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Rot in UniAbuja: Waiting for Jonathan’s action as culprits walk freely

Rot in UniAbuja: Waiting for Jonathan’s action as culprits walk freely

Entrance to UNIABUJA

Despite the damning revelations by the Presidential Visitation Panel to the University of Abuja, it seems it is still business as usual, writes ADELANI ADEPEGBA

The level of sleaze and decadence discovered by the Presidential Visitation Panel in the University of Abuja has shown that the institution needs a thorough cleansing. The panel, which uncovered poor governance structure, among other abuses, found that about N110,647,045 has been misappropriated as security honorarium.

Another N25,501,415.08 was also spent on public relations by a school that has no decent science laboratory. Though the committee recommended that some principal officers of the institution should refund the misappropriated fund, the Federal Government has yet to implement the recommendation. This, our correspondent learnt, is because President Goodluck Jonathan has yet to sign the white paper containing the recommendation. This, some observers noted, could be a ploy to sweep the matter under the carpet.

Since 2012, the school management has been at daggers -drawn with students over non-accreditation of faculties of Engineering, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture. It took the intervention of the National Universities Commission to resolve the crisis through the planned distribution of engineering students to four universities to complete their study, while efforts were being intensified to secure approval for  other faculties. This solution was announced last Tuesday by the NUC.

The visitation panel said some top officials of the institution should be reprimanded for contract splitting and for purchasing N37m plastic chairs. The panel described the rot and oddities in the institution as a "fairy tale” which the government must halt. For instance, the school has no Examination Records Office to handle examination issues, but matters  are handled either by the Academic Office or Academic Planning Office, with neither being solely responsible.

The Visitation Panel, headed by Dr. Theo Osanakpo, SAN, discovered that the school has no admission office and admissions were done at the whims  and caprices of the university officials. A large number of students have no Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination scores and yet were admitted. Many students also graduated from the university without completing the requirements. In what seems to best describe how low the university has sunken, 31 students in the English Department graduated despite having a number of carry-over courses in the 2003/2004 academic session.

The panel said, "After a careful review and evaluation of relevant documents on admission and examination, interaction with management and senior staff in the Registry and Academic Planning Unit, some heads of departments and deans, it became clear to the panel that  up till now, there is no Admissions Office and a clearly identifiable desk officer.

"From July 2009, the Senate Committee on admission, which hitherto handled admission, became extinct. However, it was also revealed that there are, at present, two admissions committees, namely Central Admissions Committee and Senate Admissions Committee, whose members were handpicked by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. James Adelabu.”

The panel also scored low the quality of the buildings and environment on the mini-campus  and described it as a mockery of a university. Besides lack of infrastructure in the main and mini-campuses, the panel said, the university’s admission has been abused without taking cognisance of the capacity of its staff and facilities.

"A large number of the final admission lists submitted to the panel did not have JAMB or Post-UTME scores; thus their authenticity was in doubt. The administration of Post-UTME test was not consistently done and used for admission purposes. While in some cases Post-UTME was written, in others, it was either oral or not done at all. It is clear that the admissions, based on 40 per cent of the total, were solely handled by the vice-chancellor’s office (which should not be so) after departmental and faculty recommendations of the first 60 per cent; Only the first 60 per cent of admissions adhered to the JAMB. Again, admission categories of merit and catchments, the report noted.

Investigation by the 45-man panel also indicated that the university often exceeded, by a large percentage, its carrying capacity in student admission, while the second-tier admission exercise for the so-called 40 per cent violated JAMB guidelines in every aspect. It also observed that the selection of staff and officials’ biological children did not necessarily undergo scrutiny by the Deputy Registrar (Academic) to ascertain the authenticity of claims, as should be the case before forwarding the requests to the Committee of Deans that approved such lists.  Consequently the process was grossly abused.

It was discovered that the bursar sent in 118 names for admission  in 2009/2010, in response  to pressure from outside. This conduct and the poor governance structure in the institution encouraged admission racketeering and corruption. The panel was appalled by poor record-keeping and carelessness in the computation of students’ grade points, which determined final degree classification.

"Record-keeping on examinations is very poor. Similarly, the computation of students’ Grade Point Average and Cumulative Grade Point Average was found to be poor, resulting in wrong determination of final degree classification,” the report noted.

The panel further said, "Thirty-one students of English Department graduated with varying numbers of carry-over courses in 2003/2004 session, which the university panel investigated but did not determine to date. This indicates the highest degree of carelessness, incompetence and insensitivity. The department has not been able to defend this. We have every reason to believe that there could be more of such cases. The senate should be directed to revisit these cases and take appropriate action.

"A number of students, both regular and part-time, have graduated without completing their requirements for graduation.   There were also petitions on errors in degree classifications of graduands already issued with letters signed by the registrar.”

The panel called for the replacement of the audit firm which had undertaken the university’s audit between 2004 and 2012, advising that the Auditor-General for the Federation should, in the interim, appoint external auditors for the university.

 "The financial system in the university needs to be overhauled. There should be a customised accounting manual as well as an internal audit manual designed by professionals, using the NUC manual as a guide. It would also strengthen internal control and correct the anomalies of the present system whereby the operations are centered on an individual in the person of the vice-chancellor,” it counselled.

The panel recommended that the Pro-Chancellor should refund N3, 645, 578. 62 expended on his wife’s medical issues; while the sum of N25, 501, 415. 08 spent on public relations should be recovered.

 "The amount of N110, 647, 045.00 misappropriated in the name of security honorarium should be recovered from the past VC, Prof. Nuhu Yakub, and the current VC, the report stated, adding that the management of the university should be advised in strong terms that its financial impunity will not be tolerated in a federal establishment.

The panel members also recommended that the VC and his management team should be relieved of their responsibilities, "given the magnitude of the rot; while a professor of repute, strong character and integrity with sound experience in university administration should be appointed to build up a new environment of trust and re-establish order and a sense of form.”

Commenting on the situation, an academic, Prof. Festus Iyayi, said corruption and administrative incompetence destroyed the University of Abuja, noting that the institution’s governance structure did not demonstrate any sense of responsibility, even in the most elementary areas such as providing the right ambience for learning. He averred that UNIABUJA needed to build true governance culture and "take the university back from barbarians,” noting that the institution could rise from the current ashes to provide the best model of university education in Nigeria.

The lecturer at the Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Management Sciences, University of  Benin, said the institution received about N35bn between 1988 and 2012, but work done with the fund was grossly substandard, of questionable quality and value.

He said, "The evidence provided by the (visitation panel)  report indicated that for much of the period, integrity did not exist in the university; the lack of integrity is  demonstrated in the receipt and application of funds, in appointments and promotions, in discussions in council; in the information provided to council by the Vice- Chancellor; in the operation of various academic programmes without accreditation; in the admission and graduation of students; in the computation of Grade Point Average; in fact in virtually all aspects of university life.”

The don said there was need for members of the institution to resist and take the university back from sadists exercising control within and over it, adding that the current stand-off in the school indicates that there are men and women of courage in UNIABUJA. Iyayi observed that the tragedy identified in the school was not confined to it alone, noting that the same rot could be found in other universities in the country, stressing that gossips and mediocrity were encouraged and rewarded with appointments in many institutions.

But the National President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Fage, stated that his union would continue to put pressure on the government  and school authorities to ensure that the right thing was done, stressing that "ASUU cannot afford to be docile.”

Cleansing the Augean stable would however require strong political will.  Stakeholders who had expected the government to issue a white paper on the panel’s report and implement same without any ado, were disappointed over the pussyfooting by the Presidency.

The Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’I, said she could not implement the recommendations of the panel because the visitor to the institution, President Goodluck Jonathan, had not signed the white paper which has since been presented to him.

Rufai, who spoke at a meeting with executive members of the National Association of Nigerian Students, lamented the rot in the university and the delay by the Federal Government in ending the oddities there.

"We have a report and it ought to follow the procedure of developing a white paper, looking at the policy direction of government, which if the President had approved the white paper, we would have started the implementation process for the university. The major issue bothering the federal ministry of education is the issue of University of Abuja, it is very sad that a university which is supposed to be a premier university is still grappling with these challenges,” the minister stated.

It remains to be seen whether the Federal Government would diligently and faithfully, implement the recommendations of the visitation panel. How early this is done, would go a long way in repositioning the institution to discharge its responsibilities of producing the human resource the nation sorely needed to compete in the world.

Category: My articles | Added by: ExcedNetwork (26-March-2013)
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