*Issues three different statements on the Agwai Panel report
There seems to be a new twist over the University of Lagos saga seems unending as there are moves to shield the embattled Vice-Chancellor, Prof Ogundipe, from being probed by the Governing Council of the university. A recent publication by THISDAY Newspapers of the General Agwai report has raised a lot of concerns and has also forced the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Sonny Echono, to issue three different statements about the Visitation Panel Report.
The role of the Permanent Secretary of has always come under scrutiny. Further investigations by THISDAY revealed that in 2019, the Babalakin-led Council was already inundated by the reckless actions of the Prof. Ogundipe-led Management of the university. To put an end to this gross mismanagement, the Council issued a notice of 9th May 2019 for an Emergency Meeting to hold in the Council Chambers. The two issues on the agenda were: Council Subcommittee Report on the Review of the Expenditure of the University of Lagos since May 2017 and the Panel set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the library building under construction.
The meeting was to hold on 13th and 14th May 2019. Curiously and out of the blue, the Council received a letter from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education directing the Council to stay action on the Council investigation.
“To put it mildly, this was received as a shock by the Council members. It was unusual and completely unprofessional. It was also unlawful as under the University of Lagos Act, Council is responsible for the superintendence of the University including its finances,” a source close to the Council told THISDAY.
The source stated that Section 7(1) of the University of Lagos Act provides that: ‘Subject to the provisions of this Act relating to the Visitor, the Council shall be the governing body of the University and shall be charged with the general control and superintendence of the policy, finances and property of the University, including its relations.’
The Permanent Secretary, strangely set up a Panel of seven members of academics to investigate the Pro-chancellor who was trying to sanitise the university system.
The panel has been comprehensively discredited it could not be relied upon by government for any purpose. A member of the panel, who also doubled as the Secretary, and who happened to be the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Education, showed his biases by harassing every person that came to speak against the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ogundipe.
She also changed a lot of findings of the Panel especially those that indicted Prof. Ogundipe for contract splitting; frivolous expenditure by him and his cronies; and concealing the finances of the University from the Council.
The Permanent Secretary was to later release a White Paper that was not related to the Panel’s findings. No one ever saw the Panel’s report on which the White Paper was premised. It was a fraud designed to deceive the President in order to take actions that were totally inconsistent with the findings of the Panel.
When THISDAY newspaper broke the news of the Agwai Panel report, the Permanent Secretary showed more than a passing interest in the whole matter.
In his first reaction, he claimed that the General Agwai report did not indict Prof. Ogundipe. He did not only release a press statement, he went further to advertise this position in some national newspapers.
Even when the 241-page report conclusively indicted Prof. Ogundipe and his Management and exonerated Dr. Babalakin of any wrongdoing, the Permanent Secretary created another narrative, which was that the Agwai Panel did not have a mandate to look into the issues that were in the earlier questionable White Paper earliest issued.
Meanwhile, he had earlier stated that “all allegations made against the Vice-Chancellor and the Management of the University should be referred to regular Visitation Panel for thorough investigation and necessary recommendation.”
As it stands, it is obvious that the Permanent Secretary is bent on protecting the embattled Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ogundipe from being probed by the Council. But if he will succeed in this remains to be seen.