cancel the VC's advertisement of vacancies for over 1,200 positions. A systematic approach of need identification, skillsets requirements, and then advertisement was approved. Covid-19 did not allow a follow-up.

18. Council discovered anomalies in the number of AAU staff. Over 200 staff names not on the University payroll received emoluments as approved by the VC but Council was not allowed to conclude its investigations.

19. Council transparently auctioned disused vehicles and scrap metals that littered the campus at Ekpoma and all of the accrued funds were approved to rebuild the abandoned 18 LGA bungalows in the University. As of February 202,0, two of the bungalows had been rehabilitated but the council's follow-up was truncated.

20. Council Chairman and members received sitting allowances for attending meetings.
Transport expenses were settled and lunch was served at meetings. Current Council entitlements were fixed in 2016 by the Council chaired by Prof. G. I. Akenzua. The Chairman
is entitled to a car, security back-up van, 30-day annual leave, business class ticket, estacode at the rate enjoyed by federal permanent secretaries, medical coverage, and a one-off furniture allowance. On June 30, 202,1 AAU bought a Land Cruiser for the Chairman; current version of the model allocated to Prof Akenzua in 2013. All preceding Pro-Chancellors had Jeeps glven them from Governor's office. But AAU bought our Chairman's car under lease.
.

Re: AAU Governing Council Accuses Edo State Government Of Corruption by ThompsonJoo: 7:24am On Jun 01, 2021
D. INFRASTRuCTURAL DEVELOPMENT

In infrastructure, our Council recorded tremendous progress in providing physical
Structures for the University. Several buildings financed by TETFUND emerged and both Council members and staff were stopped from interfering with contractors or putting
obstacles in the way. TETFUND management praised AAU Governing Council when in
In November 2019 five of the projects were commissioned. Council's stern posture ensured that these projects were completed within the time and cost allotted to them: 1)
Management science building; 2) Physical Sciences complex 3) Faculty of Education building: 4) Mass Comm. faculty building: 5) International Conference Centre, 6) Students
Recreation Centre and 7) new lecture theatre.
the CBN Funded Engineering Theatre was completed following the regular appeals made to the CBN Governor by Council Chairman. , the gigantic Administrative Services building which had been under construction since 2007
was completed. The State Governor personally promised to complete the complex by December 2019 to encourage our Council. t was completed in March 2020.

4. THE BENEVOLENCE OF ALHAJI ALIKO DANGOTE (AFRICA'S RICHEST MAN:

The most momentous of these physical structures are the male and female hostels funded by Aliko Dangote Foundation. The offer of an honorary doctorate in Business Admin (DBAJ to my distinguished and eminent friend, Mr. Emmanuel lkazoboh, Group Chairman of Ecobank Transnational Inc. gave us the hostels. Ikazoboh is a bosom friend of Alhaji Aliko Dangote. On October 20, 2019, Aliko Dangote accompanied Mr. Ikazoboh to Ekpoma to support him at the convocation ceremony and he announced the donation of both a male and female hostel to AAU in appreciation of the honor AAU did to his friend.

5. After my prior discussions with the management of UBA PIC in Lagos, the Council authorized the VC to seek a loan of about N610 million from UBA Plc for the construction of a 508-room student hostel that would accommodate more than 2,000 students. The loan was approved by the bank and the Visitor to the University endorsed the project. However, at the point of disbursement concerns of the Council over the poor financial controls under the VC put the project on hold.

6. Two BOT students' hostel development initiatives were signed with 3" party developers but these initiatives have not taken off due mainly to the interruption of the Covid-19 pandemic

7. Council approved the fencing of the western perimeter of the Ekpoma main campus of the
University (side facing the Benin/Ekpoma Expressway) to facilitate the laying of decorative flower beds along the fence walls and to prevent herdsmen, hoodlums, and criminal elements from further breaching the security of the University.

8. Unfortunately, commitments secured by the Council Chairman for the construction of the Vice Chancellor's lodge by a donor and another hostel by an oil and gas company are nov lost

Indeed, the Council's dream of creating on-campus hostel accommodation for 10,000 students

at AAU by October 2022 is now lost.

E. AVOIDABLE AND WORRISOME DEVELOPMENTS.

State government officials worked to obstruct our Governing Council in the following ways

January 2019, the Visitor sent to Council a 14-item petition of allegations of corrupt practices
leveled against the VC. A committee set up by Council proved these allegations to be true.
the report was sent to the Governor in August 2019. In October 2019 the initial report sent
e Governor was returned for Council deliberations by the Educ. Comm

the Educ. Comm Jimoh jegbai, appointed in August 2019, was unhappy with the allegations
against the Vc. He attempted to suspend Council on August 16, 2019, but was overruled by SSG.

However, in a letter of March 11, 2020, Educ. Comm. again tried to overturn decisions taken by the council after its 4-døy meeting of February 18-21, 2020. He then issued a mischievous query to Council Chairman. The Educ. Comm. and VC were particularly disturbed about the independent internal auditor chosen by Council to audit the 2019 AAU accounts.

4. Educ. Comm. was so eager to fault the Council Chairman that he invited the EFCC to investigate the Chairman's sitting allowance and car purchase. But the car purchase was authorized by the Governor and approved by Council. Car Dealer even gave AAU a discount of NSm for my sake.

S. I write the Chairman's Toyota Land Cruiser has since been returned to AAU after the dissolution of Council. The Chairman's car has always been a property of the University.

6. The Educ. Comm. stopped the Council meeting of June 30, 2020, because the June 29 meeting found the VC guilty of the corruption allegations. The Comm. illegally prorogued the Council and halted its meetings until after the Governorship election in September.

7. Above developments were reported to the Governor/Visitor who expressed consternation and wondered why the Educ. comm. was acting outside the University Law.

8. However, it was clear that Council investigations of the VC were the catalyst for the strange behavior of the Educ. Comm. The Vc had secured the support of top government officials who promised to protect him.

9. In October 2020, Governor set up a Special Visitation Panel to look into the activities of AAU in the past 10 years. The Governor had wanted to do this in October 2018 but I prevailed on him that a due diligence exercise will be more discrete.

10. After the governorship election, the Governing Council sought to hold its regular meeting but the Permanent Secretary of Education Ministry, Mrs. Imasuen, wrote that neither the meeting of Council nor F&GPC should hold while the Visitation panel was in session. This was unusual.

11. Even when the Council informed the State Government that its meeting was necessary because the three principal officers of the University were retiring the advice was ignored. The Bursar retired

on December 1, 2020, the Registrar retired on April 27, 2021, and the VC retired on May 11,
2021. A timetable already drawn for the newspaper advertisement of these positions to request applications from suitably qualified candidates could not be sustained. The government was indifferent that AAU would be run by various officers r all in an acting capacity

12. The current impasse in AAU where staff salaries have been unpaid for 5 months and check it dues and sundry deductions are outstanding for 9 months would have been taken care of if the Governing Council was allowed to do its work. The current outstanding bill of Na billion 15 not or AAU to handle maturely and collaboratively. the council would have waved in

Our management and staff unions to resolve this impasse. Council wanted to meet to
profer a solution. Council gave a summary of the solution package to the visitor

* Own turn-around expert, my ability to guide our Governing Council in resolving whatever
challenges that may be confronting AAU was never in doubt. But the VC and some state
government officials had a hidden agenda.

14. After the Special Visitation Panel, the Governing Council then fixed a meeting for March 23 but the SSG again stopped the meeting on March 18.

iS. On May 11, the tenure of the VC ended and the Governor dissolved the Council. The VC was neither ousted nor sacked. Despite his atrocities, the VC completed his full term in office.

16. The conclusion is that some Edo govt. officials took side with the VC in the corruption saga and refused to punish him. Instead, it dissolved the Governing Council for exposing the VC but paradoxically the mandate to investigate the petition against the VC came from the Governor.

In Summary, corruption fought back and defeated the AAU Council. The VC bought support from his collaborators in govt. to dissolve the Council to bury the investigation report.

What is pleasing to me is the fact that my insistence on probity and leading by example
prevented me from ever getting personally involved in contract execution. At AAU even though over N5 billion was spent on TETFUND and NEEDS ASSESSMENT contracts under my Council Chairmanship I never for once allowed any temptation that would have turned me into a contractor. The State Government is invited to investigate this statement.

APPRECIATION

I cherished the opportunity given me as a son of Ujemen, an Ekpoma Chief, and a proud
Esanman to contribute my experience to molding the young minds at AAU. To have been given this role to make a difference in a University partly on my grandfather's farmland is the stuff

fiction is made of. I wholeheartedly appreciate the Council members for working tirelessly in
Council sessions and in committees and often late into the night to record the foregoing
achievements in such a short period. I am indebted to the staff Unions of ASUU, SSANU, NASU, and NAATs and the Students' Union for the confidence they reposed in our Council. I pray the new Intervention Team set up by Govt. will continue to uphold the glory of AAU, Ekpoma.

May the name of the Lord be praised both now and forever. Amen. Thank you.

Chef Sir) Lawsen A. OmokhDdion
Pro-Chancellor/Chairman of Council

Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma (Oct 30, 2018- May 11, 2021).

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