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Alleged theft of N1.6b stirs fresh posers at YABATECH


Main entrance of the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos

Main entrance of the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos

Last year, the management and the outgone governing council of the Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), cleared the school’s rector, Dr. Margaret Kudrat Ladipo, of allegations of corrupt practices levelled against her by former bursar of the school, Olugbenga Ibirogba. Now, the school says Ibirogba and others must account for the sum of N1.6b allegedly stolen from the Student Account Section of the bursary, based on questions raised by auditing firm, Adebayo Arowolo and Co, writes ENO-ABASI SUNDAY.

When in June 2015, the management and Governing Council of the Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH), Lagos, passed a clean bill of health on the institution’s rector, Dr. Margaret Kudirat Ladipo, absolving her of allegations of corrupt practices leveled against her, many thought it would signal an end to allegations of sleaze that has pervaded the institution for a while now.

But recent revelations appear to suggest that the institution, which has been in the eye of the storm of late, may still be sailing in troubled water for sometime to come.

Part of the reasons that led to the passage of a clean bill of health on Ladipo stemmed from allegations levelled against her by a group known as Save Nigerian Wealth, led by one Abdul Abiola.

In the last three years, the school’s management has been plastered with a cocktail of petitions written by one Hon. A. E. O. Akins. Investigations by the Nigerian Police, however, linked the authorship of the publication to a former bursar of the institution, Mr. Olugbenga Ibirogba, who at that time was is in court challenging his suspension from office.

The petitions were sent to the various agencies of government including the Federal Ministry of Education, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Inspector General of Police, Chief of Staff to the President, the Head of Service of the Federation and the school’s governing council.

At the prompting of the Head of Service, the school’s governing council, under the chairmanship of immediate past chairman, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, set up a five-man committee led by Shehu Ibrahim Kagara to investigate the allegations. It came up with a report dated September 13, 2013, and addressed to the then Minister of Education. The report cleared the rector of the allegations of corrupt practices.

In a letter of acquittal to the rector dated September 27, 2013, the Registrar/Secretary to Council, Biekoroma Amakapabo, noted: “The council was satisfied with the findings of the committee that the allegations were spurious and baseless; and a mischief intended to malign the character of the rector.”

Within that period, chairman of the school’s governing council, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, had in a protest letter to the Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission titled, “Report on Campaign of Calumny Against the YABATECH Administration by Olu Ibirogba and his Cohorts,” traced the campaign of calumny to 2013, claiming that many of the write-ups bore fictitious names.

He regretted that a police investigation in March 2014 indicted Ibirogba and his group as the brains behind the frivolous petitions and the attempt to malign the reputation of the rector, saying, “This campaign of calumny poses a serious distraction to the unprecedented developmental process being carried out by the Rector. This is against public interest.”

Following the series of discoveries that Ibirogba and his cohorts were on a vengeful mission, the Director of Public Prosecution, Lagos State wrote to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Nigerian Police, Department of Criminal Investigation, Musiliu Smith Street, Yaba vide reference LJP/MISC/2014/207 that, “after careful examination of Ibirogha, Samuel Akharayi and Samuel Erhununse”, that the trio be charged to court with the offence of impersonating other public officers contrary to section78 (a) and (b) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State; disclosure of official secrets contrary to Section 59, “a public servant removing document contrary to Section 60.

All these notwithstanding, the Federal Government in its wisdom included the school amongst those to be examined after allegations of financial and administrative abuses were levelled against their vice-chancellors and rectors.

Apart from YABATECH, the probe panel set up last December by the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu also visited the Federal University, Dustin-Ma, Katsina State; Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State; University of Uyo, among others.

Since the panels submitted their reports in January this year, the Federal Government has been tight-lipped regarding making the findings public, a development that has given room for immense speculations.

However, last week, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), which urged President Muhammadu Buhari to make public reports of the investigating panels, specifically appealing to him to immediately implement the panel’s recommendation on YABATECH, and that of other helmsmen accused of abuse of office.

The CLO President, Mr. Igho Akeregha, while addressing newsmen in Lagos said the call had become imperative “to serve the full course of justice and stem ravaging corruption in the country’s higher institutions.”

According to him, more than two months after the submission of the reports, it was necessary to inform the public about findings of the panels, just as he urged the president to reinstate eight members of staff of the college, including the sacked bursar, Ibirogba, whom, he claimed, the authorities sacked for allegedly exposing the fraud in the college.

The sacked workers had in a petition to Buhari, dated June 10, 2015, which was entitled, “Large-scale Stealing And Victimisation By YABATECH Authorities: Appeal For Intervention So
that We Are Not Silenced,” accused the rector of engaging in corrupt practices.

They noted that the governing council of the school approved N5m monthly security vote for the rector, an allegation, which Ladipo had denied.

Last week, the school in a fresh release claim that a committee set up by the management to audit the school’s Student Account Section of the Bursary based on questions raised by an auditing firm, Adebayo Arowolo & Co, found that about N1, 682,806,539 was unaccounted for within the period. The school named Ibirogba and six others as those that are to account for the missing sum allegedly stolen from the college coffers between 2008 and 2013.

According to accounting specialist and chairman of the investigation committee, Mr. Joseph Akeju, Ibirogba, Charles Akhariya; Mrs. Onabanjo Olukorode; Azeez Ajewole; Michael Oyenola; Amu Foluke; Egbemi Chinwe and Florence Egbeni, allegedly jointly carted away both the software and hard copies of records of payment and other records from the section.

“Although that made the assignment tedious, but because of the commitment of the committee members, we were able to collect data from the registry on students’ enrolment, bank reconciliation reports, interviews with both bursary and registry staff, we were able to get results.

“Comparing the actual with the expected earnings between 2008 and 2009, the committee found that the variance in 2008 was N108, 393,665. The variance for 2009 was N119, 807,030 and the figures continued to increase to N656, 376, 570 in 2013,” he said.

Akeju blamed the theft of huge sums of money from the bursary during the period covered by the investigation when Ibirogba and Akharayi were bursar and head of student section respectively on “the throwing up of strangers into the bursary unit to boss their seniors and rampage the system.”
Receiving the report, Dr. Ladipo expressed dismay at the level of fraud allegedly perpetuated by the sacked bursar.
“It is evidently clear now that it is corruption fighting back as we make efforts to clear the ugly past left in the college by fraudsters thrusting themselves up as whistle blowers.

“I became suspicious of the sanity of records emanating from the bursary when Ibirogba turned himself into a tin god and circumvented the system to enrich himself and his cohorts. Each time questions were asked, he would bring up an order that empowered only him to know the nitty gritty of the bursary. Unknown to anyone, he had a game plan up his sleeves.”

Ladipo said all efforts would be made to retrieve every kobo stolen by the group through lawful means. “This is an eye opener that it was corruption that fought the college almost to a standstill these past few years.”

Ibirogba in his reaction told The Guardian that the fresh allegation “Is a clear case of mischief. It is because we raised alarm about the monumental fraud perpetrated by in the institution under the watch of Dr. Ladipo. We are appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari, to make public the finding of the investigative committee, which also had audience with us the victims, which the school is making serious efforts to bastardise.

“In the interest of justice and for the sake of eight victimised accountants in YABATECH, their families, dependants, the common wealth as well as stop further financial haermorrhage and total obliteration of evidences, I use this medium to register my appeal to the President and Commander in Chief, to urgently act on the reports of Ministerial Adhoc Committee, routed to him through the Honorable Minister of Education.

“Mr. President I support wholeheartedly the call by the C.L.O. that the time to extricate the cancer and uproot the monster of corruption in YABATECH is now.”

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