The Senior Staff of Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, had urged Federal Government to suspend three principal officers of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, over alleged N800 million fraud.
Saheed Oseni, the Chairman of SSANU at the Lagos State University, LASU, made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Wednesday in Lagos.
Mr. Oseni said the suspension was necessary as the trio had been arraigned in court by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, for alleged corruption.
The EFCC arraigned the FUNAAB Pro-Chancellor/Governing Council Chairman, Adeseye Ogunlewe, Vice Chancellor, Olusola Oyewole, and Bursar, Moses Illesanmi, in Abeokuta on November 25.
They were arraigned before Justice O.O. Majekodunmi at an Ogun High Court, Abeokuta, based on petition by some of the university workers.
They are facing 18-count charge bordering on alleged stealing, abuse of office, and fraudulent conversion of university’s properties to personal use.
Mr. Oseni said the best thing the government could do would be to direct the three officers to “step aside“ until the court case was over.
“At the moment, the trio must step aside so that investigation will not be tampered with and the government is in the best position to take the action,’’ he said.
Mr. Oseni also urged the Federal Government to immediately direct the reinstatement of SSANU members in FUNAAB who were unjustly sacked by the governing council for writing petition to the EFCC.
He said that since the officials were being prosecuted based on the petition, the sacked workers should be recalled without further delay.
According to him, it is very clear that sacking of the staff is questionable, faulty and did not follow due process.
“The staff were not issued query nor asked to appear before staff disciplinary committee and the governing council did not investigate the allegations against the VC before sacking them.
“We are happy that the EFCC charged the pro-chancellor, VC and bursar to court for corruption.
“It shows that our members who wrote the petition were right and victimised by the governing council and the VC,’’ he said.
Mr. Oseni said the governing council’s claim that it was not aware of the petition against the VC was untrue.
“Before the sacked workers wrote the EFCC, they had written to the Ogunlewe-led council about the excesses of the VC, but nothing was done,’’ he said.
The SSANU-LASU chairman said failure of the council to respond to the workers’ letter prompted them to write to the EFCC.
“It was after the first invitation by the EFCC over the allegation, that the council chairman and the VC came back and sacked the staff who wrote the petition,’’ he said.
Mr. Oseni advised the EFCC to always protect whistleblowers so that workers in the establishment would not be reluctant to expose corrupt practices for fear of victimisation.
He commended the SSANU national body for taking up the case and bringing it to the public domain.
Mr. Oseni also appealed to the Federal Government to beam its searchlight on other universities.
The chairman said this was necessary because corruption in the universities was much more than what was happening in other establishments in the public sector.
He stressed the need to prosecute all university administrators found wanting, alleging that some vice chancellors were acting recklessly and outside their jurisdictions.
“Government has given the VCs too much power and SSANU is the only union challenging their excesses.
“Some VCs see themselves as demigod and this corruption going on in the Nigeria university system is too much,’’ he said.