By Johnson Ayo
Officials of the Civil Society Groups, comprise of Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), led by Mr. Debo Adeniran; the Civil Society Group for Good Governance (CSGGG), led by Com. Ogakwu Dominic; Initiative for Leadership and Economic Watch (ILEWN), led by Com. Agbonkpolor Splendor; Centre for Rights and Grassroot Initiative (CPPNI), led by Com. Nelson Ekujumi and Voters Awareness, led by Bar. Wale Ogunnade, stormed the office of the Lagos State University, LASU, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Olanrewaju Fagbohun, SAN to get his own side of the story on Professor Peter Okebukola age falsification and diversion of LASU staff pension fund of N198m for vehicles.
In an unprecedented move, the Vice Chancellor of Lagos State University, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, SAN, in company of other Principal Officers and Staff of the University, on Friday, 26th April, 2019, opened up relevant records of the institution to an array of members of Civil Society Organisations who came on a fact-finding visit to the University over allegations of mismanagement of funds and other issues recently leveled against the institution’s authorities in a series of publications by an online media platform- premiumtimesng.com.
Prof. Fagbohun, SAN, presenting the facts before the Civil Society Groups was unequivocal in absolving the University of any wrongdoing in the matters presented.
On the allegation against Distinguished Professor Okebukola, the Vice Chancellor shared with the Team, the Record of Service of Distinguished Prof. Okebukola, which confirmed his date of birth to be 17th February, 1951. The memo conveying his record of service was dated 25th June, 1992.
He reiterated that though Distinguished Prof. Okebukola would have retired in 2016, based on the former statutory retirement age, a new law approved by the Lagos State Government, which took effect from January, 2016, increased the retirement age of Professors from 65years to 70years. It is this new law that enabled Distinguished Prof. Okebukola, alongside 20 other staff [Academic & Non-Academic] of the University who were due for retirement at the time, to return to service.
Reacting to the claims that he and the Chairman of the University’s Governing Council, Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo, borrowed staff pension fund to fund the 2018 accreditation exercise and the purchase of luxurious vehicles, Prof. Fagbohun, SAN, described the allegation as mischievous and ill-informed, noting that the University’s Staff Pension Fund is intact.
“The 2018 accreditation exercise was funded using funds from our Escrow Investment Account and it will be reimbursed as soon as the money is released by the State Government. All the funds expended on the 2018 accreditation exercise, including the purchase of vehicles, were fully captured in our budget approved for the university by the Lagos State Government. All we did were done following due process and transparency.”
The University’s commitment to best practices in the handling of its staff pension fund was acknowledged in a letter by the Lagos State Pension Commission (LASPEC) to the Vice Chancellor commending the institution. The letter read in part: “I am directed to intimate you of our findings on the level of compliance by your Agency with the provisions of the contributory Pension Law, during the visit of our Inspectorate Team to your office on the 17th August, 2018. We noted that contributions made by the Agency and the deductions from the salaries of the employees were promptly remitted into the employees’ individual Retirement Savings Account. We also observed that the Group Life Policy was in place, while life assurance cover has been renewed up to 11th April, 2019. We hereby confirm that your agency is compliant and quite committed to the ideals of the Contributory Pension Scheme.”
Prof. Fagbohun, SAN, backed his position with evidences sighted by officials of the Civil Rights Organisations. Among the documents he shared with members of the Team were:
A letter, which had attached to it, Record of Service of Dr. Peter Akinsola Okebukola (now Distinguished Prof. Peter Akinsola Okebukola);
A letter dated April 23, 2018 from the Vice Chancellor to the State Government titled: ‘Request For The Release of N474m for Accreditation As Approved in the Year 2018 Budget’;
A letter dated September 19, 2018 from the Vice Chancellor to the State Government titled: ‘Re: Request For Approval For The Temporary Use of Invested Pension Fund for 2018 Accreditation Exercise’;
Decision of Governing Council on Ratification of the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council’s Executive Approval on the Temporary Use of Invested University Pension Fund For 2018 Accreditation Exercise;
Letters from the National Universities Commission, which confirmed the accreditation of the 37 different programmes presented by the University in 2018;
A letter from Lagos State Pension Commission to the Vice Chancellor, dated August 28, 2019 with the title: “Contributory Pension Scheme Compliance Inspection Report”; and
Receipt of vehicles purchased from Elizade Nigeria Limited.
In their responses, the teams from the Civil Right Groups appreciated the Vice Chancellor, Prof. ‘Lanre Fagbohun, SAN, for enthusiastically receiving them to clarify the contentious issues, praising him for “adopting participatory governance.”
In his response, Comrade Debo Adeniran, stated, thus: “we need to commend your administration for adopting participatory governance. We are not out only to fight corruption, but to promote individuals and organisations like the Lagos State University who are doing things right. We are impressed with your clarifications and these documents shown to us.”
The President, CSGGG, Comrade Ogakwu Dominic, expressed satisfaction with the explanations made by Prof. Fagbohun, SAN. “I commend you for opening your doors to personally meet with us. It shows you are a transparent person. I have seen you from afar and was impressed with your person. So when I read those allegations, they weren’t consistent with what I know of you. Today, you have cleared our doubts. We thank you.”
Also lending his voice, Com. Agbonkpolor Splendor of ILEWN commended Prof. Fagbohun, SAN, for his simplicity and open-mindedness. “…it shows that you are a humble leader. With the clarifications and evidence that you have provided, we are pleased with what we have seen. We will go back to also let the world know the truth.”
The President, Voters Awareness, Bar. Wale Ogunnade, while commenting on the issues gave thumbs-up to the University over the validity of the evidences presented. “As a lawyer, I was particular about the genuineness of the documents you presented to us and I can see that they are very much in order. We have seen instances where people quickly doctor documents just to use in their defense. We commend you for your credible records.”
By Johnson Ayo