By Dr. Abdelghaffar Amoka Abdelmalik


The EFCC news on the Ex-ABU VC and Bursar, arraigned for N1bn fraud on Thursday, went viral within a few minutes with several comments. The reactions were as if it is the first corruption case in Nigerian universities. Some people that were always looking for something to tie around the neck of university workers and ASUU had a great day with the news. It was handled at the blogosphere like the entire public universities and their staff are being accused of corruption and are under trial. The news of the former Accountant General that was accused of defrauding Nigeria of over 100bn naira did not generate the equivalent reaction. It was not really surprising. News on members of academia always comes with a bit of spice.

But then, members of the university community have never denied corruption in the university system else they won’t be agitating for the presidential visitation panels. Corruption has become a part of us in Nigeria. So, the university that is in Nigeria can hardly be shielded from it. Corruption is surely one of the major factors that are dragging the country backward and it will continue to grow if the fight is selective or lack political will.

Like them or hate them, ASUU has been a stern voice against corruption. That is the reason why the union fought for several years for the government to activate the Presidential “Visitation Panels” at the prescribed frequency to the universities, a process institutionalized to check the excesses of the university councils and managements.

There are established mechanisms to ensure that the university funds are properly managed. The Director can’t approve more than N100,000. Anything above that must be approved by the VC. The VC can’t approve more than 5m naira or so. Anything above that must be approved by the Council. The Council chaired by an appointee of the president is meant to ensure that the university and the funds are properly managed. So, you expect the president to appoint a personality that will protect the interest of the government and that of the nation. That is hardly the case. Then, the presidential visitation panel is supposed to be sent every 5 years to check for possible excesses. This is a panel that the government hardly sends to the universities till ASUU declares a strike. If sent, their recommendations are hardly implemented by the government.

For about 10 years, there was no visitation panel to any federal university. After several fights since 2015 when this government came to power, ASUU was able to force the government to send the panels to all the federal public universities in 2021. This is 2023, and about 3 months after ASUU was “hectored” out of the strike, the government has refused to release the white paper of the visitation panel reports for implementation. ASUU is still fighting for the release and implementation of the report but they have refused. The deep hypocrisy is complaining of corruption in the university but not supporting ASUU to make the government do the needful and activate the established mechanism to fight corruption in public universities.

The report of the last Visitation Panel to the University of Abuja, in 2012, which recommended the sacking of the management of the university was never implemented to date. ASUU in 2014 demanded the release of the whitepaper and the implementation but it never happened. ASUU was hoping that the implementation of the report will serve as a deterrent to other VCs, but it never happened.

During the last ICPC Summit (October 2022) whose objectives are to highlight corruption issues bedeviling the Education Sector, the ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke was emphatic on corruption in the universities. He said he is sure there are not less than 1000 cases of corruption in Nigerian universities and among them are the university councils. He asked how many were prosecuted. He gave an example of his university, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike. He mentioned that there are not less than 20 cases at ICPC and EFCC against one of the VCs that left recently and nothing happened.

While still expecting government’s action, the same former VC that was accused of academic fraud, financial embezzlement, and administrative impunity by the ASUU branch of the university “miraculously” made the list of the people conferred with a national honour by the president in 2022. Same with the former Council Chairman of Lagos State University who, together with the VC, deployed the pension of Staff for the purchase of luxurious cars.

Evil is growing in Nigeria because nobody is punished for wrongdoing. We seem to be losing the moral value in the university because of the bastardized reward and punishment system. Our universities are getting worse by the day. The leadership of some of the universities is alleged to be deep in corruption and we are now seeing the embarrassing “necklace” of EFCC corruption sign board around their necks. One former VC is convicted a few months ago and another one is under trial and, of course, under media prosecution.

The government seems to be interested in corruption in university management for now. I hope they are really serious. But why did it take this long? If they had listened to ASUU and taken the presidential visitation panels serious instead of tagging the Union as an opposition to crush, we may have been much better than we are today. These may have had a positive impact on the intervention funds.

What is disturbing is the way money has taken over the control of the heart of our supposed intellectuals. People want money, there is no doubt about that. This is to improve quality of life, to gain(buy) friends, to secure a higher status, to be respected in the community, to be feared by enemies, etc. Intellectuals are supposed to live comfortable life to do their job better. They surely deserve better than the slave wage handed over to them by the political class. But they look beyond the accomplishments that society sees as success. They rather want to do something very meaningful that would have a strong impact on the world. By virtue of their personality, money doesn’t control their hearts. A true intellectual have control over money.

Imam Ghazali was asked: “Does money upset the hearts of learned men? He answered, “men whose hearts are changed by money are not learned”. That is an intellectual described in a few words. We had a lot of them.

We seem to have lost that. Most of us are now eager to take advantage of the system that we are supposed to protect and impact. That is possibly why there are growing cases of corruption in universities. There was a time when academics use to run away from administrative responsibilities. It was perceived as a distraction to their scholarly activities. But it has all changed. Becoming an ordinary HoD has become a tough politics in some departments in our universities. I have not been able to figure out the interest they are protecting by holding onto the control of the headship of their departments. We now lobby to be appointed Deans and Directors. Becoming a VC involves some crazy politics and the Abuja lobby. Are we doing all these for service to the system or for some personal benefit?

Sadly, true intellectualism seems to be disappearing from the ivory tower, the home of intellectuals, as politicians become the role model of everyone including the supposed intellectuals. I once saw a VC in a convoy of 5 vehicles within a campus with two Hilux vans full of campus security men in front and back. That was when I realized that the university and the leadership is in a serious identity crisis.

Dear colleagues, where have we gone wrong? Why are we fast losing the respect and regards we use to have as academics? Why are the political class taken us for granted? How do we redeem our image and restore the sanity in the system? We need to slow down a bit for a critical appraisal of the system and self-evaluation. We need to end this journey of self-destruction.

However, I read a piece, possibly authored by a loyalist of the embattled Ex-VC, that got me thinking. We are quick to look for someone to blame for every situation but ourselves. Unfortunately, looking for someone to blame won’t help this case. The piece is more of an embarrassment to the already embarrassing situation. I don’t think anyone should be having a sleepless night if he has done nothing wrong. Remember, the Ex-VC remains innocent till proven guilty. So, it’s pointless looking for someone in the university to blame. However, that embarrassing piece did not prove his innocence and can’t get him off the net. We hope that he is found not guilty and comes out clean.

Moving forward, O’ Lord, guide the Nigerian intellectuals and protect us from holding that disgraceful EFCC corruption sign board.


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