EXPOSED: Buhari-Favoured University Of Lagos Vice-Chancellor In Alleged Multi-million Naira Contract Fraud, Misappropriation


Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe

Oluwatoyin Ogundipe was removed as Vice-Chancellor of the institution courtesy of the allegations and petitions against the management but was reinstated by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The management of the University of Lagos, Akoka is enmeshed in controversies over allegations of misappropriation of funds to the tune of N5 billion, forgery, and misconduct, among other administrative vices.

Following his reinstatement, the chairman of the governing council of the school, Wale Babalakin resigned from his position.

Anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) were called in to investigate but they have been accused of not doing anything to bring the guilty parties to justice.

An investigation by Ripples Nigeria has revealed that the management of the school awarded large sums of monies in questionable contracts to companies, and entities that were in some cases untraceable. 

Also, some of the projects were not done. 

For instance, a sum of N49.43 million was spent on the renovation of the Vice-Chancellor’s lodge in 2017. In 2018, another N2.2 million was expended for refurbishing the guest chalet in the same lodge, while an extra N550, 284 was spent on acquiring furniture for the building. 

In 2019, the university spent another N2.04 million on refurbishing the lodge while spending the same amount in 2020.

The report reveals that within three years, the University of Lagos’ management spent N55 million on the Vice-Chancellor’s lodge only. 

The sum of N41.82 million was also spent in 2017 on the renovation of the bursar’s apartment while N16.12 million was spent on renovating the residence of the director of works (former residence for the school’s registrar). 

Taiwo and Sons Enterprises, one of the contractors that handled the renovation of the pro-chancellor’s residence had not been registered on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) website. 

However, similar organisations were inactive on the CAC portal, having failed to file their returns, investigation reveals. 

Others were registered outside the date of execution of the contract for the renovation of the Pro-chancellor’s lodge. The renovation was worth over one million naira.

The approval limit of the Vice-Chancellor is N2.5 million for goods and services. However, Professor Ogundipe was accused of failing to seek approval for funds outside the limit permitted for his office.

For instance, the university administration consistently spent several millions of naira on the renovation of residential buildings for its top officials constantly for several years.

In one case, a total of N112 million was spent on the renovation of principal officers’ quarters. But the Tenders board limit is put at N50 million. The Vice-Chancellor in his defence, noted that deficiencies that gave room for snakes and rodents’ invasion made the increments of over N50 million naira necessary.

“The renovation work includes both civil works and housing furniture. In accordance with the Memorandum of appointment (MOA), outgoing VCs leave with their furniture. Consequently, the total furniture stated in the report should be broken down into renovations and purchase of furniture and equipment respectively. On assumption of office, after evaluation of the state of the property, the Works and Physical Planning Department identified certain deficiencies that needed attention. For example, leaking roof, old louvres (which gave opportunity for rodents and snakes ingress),” he stated.

A top member of the dissolved governing council of the University also confirmed the findings, noting that efforts to ensure accountability in this case failed.
 
The Vice-Chancellor was also accused by the former governing council of Wale Babalakin of paying the Dean of student affairs over N2 million monthly as security vote, between May 2017 and September 2018. The council alleged that the payment was done without its knowledge. However, the Vice-Chancellor noted that the payment was historical as according to him, previous deans enjoyed the same benefit.

The Vice-Chancellor was also accused of approving allowances for foreign grants above his approval limit, including adding a ’Local Running’ or ‘Incidental expenses’, which the governing council said is illegal in the varsity system.

Checks revealed that inactive companies, or those not listed on the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) portal were in operation with the University of Lagos.

An inactive company is one that has not made any Significant Accounting Transaction during the last two financial years or has not filed Financial Statements and Annual Returns during the last two financial years.

The new CAMA law of 2020 classified many of such organisations as inactive.

A non-listed company in this case is one that cannot be found on the CAC portal.

One of such is Mr Wash Nigeria Limited. Although registered in 2003, the company was listed as inactive by the CAC. Despite this, Mr Wash Nigeria was the one that handled a N33.62 million project for the varsity.

The Project details include; Maintenance Service Contract for the Hostel Facilities in Eni-Njoku Hall, Makama Bida Hall, Fagunwa Hall, Madam Tinubu and Shodeinde Hall.

The contract awarded to Mr Wash generated controversies as the works committee department noted that it was not allowed to supervise the contract or determine if it was executed.

Mr Wash must have been listed as inactive due to its inability to file returns. However, in January 2020, the organisation made a request for payment valuation certificate (a payment certificate is to inform the client about release of payment to the contractor) for the sum of N33.618 million. During the duration of their inactiveness, the organization still made transaction with the University of Lagos.

Attempts to reach Mr Wash Nigeria proved abortive as the organisation did not have a known website or any readily available contact details online.

Another organisation that got contracts from the University of Lagos was Myne Maxima Treasure, which was also listed as inactive on the CAC portal.


 
The project was for the Procurement of external electrical power back–up system.

Earlier, one Professor Oye Boniface had alleged that the project had no letter of award and that it was reported as completed in November 2018.

It was alleged that there was no Tender Board approval, no Finance and General Committee nor Council approval. This is a violation of the Public Procurement Act of 2007 and the University Financial Regulations of 2016.

A legal expert, Barrister Awosusi Kehinde (Esq), has, however explained that the normal process of winning contracts involves preparing Tax clearance.

“You cannot take contracts from government because after filing your annual returns, you are expected to get a tax clearance certificate from the Federal Inland Revenue Service and you get a certificate of your annual return from the corporate affairs commission. That is when you are eligible to be awarded any contract. The annual return is duly signed by an accountant, a practicing accountant preferred to be a chartered accountant”, Awosusi noted.

Speaking further, he said it was the duty of the organisation awaeding the contract to demand a tax clearance certificate for the year ending.

He also noted that for an organisation to have been listed as inactive on the CAC portal, they must have failed to file their returns for at least two years.

Another company, Dutum Company Limited was awarded a contract worth over one billion naira, for the construction of the university’s new library. Checks however revealed that Dutum has been listed as inactive by the corporate affairs commission, meaning that it failed to file its returns.

Contract award was worth N1.94 billion while N444.61 million representing 21% of contract completion was recorded to have been paid. The project was recorded as a failed one.

An Investigative Panel set up by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) invited all the parties to probe causes of the failure of the project.

Also, the varsity governing council in a report seen by the newspaper had faulted the process that led to the emergence of Dutum as the organisation to build the varsity’s library.

The Panel was of the view that Dutum Company Limited was not qualified to be awarded the contract for construction of the new library project. It stated that the organisation should not have been prequalified, as “its lack of experience in the construction of multi-storey building on pile foundation was manifested in the course of implementation of the contract”.

The contract was inherited by the administration of Professor Ogundipe from the former Vice Chancellor, Professor R. A. Bello

When contacted, the director of Dutum, Tope Runsewe did not deny receiving over N400 million from the University of Lagos. He noted that the payment was in line with standard practices. He however denied that the project had failed, blaming ‘hyper-inflation of construction materials’ among other issues for the delay

“The project in question cannot at this stage be qualified a failure. In truth, there has been some delays on the project due to reasons beyond our control. These include internal adjustments on the part of the project owner, Covid-19 related shutdowns, hyper-inflation of construction materials, which resulted in the need for price review, amongst others.

“Despite these, we are making progress towards resumption and continuation of the project. We remain hopeful that work should resume within weeks so we can deliver another quality project as we have been engaged to do,” Runsewe said.

The project which was inaugurated in 2016 has experienced delay five years down the lane. The organisation was given an Advanced Payment in November 2016 to the tune of over N290 million. 

In December 2017, another N94.358 million was made. In January 2018, a sum of N25.84 million was paid to Dutum. In June 2018, N20.82 million was paid to Dutum, and in August 2018, another sum of N13.33 million was paid. 

The total is N444.61 million and it represents 22.95 percent of the total project money.
 
Documents seen by Ripples Nigeria showed that the University of Lagos spent over N32 million on perimeter fencing, however, checks and visits to the project revealed sparse work going on and signs of abandonment.

The contractor, Unilag Consult is an organisation with the University of Lagos, which holds 99% of its shares while University of Lagos Holding has 1%.

According to the description of service rendered by the organisation on its official website, the organisation describes itself as one which renders consultancy services.

“Unilag Consult is not only able to offer comprehensive, flexible and well-coordinated consultancy services, but it also has the capability and capacity to put together, in a timely manner, a multi-disciplinary team to meet all the specified requirements for providing an effective technical support” the website of the organisation reads.

When Ripples Nigeria spoke to a worker at the location, he told the newspaper that “they (workers) were waiting for certain things for work to commence further at the site of the building”. 

In 2010, there was a legal dispute between the Eleye family and the University of Lagos authorities over a parcel of land at Balogun Street Extension in Iwaya area of Yaba. Documents seen by this newspaper also confirmed this development. This however, did not stop the varsity from paying over N32 million (N32,508,416.00) to Unilag Consult for the construction of the fence. The total contract award sum was N57,264,158.52.

The renovation of facilities at the varsity’s sports centre was contracted to Enbridge Engineering Nigeria Limited with over N29 million paid. But the poor state of the sports facility was observed during a visit there. 

The contract details include rehabilitation of main pavilion with replaced roofing sheets, reconstructed damaged seating slabs, new 800 units plastic seats, restructuring and resurfacing of basketball courts including rehabilitation of 3 tennis courts.

The works department of the varsity led by Engineer Oloko Babatunde had described the project as failed while recommending termination of the contract.

A top staff of the institution also in the know of the contract told this reporter that the Vice Chancellor changed the internal staff responsible for the project.

Enbridge is also inactive on the Corporate Affairs Commission portal.

Over N400 million spent on cleaning (Janitorial) services in three years

Documents seen by this newspaper revealed that the university spent over N466.72 million on cleaning services within 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The sum which is under a Janitorial contract was for different faculties and departments.

Janitorial Services for Faculties and Libraries which had an effective date from May 2017 was put at a contract sum of N51, 263,215.22.

Another sum of N79,787,449.10 was the contract sum for Provision of Waste Management and Cleaning Services.

The contract expired on September 30, 2017.

Over N57,372,050.44 was paid after the contract expired for cleaning services.

A contract sum of over N75,200,000 for Facilities Maintenance and Janitorial Services of Students’ Halls of Residence was paid. This expired on October 31, 2017.

After the expiration of the contract, another payment of N71,789,428.76 was made.

For Janitorial Services for Faculties & Library which expired in April 2018, a contract sum of N51,263,215.22 was paid, with payment after contract expired totalling N7,802,312.62.

Janitorial Services for Auditoria, Sport Centre, Centre for Information Technology (CITS) and Medical Centre which expired on 30th November, 2017 had contract sum of N50,047,659.96. Payment after contract expired was N19,232,931.62 and another N2,964,046.72, totalling N22,196,978.

Attempts to reach the University Vice Chancellor, Toyin Ogundipe proved abortive as he did not answer his calls nor respond to text messages.

However, his personal assistant, Bolarin Ajigboye said the office of the Vice-Chancellor was not aware of any anomaly in its records.

Source: Sahara Reporters.