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Panel chairman regrets signing UNILAG VC reinstatement report

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The chairperson of Special Visitation Panel set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the  crisis at the University of Lagos, Prof. Tukur Saad, has said he was deceived into signing the report that informed government’s decision to reinstate Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe as the vice chancellor of the university.

A statement by the Director, Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Education, Ben-Bem Goong, on Tuesday, said the FG had reinstated the VC and dissolved the university council.

Saad, 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.

According to him, “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.”

Expressing his reservation, Saad 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  Ogundipe, adding that the Terms of Reference (ToR) were also skewed against the estranged chairperson of the governing council, Wale Babalakin, who had since resigned his appointment.

According to him, although Ogundipe was wrongly removed, he was not given a clean bill of health as he was indicted for contract splitting.

He also accused Babalakin of “committing hara-kiri” by removing the VC and appointing another one, and by deciding to step down from his position when the crisis got messy.

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.

He  said he agreed to sign the report to abort another stalemate and  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 Gambari.

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.

“The 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,” he said.

Drawing attention to some of the recommendations contained in the report submitted by the committee, 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.”

Saad had in a letter to the education minister, 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  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.”

On allegation of contract splitting against the VC,  Saad said  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.”

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Buhari promises to sign forensics, fraud examiners’ institute bill

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President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday promised to sign a bill seeking formal establishment of the Chartered Institute of Forensics and Certified Fraud Examiners of Nigeria (CIFCFEN).

He spoke at the State House in Abuja after being honoured with Global Integrity and Anti-Corruption Award of Excellence by CIFCFEN.

He was presented with the highest honour of the institute reserved for only African heads of states with impeccable character and unimpeachable ideals by the chairman of the Governing Council CIFCFEN Board of Trustees, Dr Iliyasu Gashinbaki.

Buhari was the first African leader to be bestowed with the award in recognition of his lifetime outstanding commitment to the fight against corruption and selfless service with exceptional integrity.

He directed the anti-corruption agencies to continue partnering with the institute for the benefit of the country.

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He also directed the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to work with the Institute in areas of providing technical assistance and capacity building to all revenue generating agencies and regulators in the public sector.

He said: ‘’The need for forensic experts arises in educating, preventing, detecting and prosecuting fraudsters, while fraud examination helps mitigate vices like embezzlement, money laundering, misuse and mismanagement of public resources.

‘’Many Nigerians, who are serious about eliminating corruption in our country, will welcome this review of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy midwifed by the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption in 2017 and supported by our International friends.

‘’This effort by the institute to undertake the review of the national anti-corruption strategy is highly commendable and it has shown the usefulness of partnerships with professional bodies and my administration will continue to partner with the Institute and as well as other private institutions, the academia and other stakeholders in the fight to stop sleaze and mitigate corruption.’’

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We will restore peace, stability before leaving office, Buhari vows

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President Muhammadu Buhari has said his administration will not relent in its quest to restore peace and stability in the country.

Buhari said this on Monday during the 58th anniversary of the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) in Kano.

He said his administration’s investment in the air force had helped to “turn the tide” against terrorists.

He promised that he would continue to give necessary and sufficient support to the NAF in the battle against insecurity from non-state actors.

“The huge investment in the Nigeria Air Force has helped to turn the tide against terrorist and non-state actors in our nation,” he said.

“In furtherance of our drive to continue to do more to support the air force. Rest assured that our government is willing to do even more to ensure the provision of requisite support and the encouragement to overcome various security challenges.

“This government will not rest until peace and stability is fully restored in the nation. I, therefore, urge you all to remain steadfast, committed and resolute.

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States lose battle over LG funds’ management

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The 36 Governors lost on Monday in their opposition to Federal Government’s efforts to monitor their handling of Local governments’ funds.

 Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed a suit filed to that effect by the 36 states, through their Attorneys General and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).

The States, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/563/2019, challenged the legality of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Guidelines, which came into effect on June 1, 2019.

The NFIU 2019 guidelines required among others,  that the States/Local Governments Joint Accounts should be used only for receiving funds and subsequently transferring them to Local government accounts only.

The NFIU claimed that the guidelines, which also limit daily cash withdrawal from the State/LG joint account to N500,000 are intended  to reduce “crime vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawal from local government funds throughout Nigeria effective from June 1, 2019.”

Listed as defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the NFIU and the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE).

They argued among others that  the NFIU guidelines: known as “the  NFIU Enforcement and Guidelines to Reduce Crime Vulnerabilities Crafted by Cash Withdrawal From Local Government Funds Throughout Nigeria,” particularly provisions 1 to 6  and the penalties prescribed  are ultra vires the power of the NFIU under Sections 3 (1) and 23(2) (a) of the Nigerian Financial Intelligent Unit Act, 2018 and therefore unconstitutional.

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In the judgement on Monday, Justice Ekwo held that he is unable to see where the guidelines contradict the provisions of sections 7(1), (6) (a) and (b) of the Constitution.

The judge added that the guidelines also did not conflict with the provision of Section 162(6) of the Constitution, which creates the State Joint Local Government Account,  into which allocations to the Local Government Councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the government of the state are paid.

He said that the guidelines did not contradict Section 162(8) of the constitution which prescribed that the amount standing to the credit of the local government council of the state shall be distributed among the local government councils of that state on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of the state.

Justice Ekwo added that the provisions of the NFIU guidelines also do not contradict the provisions of the 4th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution which prescribes the functions of a Local Government Council.

Noting that “ duty of the court is limited to expounding the law and not expanding it,” the judge said: “On the whole, I see the provisions of the guidelines of the 2nd defendant as seeking to direct the monitoring of accounts, transfers and any other means of payment or transfer of funds of local government councils as provided for in Section 3 (1) (r) of the Act of the NFIU.

“It only limits cash withdrawal made from any Local Government Account anywhere in the country to amount not exceeding N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) per day.

“Any amount higher than that can be done using other methods of banking transaction save cash.

“Unless it can be shown that there is any provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which these provisions of the 2nd defendant’s guidelines have contradicted or conflicted directly and practically, then the issue of unconstitutionality cannot be said to arise.”

Justice Ekwo said he found that there was no provision in the NFIU’s guidelines that has contravened the provisions of Sections 7(1), (6) (a) and (b), 162 (6), (7) and (8), and the 4th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“I also find that the case of the plaintiffs has not been established and I so hold.

“I find, in the end, that the case of the plaintiffs lacks merit and ought to be dismissed and it is hereby dismissed,” the judge said.

Earlier, Justice Ekwo struck out the name of the NGF as a co-plaintiff in the suit on the grounds that it lacked the locus standi to file the suit.

THE NATION

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