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UNILAG: I Regret Signing Report – Visitation Panel Chairman

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Professor Hamman Tukur Saad, Chairman of the Federal Government Visitation Panel on the University of Lagos (UNILAG) said he regretted signing the report of the panel.

He stated this in a letter to the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari. His letter was dated Tuesday, November 10, 2020.

Professor Saad said, “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 told Professor Gambari that as soon as the panel was inaugurated, he secured the mandate of the Federal Ministry of Education to bring in the Chancellor to mediate in the UNILAG crisis and that the “Final recommendation of the panel was that the matter should be referred back to the Chancellor, irrespective of what the panel recommended.”

Professor Saad lamented that “As it stands now I feel I was made a fool of and stabbed on the back by people I trusted.” He added that “Furthermore, It will be impossible for any Council to manage a university in this country if the recommendations of the panel are implemented in a Whitepaper.”

He complained that “A Whitepaper based on the report submitted by the panel and neglecting the final recommendation of referring will raise many questions.”

Professor Saad had also in a letter to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, cast doubt on the integrity of the report submitted by the panel on Thursday, 17th September 2020.

In the letter dated October 7, 2020, titled RE: SUBMISSION OF REPORT OF THE VISITATION PANEL ON UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS CRISIS TO HONOURABLE MINISTER. , he said the panel report was one-sided because the majority of the members were biased in support of Professor OluwatoyinOgundipe while the Terms of Reference (ToR) were also skewed against Dr Wale Babalakin SAN.

He told the Minister that “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.”

He stressed that “In case you may like to read between the lines on some of the recommendations as they affect the Management, especially, the Vice-Chancellor. As far as the majority of the team was concerned they would like to save the VC’s who was presented as a victim, having been sacked by the Council and no effort was spared in minimising his faults, which were often obvious:

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 package 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”.

The recommendation was VC should be cautioned against contract splitting. To me, this was enough for the Government to reject this recommendation and subject the culprit to the consequences.

On the issue of frivolous expenditure at the expense of the core mandate of the University, teaching and research, within the period in question VC and his cronies undertook 75 external trips costing hundreds of millions of Naira, while the total annual DTLC of all the Departments of the University was just N35 million per annum.

Again the recommendation was that the money they took for local travel while on overseas trips should be refunded by beneficiaries. While the VC got approval for his own trips from Chairman, he, in turn, approved all the others which Council was never aware. Again Chairman of the panel could not obtain a consensus on how to handle this. So it was left to Government.

On the accusation of Management hiding the financial status of the University from Council, the Bursar disclosed that he only presented Budget Performance to the F&GPC, not the whole Treasury content. Apparently, some almost N10 billion was never visible to the Council, yet interested parties in the panel harassed him and cajoled him in to retract his statement, swearing that they have seen reports to council that contained such information. The perception was that as a non-academic staff he wanted to rope in the VC. The recommendation was that the Council should be abreast with the finances of the University at ever quarterly meeting.

There are a number of other issues that may have been glossed over in the report to save the VC but this is not the time to delve into them. 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 wrongdoing. If among the faults enumerated in the report the Government believes he should be sacked, that does not contradict our recommendations.”

On Babalakin, Professor Saad said, “There are a number of memoranda sympathetic to the Chairman of Council for the good work he was doing and for his being above the board when it came to financial probity, but these did not show up in the report because it appears three of the ToRs were targeted at the Chairman in his role of removing a VC and appointing an Ag VC.”

See Prof. Saad’s letter below:

PROFESSOR HAMMAN TUKUR SAAD, OFR, FNIA

Department of Architecture, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria,

Email: tukursaad@gmail.com                         Tel:+2348080604046

REF: P5662/SPVP/UNILAG/01                 DATE October 07, 2020

Honourable Minister of Education

Malam Adamu Adamu

Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Secretariat,

ABUJA

Dear Malamin Malamai

RE: SUBMISSION OF REPORT OF THE VISITATION PANEL ON UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS CRISIS TO HONOURABLE MINISTER.

This is to once again thank you for considering me worthy of undertaking the onerous task of acting as Chairman of this important Panel and giving the panel a free hand to undertake the assignment. This is very rare in government assignments, in my experience.

Having submitted the report to you and listened to your reaction in private to the panel after the public ceremony, I really got disturbed, especially your honourable comment on the intervention of the Chancellor at the late hour.

On the whole, the Terms of Reference of the panel were framed in such a way as to fish out culpable parties and dish out punishment to them. This I believe is the mindset of legal practitioners who may have been involved in framing the ToRs.

However, the omnibus ToR 5 provided an opportunity for us to explore other channels of resolving the conflict and saving us the bitterness that would ensue after the White Paper might have vindicated some parties. That was why we made frantic efforts to get the Chancellor and Shehu of Borno to wade in and save the day.

A lot of time and human resources, especially that of the Chairman were channelled towards that effort, instead if issues of punishment which were the preoccupation of the lawyers among us, and we had more than enough of them. In our working team of 9 persons, 5 were lawyers by accident or design.

Be as it may, a Visitation Panel cannot stand the rigours of the judicial process and that is why the Visitor’s decision cannot be overturned in a Court. The mechanism affords the academia with their idiosyncrasies an alternative way of resolving conflicts and issues within their domain.

Consequently, having got the Chancellor involved and got him to commit himself to resolve the issue I as Chairman felt relief because no matter what legal rigmarole the lawyers in the panel were able to push the panel into the final say will be from the Minister of Education.

In fact, the recommendation of the Report was to the effect that “no matter what was recommended in the report, Government should utilise the offer presented by the Chancellor to resolve the matter” On a lighter mood, the Chairman is not a Japanese and not a serious student of Japanese Culture but knows some smattering of anthropology to understand that that is how conflicts are resolved among the Japs, since no party was willing to commit hara-kiri and close the matter.

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. But the content of the Report is to a greater or lesser extent valid.

The recommendations may be contentious but knowing fully well Government with go with the Chancellor, I agreed to sign. The issue was rancorous and was attracting the attention of NUC staff where the meetings held. That was not healthy.

In case you may like to read between the lines on some of the recommendations as they affect the Management, especially, the Vice-Chancellor. As far as the majority of the team was concerned they would like to save the VC’s who was presented as a victim, having been sacked by the Council and no effort was spared in minimising his faults, which were often obvious:

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”.

The recommendation was VC should be cautioned against contract splitting. To me, this was enough for the Government to reject this recommendation and subject the culprit to the consequences.

On the issue of frivolous expenditure at the expense of the core mandate of the University, teaching and research, within the period in question VC and his cronies undertook 75 external trips costing hundreds of millions of Naira, while the total annual DTLC of all the Departments of the University was just N35 million per annum. Again the recommendation was that the money they took for local travel while on overseas trips should be refunded by beneficiaries.

While the VC got approval for his own trips from Chairman, he, in turn, approved all the others which Council was never aware. Again Chairman of the panel could not obtain a consensus on how to handle this. So it was left to Government.

On the accusation of Management hiding the financial status of the University from Council, the Bursar disclosed that he only presented Budget Performance to the F&GPC, not the whole Treasury content. Apparently, some almost N10 billion was never visible to the Council, yet interested parties in the panel harassed him and cajoled him in to retracting his statement, swearing that they have seen reports to council that contained such information.

The perception was that as a non-academic staff he wanted to rope in the VC. The recommendation was that Council should be abreast with the finances of the University at ever quarterly meeting.

There are a number of other issues that may have been glossed over in the report to save the VC but this is not the time to delve into them.

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 wrongdoing. If among the faults enumerated in the report the Government believes he should be sacked, that does not contradict our recommendations.

On the side of the Pro-Chancellor, his case is straight forward and does not need much elaboration:

The procedure and steps he took to remove the VC left a lot to be desired, so also were the steps he took to appoint an acting VC. Even me as Chairman felt I could not follow the complicated legal arguments he used in justifying the action.

Even the lawyers among us were at a loss. So we were unanimous that the removal of VC and appointment of Ag VC did not comply with due process.

On the other hand, the steps taken by the government even before the panel was inaugurated has presented the panel with a fete accompli. Government by nullifying the appointment of acting VC by the Council has shown where it stood, so the matter was scarcely deliberated upon.

Again, the Vice Chancellor’s resorting to Court shows his ignorance of the Laws governing the University. I believe in the report the VC was recommended to be reprimanded even though he had withdrawn the case.

There are a number of memoranda sympathetic to the Chairman of Council for the good work he was doing and for his being above the board when it came to financial probity, but these did not show up in the report because it appears three of the ToRs were targeted at the Chairman in his role of removing a VC and appointing an Ag VC. These other positive sides of him and the Council did feature.

The Recommendation that the Council be dissolved is a very controversial one. On one hand to single out the Chairman for whatever faults or errors the Council may have committed would be unfair since it is a collective responsibility.

The Only fair treatment of the issue would not be in keeping with the tradition of the University System and Laws. Whenever a Council is dissolved Internal members from Senate, Congregation and Convocation, as well as Ex-Officio members, stay put waiting for the government to reconstitute its members to come and join them. This ensures that internal members who usually perpetuate the problems are always safe.

This was one of the reasons why I opted out for settlement through the office of the Chancellor. We are going into serious crises in the university system if we adopt the Dissolve the Council Formula.

I am never in favour of the dissolution of the Council, even though the Chairman has committed hara-kiri by resigning, rightly or wrongly.

Once again, thank you very much for your consideration, I hope this clarification can aid you in looking at the issue in another light.

Yours Sincerely

Prof. H. TukurSaad

ABU ZARIA

-Vanguard

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