The management of Lagos State University (LASU) has threatened to take legal action against Nigeria’s foremost investigative newspaper, PREMIUM TIMES over a publication on the reappointment of Adebayo Ninalowo as the Pro-Chancellor of the institution despite his involvement in the controversial diversion of N198 million pension fund.
Last year, PREMIUM TIMES exposed how Mr Ninalowo and the institution’s Vice-Chancellor, Olanrewaju Fagbohun, illegally withdrew the huge sum from the contributory pension of the institution’s employees to purchase 12 luxury vehicles for top management members.
The management also used an additional N83.37 million from the same fund to buy four buses, documents obtained by this newspaper revealed.
Sources in the university told this newspaper then that the management decided to use a large chunk of the money for things with completely no correlation with that for which it was withdrawn.
The vehicles were three pieces of Toyota Corolla 1.8 Gli CVT AT LS Luxury model at N63 million plus VAT, seven pieces of Toyota Corolla 1,8 Gli CVT AT FS luxury model at N113.9 million, and two pieces of Toyota Yaris Sedan AT LS (New Model) at N21.42 million for a total of N198.34 million.
The cars were distributed to the top management members in the week of October 22, 2018, this newspaper findings revealed.
In reaction to this newspaper’s publication, the university through its spokesperson, Ademola Adekoya, had in a statement denied diverting the pension fund of its staff to purchase luxury vehicles.
Mr Adekoya claimed that N474 million was used for accreditation exercise and was from its 2018 budget.
But official memos from the university’s governing council and its bursar, obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, showed that Mr Adekoya’s claim was false.
A March 8, 2018 memo with reference number LASU/CM/R.102 signed by the former registrar of the university, Akinwunmi Lewis, clearly said that money for the June accreditation was a “temporary borrowing” from the “university pension/escrow investment.”
“In view of the pending accreditation exercise and the time constraint, the university sought and obtained the executive approval of the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council for temporary borrowing of the sum of two hundred and fifteen million naira [N215,000,000.00] from the university’s pension/escrow investment in order to cover the expenses of the forthcoming accreditation exercise which would be paid back from the approved grant from the Lagos State Government, when paid to the university,” the internal memo stated.
Another memo by the governing council dated October 5, 2018, signed by one Mustapha R.M for the school registrar, also described the N474 million used for the October accreditation as “temporary borrowing.”
The internal memo was titled: Decision of Governing Council on Ratification of the pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council’s Executive Approval on Temporary Use of Invested University Pension Fund for 2018 Accreditation Exercise.
“In view of the impending Accreditation Exercise and time constraint, the university sought and obtained the Executive Approval of the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council for temporary borrowing of the sum of Four Hundred and Seventy-Four Million naira (N474,000,000.00) from the university Pension Investment Fund in order to cover the expenses on the forthcoming accreditation exercise which would be paid back together with the interest which ought to accrue, immediately upon receipt of fund from the State Government.”
PREMIUM TIMES also obtained three different memos written by the school bursar showing how the N198 million disbursed was used to purchase the luxury vehicles.
Not pleased with PREMIUM TIMES latest publication about the reappointment of Mr Ninalowo, in spite of documents obtained by this newspaper proving the contrary, the university in a release by Mr Adekoya claimed it has long clarified that “the money was not taken from the Contributory Pension Funds but, from the provisions regularly made to meet past services obligations.”
“The fund was utilised to meet the 2018 Accreditation exercise. The cars referred to as luxury cars are mere Toyota Corolla vehicles. This clarification was made on 26th April, 2019, where the University further opened up relevant records of the institution to an array of members of the institution of Civil Society Organisations..
“The same allegation was also investigated by ICPC and found to be spurious. The use of the amount from the University’s provisions for past services obligations had the approval of the Governing Council of the University and the concurrence of the State Government at the time. It is important to mention that the State Government has since refunded the said funds to the University.
“It is apparent that some disgruntled individuals are colluding with this media platform to continuously malign the image of the University and that of the Chairman, Governing Council. Against this background, and considering the persistent mischief by the news platform against the University, the Management of Lagos State University has duly taken steps to brief the lawyers of the University,” his statement read.