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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 to present 2023 budget proposal to NASS Friday

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President Muhammadu Buhari will present the 2023 Appropriations bill to a joint session of the National Assembly on Friday.

The appropriations bill will contain budget proposals for the 2023 fiscal year.

He made this known in a letter to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, which was read out at the start of plenary on Tuesday.

The formal budget presentation is scheduled for 10am

and it will be the last main budget Buhari will be presenting as he will leave office on 29 May 2023 when his second four year term will end.

The Federal Government is already proposing an aggregate expenditure of N19.76 trillion for the 2023 fiscal year with a budget deficit of about N12.41 trillion.

Some key assumptions in the proposal include an estimated oil benchmark of $70, crude oil production put at 1.69mbpd, exchange rate of N435.57/$ and inflation rate at 17.16 per cent.

The Federal Government pegged growth rate at 3.75 per cent because it believes that “Growth is expected to be moderated to 3.30% in 2024 before picking up to 3.46% in 2025.”

The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, had disclosed that the federal government will borrow over N11 trillion and sell national assets to finance the budget deficit in 2023.

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ASUU also corrupt, undermining govt investment – Buhari

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President Muhammadu Buhari has said a number of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are involved in corrupt practices.

He said the corruption in the universities and other institutions was undermining government’s funding and investment in education.

ASUU has been on strike since February 14 over increase in lecturers’ allowances and salaries as well as improved funding for the universities.

Buhari has appealed to the union to call off the strike but the lecturers have stood their ground.

The President on Tuesday while declaring open the Fourth National Summit on Diminishing Corruption organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF) and Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), said ASUU was no less complicit in the corruption in tertiary education.

He said corruption in the education sector had continued to undermine investments, while critics downplayed funding by focusing only on budgetary allocations, urging a more comprehensive re-evaluation of expenditure.

The President said, “This year’s summit will mirror how corruption undermines educational policies, investments and create an unfriendly learning environment for our youths.

“Incessant strikes especially by unions in the tertiary education often imply that government is grossly underfunding education, but I must say that corruption in the education system from basic level to the tertiary level has been undermining our investment in the sector and those who go on prolonged strikes on flimsy reasons are no less complicit.

“The 1999 Constitution places a premium on education by placing it on the Concurrent List, thereby laying the responsibilities of budgeting and underwriting qualitative education on both the Federal and State Governments.

“The total education budget for each year is therefore a reflection of both federal and state budgets and should be viewed as other financial commitments in their totality.

“The allocation to education in the federal budget should not be considered via allocation to the Federal Ministry of Education and also academic institutions alone, but should include allocation to the Universal Basic Education, transfers to TETFUND and refund from the Education Tax Pool Account to TETFUND.

“Corruption in the expenditure of internally generated revenue of tertiary institutions is a matter that has strangely not received the attention of stakeholders in tertiary education, including unions.

“I call on stakeholders to demand accountability in the administration of academic institutions and for unions to interrogate the bloated personnel and recurrent expenditure of their institutions. Let me also implore the Unions to work with the government to put faces and identities to names on the payroll.

“Due to declining resources, the government cannot bear the cost of funding education alone. I task our academics to attract endowments, research and other grants to universities, polytechnics and colleges of education similar to what obtains in other countries.”

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Seven police officers dismissed, 10 others demoted

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The Police Service Commission (PSC), on Tuesday, dismissed seven senior police officers over gross misconduct.

The commission also announced the demotion of 10 other officers through reduction in rank.

These decisions were taken during the continuation of the 15th plenary meeting of the commission.

The meeting is expected to end on Thursday, October 6, 2022, according to a report by The Trust.

Presided over by its acting chairman, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, the meeting considered all the Pending Disciplinary Matters (PDM) before the commission.

The PDMs, which totalled 47, also treated some appeals from dismissed police officers.

Addressing newsmen shortly after the meeting in Abuja, the spokesman for the commission, Ikechukwu Ani, said, the dismissed officers include one CSP, one SP and five ASPs.

He said that one SP was retired in public interest, adding that the commission reduced the ranks of one CSP to SP, three SPs to DSP, and two DSPs to ASPs.

The commission further reduced the ranks of four ASPs to Inspectors.

10 senior police officers, including an ACP, a CSP, a SP and two DSPs were given the punishment of severe reprimand.

Five ASPs were also awarded the punishment of severe reprimand.

Thirteen officers received the punishment of reprimand; two are to receive letters of warning while four officers were exonerated.

Ani quoted Justice Ogunbiyi as saying the commission would henceforth give the desired attention to Pending Disciplinary Matters so that those found guilty are punished immediately while those found not guilty are cleared to continue with their career progression.

Justice Ogunbiyi called on police officers to ensure they operate within established rules and avoid taking laws into their hands.

The commission, she said, would continue to work to sustain a professional police force.

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