By YUSUF OLAYINKA KAYODE
It is absolutely unspeakable that the University of Abuja, situated in nation’s capital is in dilapidated condition. In fact, the university is one of the worst in the nation as per infrastructure, poor management and instability.
The university has been rocked with several crises over the past years, the issues appear more intensified as those in charge of the administration seem to complicate matters.
Right now, the avalanche of files, recommendation and facts/figures that indict the management that are before the authorities, even the presidency that have been left unattended to raise more worries on whether the government is ready to solve the problems of the school.
There was unrest recently within the campus which led to total shut down of academic activities for about four months, after a prolonged reaction by students over publication of the Council for Regulation of Engineering (COREN), disqualifying the university whose Faculty of Engineering was not accredited. Subsequently, in April, 2012, the Minister for Education, Prof, Rukayyat Rufai officially pronounce the suspension of four new academic programmes; Engineering, Agriculture, Veterinary Medicine and Human Medicine. The action prompted the students to take to the streets of Abuja, expressing anger.
This dismay generated series of confusion over University of Abuja, to the extent that people began to seek clarification over the competence of the Vice Chancellor of the institution to manage the affairs of the institution, arguably, the university community accused the VC to have been hinted prior to the demonstration but nothing substantial was arrived at to curb or ameliorate the incidence which later escalated into riots and violent demonstration by the students.
Obviously, for those that are familiar with the university environment, this account is just a piece of a bunch.
Since the assumption of office by Prof. James Adelabu in 2009, the calamities of the university seem to have worsened. Top persons of the institution have doubts if decent administration can be unachievable in the present administration of the school.
A document in Abuja Metro possession gave analyses of the Vice Chancellor’s tenure, qualifying it as below the mark.
He narrated that, for almost three years, the university has been embedded in series of chaos and mismanagement orchestrated by some principal officers and the VC’s office, yet the federal government and the Ministry of Education under the leadership of Prof. Rufai don’t seem to be doing anything serious to fix the problem of the university.
Irrespective of several measures and recommendations presented by numerous panels instituted by government, no concrete action has been taken to implement any of them to solve the riddle.
The source lamented that more than three panels and committees have been constituted within the Institution mainly to examine the remote causes of unrest which have persistently cast a gloom over the management of the university, some of the committees, he identifies, includes;
The committee instituted to investigate issues raised in the submission made to the Governing Council by the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) University of Abuja Chapter, in April, 2012, headed by Prof. E.P Ejembi, where some alarming issues were generated, amongst which was identified from the report made available to Abuja Metro, read;
“The purchase of 8,000 plastic chairs and 4,250 plastic tables by the administration for examination in four different occasions; June 22, August 11, August 23 and September 6, 2011, “items which amounted to N37,600,600 was awarded to Needs Technologies Limited by the Vice Chancellor”, stating ,that he clearly exceeded his “approval limit” during the course.
The source stated, that as represented in the report that indicted the VC, Internal Auditor and Bursar to have violated the “Public Procurement Act 2007” by single handedly authorizing such payment. Meanwhile, he stated that as recommendation from the report, its was clearly stipulated that appropriate sanctions for “Public Procurement Act” be awarded by the Council.
He also cited the investigation committee headed by Prof. E.J.C Nwana, that was instituted in November 2012 to:
To identify the immediate and remote cause that led to the disruption of the second semester examinations 2011/2012 academic session which were to commence on 19th November 19, 2012; To identify (if possible) those involved; Report any findings or observation on the matter which may be useful to management and the university; and
Make appropriate recommendation to senate.
Investigations without result
Subsequently, series of investigation were carried out to unravel factors, which contributed to the ugly incidence during the period. They hinted that on several occasions, the administration has paid deaf hear to substantial advice from intelligence units and other authorities within the Institution which lead to the outbreak.
As part of recommendation in the same report, it was stated that: “the University leadership should run an all-inclusive administration. The VC and management should be open and listen closely to good initiatives that will enhance the growth of the university”
Also, “the university culture of having calendar of events with time lines assigned to them well in advance be adhered to.”
Recently, a Special Presidential Visitation Panel with 40 members chaired by Dr. T. C. Osanakpo, was also constituted to review the generality of ills within the university lingering to no end.
According to the review, the report stated that the total money available to the university from 1988 to 2012 amounted to N34,953,209,000 out of this, of N22,937,629,000,00 (65.62%) was from government subvention, capital grants while the balance of N12,015,580,000,00 (34.38%) was from internally generated revenue from other income sources and student fees charged during the period under visitation, while the distribution of the total university income under the tenure of past VCs are as follows:
The panel from the financial audit found that there are cases of unsigned financial statements for eight years by both Council and management; differences in figures of university records and audited accounts, consistent understanding of the depreciation charges on the fixed assets; incorrect balancing of the individual creditor accounts; misclassifications of expenditure items; wrong creditor balances resulting in duplication of the recording of liabilities that could lead to loss of university’s funds and elongated tenure of External Auditors Messrs; PKF & Co, for over eight years.
The investigation of the university’s finances also revealed cases of huge unretired advances amounting to N240m mostly due to use of direct labour in the execution of projects; excessive increases in university’s expenditure profile due to poor planning and lack of financial prudence; irregular refunds of medical bills for the Pro-Chancellor amounting to over N29m between 2009 and 2012; violation of approval limits and contract splitting by the current VC in the purchase of plastic chairs and tables to the tune of N37.6m; wasteful expenditure on public relations and image laundering to the tune of N5.6m in April 2012, N25.5m in May, 2012 and N14.6m in the month of June 2012, paid to some public relations outfits and prints/electronic media for University image laundering and public relations.
In the report, the panel stated that, there were also cases of indiscretion on expenditure on security resulting in the misuse of funds as “security honorarium” ostensibly to maintain security on campus. This called ‘blatant abuse’ started in 2007/2008 during the tenure of Prof. Nuhu Yaqub and continued unchecked under the current Vice Chancellor.
This resulted in the misappropriation of N110.647.045 by the two Vice Chancellors coupled with constant withdrawal of huge amounts in favour of the Pro-Chancellor and Vice Chancellor through vulnerable staff without proper documentation and inconsistencies in payment vouchers in relation to supporting documents as provided in the main report.
In furtherance, the panel recommended series of measures for improvement of the administration part of which includes; “that the current Firm of PKF & Co which has undertaken the University’s Audit for the past eight years (2004 to 2012) be replaced immediately by the Council; the Auditor General for the Federation should in the interim be directed to appoint the external auditors for the University and superintend their work plan and the segmented execution of the audit to completion.
“There should also be a customized accounting manual as well as an internal audit manual designed by professional using NUC guidelines in order to strengthen the financial operations of the university internally and correct the anomalies of the present system whereby the operations are centred around an individual in the person.
“The Pro-Chancellor should refund N3.645.578.62 expended on his wife’s medical expenses.
“The University should as a matter of urgency remit all taxes deducted from contractors as well as PAYE of about N114m to the tax authorities. “That, the current Vice-Chancellor be reprimanded for making unilateral and irrational decision to purchase plastic chairs and tables with N37m, further, for contract splitting, failure to obtain the approval of the Council and exceeding his approval limits in award of this contracts.
“Also, that both the VC and the Bursar be reprimanded for failing to deduct the statutory taxes from the companies that executed projects for the University.
“The total amount of N25.501.415.08 needlessly and unilaterally spent on image making and public relation be recovered.
“The amount of N110.647.045.00 misappropriated in the name of security honorarium should be recovered from the two Vice Chancellors (Prof Nuhu O. Yaqub and Prof. JSA Adelabu) the full extent of the abuse should be ascertained.
“That rates applied for payment of sitting allowances and other entitlements to external members of the University Council should conform with the provision of the exact government circulars.”
These and many more were captured in the panel’s review and officially presented to the Presidency for implementation early this year. But contrary to expectation, all the findings and recommendations from each of the independent panels and committees were verified and up to press time, the reports have not been attended to as those indicted in the entire reports have not been questioned or any action taken to ensure the wrongs are corrected to make the institution work better or recover from its ailment.
Today, the entire University community, especially the Academic Staff is frustrated over the insensitivity of the presidency and failure to preside over the reports lying under the desk unmanaged. And many are tempted to ask if the institution would survive these and remain in existence.