UNILAG: Babalakin wants Echono excluded from deciding on panel’s findings

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Dr Wale Babalakin SAN, former Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has said Mr Sonny Echono, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education cannot be trusted to superintend over the production of the White Paper on the recently submitted report of the Presidential Visitation Panel to the institution.

Babalakin spoke yesterday, Wednesday, on Arise Television as a discussant on the report of the 7-member panel headed by General Martin Luther Agwai (rtd.) which was set up on the authority of the Visitor to UNILAG, President Muhammadu Buhari, to beam a searchlight on events and activities at the institution between 2016 and 2020.

Part of major findings of the visitation panel was that the removal of Professor Oluwatoyin Ogundipe in 2020 as Vice Chancellor by the Babalakin-led Governing Council followed due process, contrary to the stand of the Ministry which reinstated the VC. The panel also said it was able to establish that the university administration under Ogundipe was not above in managing UNILAG finances.

He said, “As for the permanent secretary, it’s only normal to toe the path of honour. You set up a panel on the basis that there was no fair hearing. Your panel came back to you that there was fair hearing. You can’t sit in judgment on that document. Again, it is just immoral. You can’t, somebody else would sit on it.”

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Babalakin, also a former Chairman of University of Maiduguri Governing Council and former Chairman of Committee of Pro-Chancellors recalled that the Permanent Secretary also showed that he was an interested party in the UNILAG corruption saga which led the immediate past Council to remove Ogundipe.

He said the Permanent Secretary attempted to shield Ogundipe the first Council wanted to probe him as he attempted to impose two no-go-arears.

“I was in disbelief. I called his bluff. I was going to go ahead. The member representing the Ministry of Education told me that the Permanent Secretary said I shouldn’t talk about it. I said what do you mean? I’ve been Pro-Chancellor before. I know the rights of a Pro-Chancellor. I said, give it to me in writing. She brought it to me the next day that – don’t look at the collapse of the building and don’t look at the accounts of the university. Sonny Echono signed a letter to that effect,” Babalakin recalled.

Babalakin said control of universities have to be taken from the Ministry of Education, regretting that “All the things that happen in UNILAG from the beginning to the end, to even the new appointments were all wrong in law, they cannot survive any legal tests. And the permanent secretary presided over it. What is the business of the permanent secretary with the universities?”

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Saying the he was happy that the presidential visitation panel agreed with his Council that the management of UNILAG engaged in financial malpractices, Babalakin said Prof Ogundipe should be prosecuted to send a strong signal to others that may want to toe his line.

He said he was happy that the panel established the position of his Council that the management of the university concealed the accounts and other critical information for three years from the governing council of the university, while the VC was further confirmed to have breached contract tender processes that resulted in contract splitting to the tune of 1.8 billion Naira.

He noted that he was also fleeced by the UNILAG as his donation of five hundred thousand per month for a period of twenty months for the Law Faculty to be equipped with law report was looted.

He said that a day after he became the Pro-Chancellor, he went round the faculties and when he got to the Faculty of Law where he graduated from, he discovered that there were no current law reports.

“All the money I paid for books was diverted into a non-university accounts. They named it staff welfare account or something like that, instead of going to the university’s TSA account and they spent it at will. That was not the only donation. I went to Creative Arts where they made a presentation that will make even Steve Rhodes envious. And I said, what is your challenge here? No money. So I said, okay, every month I’ll give you N400, 000 for the minor things you can require,” he recalled.

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Babalakin said, “The university wasn’t short of funds. It was simply being diverted.”

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