- Acquires N49m Official Car for Self, Devoid of Due Process, Even As He Decries Lack Of Money For Basic Academic Programs
- His Firm, Cronies’, Wife, Son, Involved in Scramble For Juicy Contracts?
- Perpetrates Corruption, Shields Benefactors That Squandered N400m
- Flouts University Laws, Abuses Due Process With Impunity
- Applies Selective Justice For Members of Varsity Community
By Waziri Isa Adam
Since it was founded in 1962, by the Premier of the then Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, had, until recently remained one of the leading and must-attend Ivory Towers in the African subcontinent, in terms of academic excellence and production of hardworking, dedicated, versatile, uncompromising and ideal scholars; whose ultimate desire was to emulate the low profile and administrative style of leadership of its great founder, in terms of prudence, transparency and accountability.
Giving that the late Sardauna was a patriotic and incorruptible leader, as we are often told, compared to his contemporaries, successive leaders in the north, including Vice Chancellors in the Premier University tried to live above aboard by eschewing corrupt tendencies, building bridges, ensuring peaceful harmony and working hard to move the University to enviable heights.
The Sardauna’s style of transparent administration was demonstrated by the likes of late Professor Ishaya Audu, and several others that came after him. Even though some of them were not completely unblemished, because there was one form of allegation of corruption or another levelled against each one of them at different times.
But, because of maturity, and cognizant of the burden of leadership, and also believing that all of them are humans who, when put on a scale to measure their incorruptibility or otherwise, none will escape, because none will be 100% corrupt free, they therefore usually draw a line between the old order and the new one, to start discharging their responsibilities on a clean slate; a decision that is often safer for any discerning, serious, calculative and large-hearted leader.
However, when he took over the University’s mantle of leadership as its 12th Vice Chancellor, less than two years ago, Professor Kabiru Bala, who is not only respected within and outside the University community as one of the few no nonsense and knowledgeable Muslim Professors in the University, but, as an Imam of five daily prayers Mosque in his former Hanwa low-cost community, entered the 8th Floor of the University’s Senate building with anti-corruption slogan and a big stick with which he promised to whip whoever, no matter how highly placed, that had committed, or will commit any act of fraud or corruption in the University.
Many people in the University really commended him for this President Buhari-like slogan, thinking that he really meant what he said.
Campaign to rid any society of corruption is no doubt a slogan that is still appealing to many people opposed to it today; even as such campaigns usually end up being either selective fight against perceived foes or mere rhetorics, as it has been proven at different levels in the country.
However, when the Vice Chancellor started by denying his predecessor, Professor Ibrahim Garba, all his severance entitlements, refusing to allow him proceed on his Sabbatical leave and also compelling him to return the utility car he was using, as Vice Chancellor, and which, traditionally, and in line with the University’s Council resolution in 2003, he was supposed to go with as gratis, while the Registrar, Bursar, University Librarian and the two Deputy Vice Chancellors pay a token book value of theirs, as he benefitted from same after serving out his first term tenure as DVC (Administration); arguing that Professor Garba has cases to answer, people thought he actually had genuine reasons for such a decision, which was unknown to the members of the University community. A reason why, they therefore gave him the benefit of the doubt.
But, instead of setting up a committee to investigate Professor Garba, if at all he had committed any grave offence that warranted investigation, the Vice Chancellor unilaterally took the decision to punish him without trial.
Following this strange decision, however, many people, especially keen followers of the Ibrahim Garba and Kabiru Bala’s protracted face-off which, they opined, started as a result of Garba’s refusal to reappoint Bala as his deputy to serve out his second and final term of two years; an action that is seen and believed to be largely responsible for Professor Garba’s ordeals, or sins.
This is so, because it was obvious that Garba’s decision did not actually go down well with Professor Bala, as he was allegedly heard saying at several fora that if he eventually became the University’s Vice Chancellor, he will make sure that Garba paid a very high price for denying him second chance to serve him as Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration).
Many discerning scholars in the university were and are still of the view that this threat by Professor Bala was uncalled for, especially giving the fact that it was the same Professor Garba that cleared the way for him to become the Vice Chancellor today. This is so because, It was Garba that first appointed Bala as the University’s Dean of Deans – Dean of School of Postgraduate Studies, and later appointed him Deputy Vice Chancellor Administration. No doubt, without these appointments there was no way Bala would have become a Vice Chancellor in the University today.
What surprises many people today in the University is, instead of Professor Bala to set up a high powered committee that will comprise of people of integrity to investigate lingering, high profile and controversial cases of monumental corruption, particularly the one involving his benefactor, who is widely rumoured to have squandered a whopping sum of about N400m in the name of renovating the institution’s Kongo Conference Hotel, without accountability or retiring the money, and who later fraudulently requested for the release of another sum of N60m which he claimed was money for materials he purchased from suppliers on credit, because the earlier money given to him was not enough to undertake the renovations, but the then Vice Chancellor declined, owing to Kurfi’s inability or refusal to retire the initial sum given to him; he is busy tormenting the person that without his help, he could not have been what he is today.
As one who portrays himself as the most prudent Vice Chancellor and no nonsense Chief Accounting Officer the University ever produced in recent times, many scholars who are very familiar with the high profile case of corruption that took place under his watch when he was DVC and Chairman of the Board of Kongo Conference Hotel, expect him to prove the sincerity of his anti- corruption stand by appointing patriotic, qualified and independent Auditors to investigate the Kongo Conference Hotel scandals and to make their findings public.
A letter written to the Vice Chancellor on 14th April, 2020, signed by Professor Sadiq Z. Abubakar who succeeded him as Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) and Chairman, Board of Directors, ABU Hotels, entitled, “Refusal By Immediate Past Director of ABU Hotels, Dr Bashir Usman Kurfi (P. 12526) To Give Account of Finances of the Hotel Despite formal Requests”, did not receive any serious attention from the Vice Chancellor, as he looked the other way without taking any action to investigate the alleged scandals.
The letter which partly read, “this is to bring to your notice that Dr. Bashir Usman Kurfi of the Department of Business Administration of this University, was appointed as the Director of ABU Hotels on 14th September, 2015 and managed the facility in that capacity up to the 15th of October 2019 when he successfully completed four (4) year allowable tenure. Dr. Ahmad Bello of Department of Accounting was subsequently appointed as the new Director of the Hotels on the 15th October 2019. In order to guide the new management of the Hotel, a meeting was held between the new and the out-going Directors on the 18th October, 2019 where series of issues were discussed and agreement reached that a formal handing over note would be prepared by Dr. Bashir U. Kurfi and submitted to Dr. Ahmad Bello.”
The letter added that, “the new Director followed up with the outgone Director on this agreement, but nothing was prepared and handed over to him. The new Director then reported the matter to the ABU Hotels Board at its meeting held on 31st December 2019.
The Board deliberated on the matter and recognized the importance of records and documentations especially in a Hotel Business ventures where third party services and finances are involved.
The Board therefore resolved that the new Director should formally request the outgone Director to kindly fulfil his promise and provide all necessary and relevant information needed by the new management of the Hotels, unfortunately, the formal appeal written to Dr. Bashir U. Kurfi failed to yield any positive result.”
It says, “the situation of lack of records, documentations and information flow from the previous to the new Hotel management to establish revenues, liabilities, etc which are critical for the successful running of the Hotel made the Board to call an emergency meeting which was held on 25th February 2020. The Board reviewed the situation and found the failure of Dr. Bashir Usman Kurfi to respond to the formal request of the new Director inappropriate and therefore frowned at his behavior. The Board subsequently resolved and directed that the outgone Director be requested to provide all the relevant and necessary information to the Secretary of the Board as well as to return the Hotel official vehicle attached to the Director (TOYOTA CAMRY SEDAL MODEL 2015) within a timeframe, failure of which Dr. Bashir Usman Kurfi would be formally reported to the Vice Chancellor, being a staff of the University who is answerable to the University management for appropriate action.”
It added that “consequent upon the resolution taken at the Board on 25th February 2020, the Secretary of the Board wrote and delivered two (2) letters to the outgone Director for his compliance within three weeks.”
“Sadly, the Secretary of the Board reported on 3rd April 2020 that the three (3) weeks given to the outgone Director to respond lapsed without receiving any communication from him. On the 7th April, 2020, members of the Board were informed, via the Board’s WhatsApp platform, of the said development and sought and obtained the concurrency of all to proceed and report the matter to the Vice Chancellor.” The letter revealed.
Stressing that, “based on the foregoing, it is the opinion of the ABU Hotels Board that Dr. Bashir
Usman Kurfi is deliberately refusing to communicate and respond to the requests made to him by both the new Director and the Board. This, in our opinion implies that there is an attempt to conceal vital information that borders on accountability and transparency on how the Hotel was managed during his four (4) year tenure as the Director of ABU Hotels. Being a staff of the university and a public servant who is answerable to the university management, it is necessary that Dr. Bashir Usman Kurfi is made to explain why he consistently refused to respond to the demands contained in the two letters attached. It is apparent that all the demands points to serious issues regarding corruption, misappropriation and abuse of public office and trust.”
“The Board of ABU Hotels is therefore reporting the matter to you as the Chief Executive of the University, for your urgent appropriate further necessary action.”
“This is for your urgent attention, please” the letter concluded.
Another letter written to the Chairman of the University’s Council signed by the Chairman of the Institution’s Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU), Malam Abdullahi El-Okene, dated 24th April, 2020, entitled, “Request for Detail Information and Terms of Approval by the Council in Regards of an Investment Fund Granted to Ahmadu Bello University Hotels Ltd. To the Tune of N328,350,000.00 in 2016”, said, “with humility and respect, I write to request for detail information on the above subject matter. Some documents in possession of ACTU indicate lack of transparency and accountability in the handling of the above transaction. Some members of the committee after studying the available documents met on Wednesday the 22nd of April, 2020 and agreed as follows.
i. That ACTU should write to the University Council to provide detail of how the sum of N328,350,000.00 was approved and disbursed to Ahmadu Bello University Hotels Ltd.
ii. That ACTU should write to the University Bursar as to the disbursement of the said sum of money and whether due procedure was adhered to in approving, disbursing and monitoring its expenditure.
iii. That your office should treat this as a matter of urgency and furnish ACTU with the required information within one week of receipt of this letter.”
“I therefore plead that you avail us the information to allow ACTU carry out a proper investigation to ascertain if indeed there is financial mismanagement as indicated in the documents before us.” The letter pleaded.
But, surprisingly, instead of both the Council and Prof. Kabiru Bala-led management to take action on the strongly worded allegations/letters written by both ACTU and the Board of the Kongo Campus Hotels, ACTU was disbanded thereby leaving the members of the University community to insinuate, rightly or wrongly, that the disbandment was meant to give cover to the huge allegation of fraud and corruption levelled against Dr. Bashir Kurfi and his co-travelers at the Hotel.
Another emerging and trending issue or act of impropriety levelled against the Vice Chancellor is that after he had made frantic efforts to convince a reasonable number of stakeholders in the University that, the university is facing serious economic challenges, that it could not provide even basic materials for research and teaching such as markers, dusters and the little imprest usually given for the day-to-day running of affairs of departments, the Vice Chancellor used his executive powers to dip his hands into the account of the University’s Anti-Venom And Natural Research Centre to take out 49,000,000.00 out of the 195,000,000.00 budgeted for it in the current year (2021) for the completion and equipping of the Centre.
The whopping sum (49,000,000.00) was used by Prof. Kabiru Bala to buy for himself, a 2018/2020 Land Cruiser Prado Jeep, the official cost of which, according to experts, in the market is not supposed to exceed N28,000,000.00.
The car which was bought in violation of both Council and Bureau for Public Procurement Laws has generated a lot of controversy within the University and even among members of the University’s Governing Council.
As a Vice Chancellor, he does not have the powers to buy anything of such quantum of money without approval of the University Governing Council, Tenders Board’s approval, without obtaining No-objection from the Bureau For Public Procurement to advertise the purchase of the car. He did not also obtain No approval for solo quotation.
Another thing of concern about the illegal purchase of the Jeep is, up to the time of filing this report, the Vice Chancellor has not officially informed the Council that he has diverted some money belonging to the Antivenom and Natural Toxins Research Centre to buy an official car for himself. An action which some say was deliberate to stave off accusation of virement, by the Council.
Investigations by Education Monitor on the style of administration of Professor Kabiru Bala revealed that for the first time in the history of the University, a Vice Chancellor has turned the University to a barrack where nobody can challenge any of his policies that are alien or counterproductive to the system.
However, it is on record that one action that made Professor Kabiru Bala popular and loved by his fans, who are mostly his students, today in the University is his courage to challenge any Vice Chancellor that he worked with, whenever he disagreed with him. He used to deride Professors who lacked courage to challenge Vice Chancellors’ misdoings, wrong policies or corrupt tendencies.
It would be recalled that Professor Bala confronted and almost insulted the University’s 10th Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, when he served under him as the Director of the University’s Directorate of Academic Planning, when it was apparent to him that Professor Mustapha was steering the University in a reversed direction. Bala, later resigned his appointment in anger and frustration.
But, today, after becoming a Vice Chancellor, Professor Bala does not tolerate criticisms, either because he thinks he is the most pious and patriotic leader that the University has ever produced and therefore must be feared, or, because he thinks he has the monopoly of how to silence anybody in the University that may want to raise his voice against any action of his.
This is why, some say, to achieve smooth and unchallenged sail in the administration of the University, he has resorted to appointing mainly young and inexperienced academics to head vital units or Directorates in the University, even as the University has several senior and renowned scholars who have served the country in many capacities within and beyond its shores, and have the networks, locally and across the world, required to attract a lot of support for the University, especially now when it is in dire need of all sorts of supports and collaborations to survive.
One other serious and unverifiable news making the rounds in the University today about the Vice Chancellor’s unexpected and unbelievable actions, giving his acclaimed smartness, incorruptibility and transparency, is the alleged involvement of his Firm, Cronies and Family members in the scramble for selected and juicy contracts in the University. Even though proponents of this allegations refused to make available documents to justify this claim to Education Monitor, they promised on Oath, to release them in due course in a Wikileaks style.
One popular practice that made running affairs of the University easy and smoother in the past is the age long decentralisation of issues of administration which Professor Bala has successfully torpedoed on his emergence as Vice Chancellor. Unlike it used to be in the past, no Director or Head of any Unit has the right today to independently take any little decision or issues any directive without his approval. This is why, to have absolute and unchallenged control in the University, he had to appoint mostly weaklings with little or no requisite University administrative skills cum experience, and those who cannot look at him in the face and tell him the truth whenever he erred; thereby making him a maximum or sole ruler in the University today.
For instance, it was the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) that used to be in charge of allocation of University Houses to all cadres of staff, except Professorial houses, which used to be directly under the Vice Chancellor’s supervision and who used to be the only one that allocates them; but, unfortunately, he has taken over allocation of the entire University houses to ensure that only staff in his good books are allocated available houses.
Education Monitor gathered that he recently revoked allocation of some houses that were allocated to some Junior staff, by his predecessor, hinging the decision on the fact that the staff were not entitled to University accomodations because their appointments were yet to be confirmed at the time they were allocated the houses.
But, in a contradictory and ironical action, he later re-allocated the same houses to other set of staff whose appointments were also yet to be confirmed by him.
These, and several other double standard actions of the Vice Chancellor, if not checkmated and urgently brought to a halt, by patriotic and courageous stakeholders, will certainly destroy the University.
We must therefore all say No! to Unilateralism in ABU, Zaria, because it is the only heritage standing for us today, and, which is therefore too big and important to be left to an egocentric individual to destroy.