EXCLUSIVE: LASU enforces secrecy oath on staff after PREMIUM TIMES exposed fraud

The Lagos State University (LASU)
The Lagos State University (LASU)

After a series of reports by PREMIUM TIMES detailing alleged fraud at the Lagos State University (LASU), the management of the university has issued directives that all staff must sign an “oath of secrecy”.

The directive, signed by the institution’s Deputy Registrar, Mustapha R. M, was issued after the 121st meeting of the university governing council on May 9, about a month after this newspaper published the first report.

Printouts of the oath of secrecy were given to non-academic staff members first. They were directed to fill them and submit them on or before September 9.

Last Thursday, the university management distributed the same oath to academic staff members.

According to the management, academic staff had 24 hours to fill and sign the oath and personally submit them to Academic Staff Establishment department of the university.

According to an internal memo of the university titled: Decision of the Governing Council on Sanctity of Official Information and Documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, the university’s governing council explained that the decision was taken to because of the “need to uphold the integrity of the university by the way official information and documents are handled.”

”Council in view of the foregoing approved as follows: (i). the Oath of Secrecy as contained under Section 3.8.1 of the Senior Staff Conditions of Service should be administered on all staff members of the university; (ii) in compliance with the above regulation on confidentiality in the university, all members of staff should endorse the Oath of Secrecy Form, using the attached template,” the memo read.

“(iii) the Oath of Secrecy should also form part of assumption of duty formalities for persons joining the service of the University, (iv) heads of various units and Departments of the University should regularly emphasize to their staff the need to remain true to the Oath of Secrecy.”

Oath

The oath of secrecy reads: “I, (insert name) solemnly undertake that I will NOT directly or indirectly disclose, communicate or convey or allow to be disclosed, communicated, or conveyed directly or indirectly to any person, any confidential information whatsoever obtained by me or in or about the performance of my duties or by virtue of my position a a member of staff.

“Further, that I shall not remove or circulate official document of the University without formal authorization of the appropriate officers of their designate

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“So help me God.”

LASU authorities took the decision four months after PREMIUM TIMES revealed that Peter Okebukola, a former executive secretary of the Nigerian University Commission (NUC), and Professor of Science Education at LASU, falsified his age to extend his retirement date.

He used three different dates of birth (February 17, 1949; February 17, 1948 and February 17, 1951) interchangeably to manipulate the system several times during his career.

Despite being aware of this discrepancy, which ordinarily should have earned him immediate dismissal according to university rules, the institution condoned and even defended the professor. It failed to apply its own rule.

Also in April, this newspaper revealed the management of LASU diverted N198 million it illegally withdrew from the contributory pension of the institution’s employees to purchase 12 luxury vehicles for members of its top echelon.

The management also used an additional N83.37 million from the same fund to buy four buses, documents obtained by this newspaper revealed.

The N281 million was part of N474 million withdrawn in October 2018 purportedly to finance the National University Commission’s (NUC) accreditation of some academic programmes in the university, a withdrawal prohibited by Nigeria’s pension legislation.

Shocked ASUU

In May, the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) in the institution wrote to Lagos State governor and the university’s visitor, Akinwunmi Ambode, to probe the school’s management.

The letter was dated May 13, and signed by Tony Dansu, the secretary of the ASUU-LASU, and his deputy, Adeola Oyekan.

The two have since been sacked.

In the petition, the union similarly accused the university’s Vice Chancellor, of obtaining his professorship through dubious means.

‘Sacked for blowing whistle’

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Adebayo Ninalowo-led governing council of the university wielded the big stick on ASUU officials on Thursday.

The lecturers were accused of “unauthorised removal, retention and dissemination or publication of official confidential documents”.

The sacked lecturers include Mr Dansu, Senior Lecturer, Department of Human Kinetics, Sports and Health Education; Mr Oyekan, Lecturer 1, Department of Philosophy, and Kemi Abodunrin-Shonibare, an associate professor, Department of African Languages, Literature and Communication Arts.

The trio are the Secretary, Assistant Secretary and Treasurer of the university’s chapter of the ASUU, respectively.

In 2018, ahead of the selection process for a new registrar at the university, the university’s chapter of ASUU petitioned the governing council, accusing the immediate past Registrar, Akinwunmi Lewis, of illegally backdating the professorial promotion of the incumbent vice-chancellor, Olanrewaju Fagbohun.

The petition, which was signed by Messrs Dansu and Oyekan, accused Mr Lewis of misinterpreting the decision of the council, which was taken on May 7, 2014, to promote the vice-chancellor by backdating the promotion to 2008.

LASU authority’s decision to sack the lecturers is against the Federal Government Whistle-blower policy.

The policy supports the fight against financial crimes and corruption, by increasing exposure of financial crimes and rewarding whistle-blowers.

In order to promote such exposure, whistle-blowers are encouraged and offered protection from harassment or intimidation by their bosses or employers.

University reacts

When contacted, Ademola Adekoya, the spokesperson of the University told PREMIUM TIMES that the oath of secrecy is important to protect the ‘secret’ of the institution.

“Even when documents expose irregularities, you must get approval from the authority. You can’t come and steal a document from LASU. People went to the office of the VC, took confidential documents and unfortunately they started circulating it,” he said.

Mr Adekoya said the University’s condition of service “does not support unauthorised disclosure of official documents”.

Responding to enquiries on what will be done to staff who may decide not to sign, he said: “Nobody has said they won’t sign. Even the management signs and it is not to witch-hunt anybody,” he said.

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