INVESTIGATION… Yaba College of Technology: Plethora of graft trails Rector, staff
Sheltered in the heart of Lagos mainland, its sultry environment belies the rot within. But this has not always been so.
Established in 1947, Yaba College of Technology is Nigeria’s pioneer higher educational institution. The institution, rather than attract fame for educational achievements, is currently embroiled in different corruption allegations.
The school has been rocked by financial misappropriation, maladministration, insider dealings in contract awards, contract splitting and kickbacks, among others.
Unfortunately, the name of the outgoing Rector, Dr. (Mrs) Margaret Kudirat Ladipo keeps popping up in every finding of questionable actions of financial activities.
Also questionable is the seeming inability of the bodies with supervisory powers over the Rector and the institution, namely the school’s Governing Council and the Ministry of Education, to address the severe rot within the citadel of learning, even after a panel of investigation set up by the Ministry of Education found the leadership led by Ladipo wanting in the discharge of its responsibilities.
Rather, those who have dared to speak out against what they felt was improper have found themselves at the receiving end of the whipping stick.
The Adamu Adamu intervention
In December 2015, based on several petitions and complaints against the management of the YabaTech, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, instructed the Director, Tertiary Education Department, Mrs. Hindatu Umar Abdullahi to set up an Ad-Hoc Committee to investigate the allegations contained in the petitions.
The six-man committee had Prof. Idowu Awopetu as chairman, and O.P. Oshiba served as the secretary. Other members were Prof. Ngozi Nnamani, Dr. Sikiru Eniola, Ngubane Gladys P. and Lawal Hafiz.
Ripples Nigeria is in possession of the report from the committee’s investigations containing the findings, observations and recommendations which for whatever reason were left to gather dust without follow-up action.
A report and its many findings
The report noted that the committee visited the College, and had a one-on-one interaction with about 50 individuals and organisations connected to the petitions.
The Committee investigated several allegations of financial mismanagement against the management of Yabatech, and discovered, among other infractions, that the Rector, collects N5 million monthly as security vote, with no internal control mechanism, for its usage.
On page 8, the report notes that Zenith Bank, and other corporate bodies within the college, paid commissions for contractual agreements to individuals, instead of paying same into the school’s account. An arrangement which it said encourages fraudulent practices.
A former PRO of the College, Mr Adekunle Adams is said to have collected at least N625, 000 of as commission in three tranches from the bank.
The same Adams allegedly owned two companies, Sheric Enterprises and Fask Communications with which he received the sum of N6 million from Jack Kay, a consultant with the college.
He was also alleged to have received another N3.7 million in cash from the consultant, but he denied it. Mr Jacob Kayode, Managing Director of Jack Kay also confirmed paying N3 million each into Adams’ companies’ accounts.
For these infractions on the Code of Ethics and Conduct as contained in the Civil Service Handbook and Public Service Rule (Revised), the Rector only gave Adams a query, ignoring the disciplinary actions spelt out by the two documents for such grave offences.
There are, however, claims in some quarters that Adams was only acting as a front in the dealings on behalf of the Rector, a claim that could not be ascertained, as Adams denied it.
The committee on page 9 also raised eyebrows over a retreat that was organized by Jack Kay Hotels on behalf of Yabatech. It noted that the sum of N11.3 million approved by the Governing Council for accommodation, feeding, and N3 million for facilitators and souvenirs was on the high side.
While the quotation for the retreat, which was not advertised, was for 39 participants, and council approved 30, the committee discovered that only 11 participants, plus the principal officers of the college attended it. The voucher with which N3 million was paid into the account of one Mr. G.A. Ogunsanwo was nowhere to be found.
On allegations against the Yaba Consult Block Making, Paint Industry, the committee on page 12 of its report called on the Auditor-General to conduct a forensic audit of the Bursary and YCT consult, and also called on the YCT Consult to refund N3.1 million seed money to the College’s account.
The Ministry’s investigative Committee also observed, that the College’s staff recommend their own contractors to submit quotations for projects, a practice that negates due process.
The Investigative committee also found out that the Governing Council had been monetizing the Rector’s annual vacation abroad since she came into office, which the committee said, calls into question the proper management of funds at the institution.
The unseen hands of a cabal?
Reports show that the College’s Governing Council in August of 2013, set up a Governing Council Investigative Committee headed by Hon. Ibrahim Shehu Kagara, to investigate allegations against the Rector, Mrs Ladipo. The exercise however turned out to be an avenue to enrich a number of people.
The Education Ministry revealed on page 21 of its report that the members of the Governing Council Investigative Committee received funds in contravention of the financial regulations guiding the institution.
The committee was found to have collected their weekly allowances on a daily basis, that is, they collected the same amount of allowances for 27 days(27 times), rather than collect same for four weeks (four times).
The chairman, and members of the Council Investigative Committee collected N40, 000 and N30, 000 respectively daily for 27 days, and also N20, 000 as DTA (Daily Transport and Accommodation) even when they were accommodated and fed at the College’s Guest House while they were in Lagos.
So, instead of receiving N160,000 and N120,000, the chairman and members of the Council Investigative Committee allegedly received N1.080 million and N810, 000 respectively for the four weeks.
It was established that the committee also collected N2million which it said was to write its report in Abuja, all of which the Rector approved.
Bring back the money!
The report of the Ad-Hoc Committee, therefore, recommended that the excess money collected by the council members on their investigation be computed and refunded to the College accounts. There are no indications that this has been done.
The ministry’s committee also revealed that there was a general lack of competitive bidding in the award of contracts, for which the Rector’s excuse was that she was new to the job as at then.
Critics have, therefore queried how she got appointed in the first instance to head such an institution, without a deep appreciation of processes involved in the award of contracts running into millions of Naira.
The committee further observed that there was lack of due diligence on expenditure by the Bursary Department of the college, adding that the situation in the Bursary Department called for overhauling.
It also recommended that there was need for a forensic audit of all the accounts of the College, which Ripples Nigeria gathered has not been done in the last four years.
Transparency thrown to the dogs
In spite of these allegations of financial misappropriations leveled against the management of the institution, and discoveries of financial mismanagement by the committee, reliable sources revealed that the College’s accounts have not been audited since 2013, which in itself is curious, given that this goes against the provisions of the Federal Polytechnics Act.
However, an email message to the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAGoF) to confirm or deny the assertion went un-replied.
According to Section 20 of the Act: (1) Each Council shall keep proper accounts and proper records in relation thereto and shall cause to be prepared, not later than 1 October in each financial year, an estimate of its revenue and expenditure for the ensuing financial year and when prepared, the estimate shall be submitted to the National Board for Technical Education for approval.
(2) At the end of each financial year but not later than 30 June the Council shall cause to be prepared a statement of its income and expenditure during the previous financial year.
(3) The statement of accounts referred to in subsection (2) of this section shall, when certified by the Rector, be audited by a firm of auditors appointed from the list and in accordance with the guidelines supplied by the Auditor-General of the Federation and shall be published in the annual report of the polytechnic.
This has not been done in Yabatech in the last four years under Dr (Mrs) Ladipo, yet the Governing Council, and supervising body in the Ministry of Education has not asked questions.
There appears, therefore, to be no accountability for the over N2 billion which the College is said to generate from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) yearly, Federal Government’s yearly grant of about N400 million as well as other grants and donations which the institution receives.
A Governing Council in limbo
The committee also indicted the Governing Council under the leadership of Chief Ebenezer Babatope for failing to provide good leadership and guidance for the management of the College, particularly in the case of management of funds.
Findings suggest that the members of the Governing Council under Chief Babatope may have also benefitted from the alleged mismanagement of funds in the College.
Searches by Ripples Nigeria revealed that principal officers of the institution and the Governing Council under Babatope were in the habit of raising memos for official trips for which entitlements were collected, but they never embarked on such trips.
It was gathered that a number of memos were raised for such trips between 2013 and 2015.
A source within the school revealed that the former PRO, Adams was usually the one who generated such memos on behalf of Babatope, as he would generate another one to include himself as a Personal Assistant (PA) to accompany the chairman on the trip.
Monies for the trip were said to be usually paid into his Zenith Bank Account number 1001861317.
In December 2013, the College organized a retreat for the newly appointed members of the Governing Council led by Chief Babatope, and other principal officers to intimate them on the requirements and expectations of their new appointments.
Curiously, Babatope is reported to have collected honorarium as a speaker for a retreat for which he was a participant as well.
The Ministry of Education committee rightly found this inappropriate, and recommended on page 38 that though the council has been dissolved, any excess funds the members received should be refunded. There are no clear indications that this has been done.
‘It’s a figment of your imagination’
When Ripples Nigeria contacted the College’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Mr Charles Oni on these issues and allegations, he retorted “It’s a figment of your imagination, there is nothing like that about us”.
But when he was informed that we had in our hands, a copy of the report by the Ministry of Education’s Ad-Hoc Investigative Committee, he submitted that he would not speak on phone, and that if we wanted an interview, we should come to his office, which we did.
On why the security vote of the Rector is not tied to any specifics, as noted by the committee, Mr Oni said “the fact that the money is called security vote means that it is tied to security of lives and properties in Yabatech”.
He also stated that the College maintains different cadres of security outfits, who are paid, and supplied with equipment. “This year alone we have bought vehicles for Panti, we have bought vehicles for Sabo police stations. These are documented, and have been reported in the media. We did that as part of our corporate social responsibility”.
On the committee’s finding that members of the Council Investigative Committee were over paid, and its recommendation that they refund the excess money to the College’s account, the PRO said “There is no way I can know if they have been made. I am not working in the bursary and I don’t know anything about that”.
Also, on findings that the Governing Council under Chief Babatope was also overpaid during its retreat, and that the members be made to make refunds, Oni also said refunds had been made, but would not provide any evidence.
On the recommendations by the committee concerning YCT, he stated: “The equipment remains assets for the Block Industry, while the raw materials have been imputed into the accounts as running cost. That is the response of the College to that”.
On findings surrounding Mr Adams’ involvement in operating two private companies and the recommendations of the committee, Oni simply said, “the officer has been sanctioned”, and would offer no further details.
However, Ripples Nigeria discovered that one of the companies traced to Adams used in executing contracts from the College was still in operation, and has not been deregistered as at the time of this report.
The firm, Sheric Nigeria Enterprises with registration number KW472 has its office at Block 6, Flat 6, Iponri Housing Estate Surulere, Lagos.
Though Mr Oni would not shed further light on the sanctions meted out to Mr Adams, it was gathered that Adams, despite his misconduct, and breaching the Code of Conduct for public servants, remains a Deputy Registrar at the institution, the same position he occupied as at the time the committee made recommendations that the query given to him was not commensurate with his offence.
Mr Oni also claimed that the institution’s accounts have been audited yearly by the Office of the Auditor-General, against counterclaims by sources, that this was not true.
Oni further offered to get in touch with the Bursary department to find out if the refunds called for by the committee have been made. He was yet to do that as at the time of filing this report.
‘It’s like the woman has a larger than life image’
Speaking on the issues of alleged graft and financial mismanagement in Yabatech, Mr Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership (CACOL), one of the organisations that petitioned Mrs Ladipo, lamented that the Rector has not been made to answer for any of the stated offenses after such a long time.
He told Ripples Nigeria that it has been a back and forth thing, and that the issues have not really been addressed, but noted however, that the current chairman of the Governing Council Board, Bar. Fagbemi has shown sufficient interest in the matters raised.
“We are hopeful that he is going to ensure that justice is done. One thing we know about the Rector, is that she seems notorious for assaulting people intellectually and morally, including harassing them. Even her students are not spared”, he lamented.
He also expressed disappointment with the way the Ministry of Education, has handled the matter and petitions submitted concerning the Rector.
“It’s like the woman has a larger than life image to them. The enormity of the influence she wields makes her feel too big to be cautioned. It’s like everybody has been bought into her antics. But we are not going to relent until she is brought to justice, whether within or outside the office”, he said.
‘Nobody has any confidence that anything can come out of this issue’
The Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) is one of those that had also written petitions alleging financial impropriety, abuse of office and victimization at the College.
CLO Executive Director, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike, who had once led a protest to the Ikoyi office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over their petition, accused the anti-graft agency of foot-dragging over the issues surrounding Yabatech.
“That woman committed huge corruption, not only that, she victimized people who were asking her to do the right thing. She was boasting that nothing can happen to her, because she has people in high places. And with the kind of trend in anti-corruption crusade in this country under the present regime, nobody has any confidence that anything can come out of this issue”.
He called on government to do the right thing by investigating her, and meting out appropriate sanctions if she is found guilty. He also lamented that the EFCC had promised to follow up, but nothing has been done.
“The woman boasted that nothing can happen, and nothing has happened. She has succeeded because she knows that Nigeria is a pariah state, from the presidency to the last man”, Ezike lamented.
The actual amount that may have been lost to corruption in Yabatech is unknown, and so far it is also unknown if Mrs Ladipo will be made to answer any further questions about her tenure at the institution, as she prepares to bow out.
By Etaghene Edirin…