Since September 2018, a senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan, Chukwuemeka Diji, has been experiencing ‘illegal’ deductions from his salary.
Mr Diji, a PhD holder, acted as the Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering from September 2015 to July 2017 before a substantial head was appointed.
Investigation and documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that Mr Diji complained about various controversial, financial actions by his predecessor, Ademola Dare, and successor, Leke Oluwole, both professors.
Also, efforts by the lecturer to question the deductions from his salaries have been unsuccessful.
A month prior to Mr Diji’s resumption as departmental head, his predecessor, Mr Dare, applied for a loan of N400,000 from the university.
The money was, however, only paid to the department’s account after Mr Diji assumed office.
Nothing was stated about the loan in the handover note that Mr Diji received from Mr Dare.
Mr Diji, knowing he did not apply for such loan, approved the transfer of the money into the account of his predecessor.
Checks by this newspaper revealed that Mr Dare was paid the money in October 2015.
The professor, however, delayed in retiring the receipts for the money till 2017 when his successor left office. He also, reportedly, only did that after persuasion from SERVICOM, a unit saddled with monitoring and ensuring service delivery in the school.
Meanwhile, this newspaper learnt that the controversial N400,000 is now being deducted from Mr Diji’s salary. The deductions started from September 2018.
According to Mr Diji and evidences obtained, the sum of N25,000 was deducted monthly from September 2018 to January 2019 while it rose to N50,000 in February up to the time of filing this report.
In an interview with our correspondent, Mr Diji said the school management did not inform him prior to the deductions.
“I learnt that the deduction was because of the salary advance obtained by Mr Dare from an unofficial source in the bursary. No letter up till date,” he explained.
“Today the financial emasculation has been stepped up with illegal and unlawful deduction of N25,000 monthly from my salary between September 2018 – January 2019. In the current month from February 2019, the deduction has been stepped up to N50,000.”
According to Section 5 of the labour act in Nigeria, employers may, with the consent of workers, make deductions from their wages and “pay to the appropriate person any contributions to provident or pension funds or other schemes agreed to by the worker and approved by the State Authority.”
Mr Diji claims his ordeal may be as a result of the infractions of his predecessor which he exposed during his (Diji’s) tenure.
One of these is the running of a bank account for Energy, Technology and Management (ETM) conference for the department of mechanical engineering.
He believes running the account contravenes the Treasury Single Account policy of the federal government which forbids government parastatals, ministries, departments and agencies from operating bank accounts outside the single account owned by the federal government.
The TSA is a bank account or a set of linked accounts through which the government transacts all its receipts and payments.
Under the TSA, all government payments for services and revenue collections are operated through one account known as Consolidated Revenue Fund/Treasury Single Account (CRF/TSA) domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
However, although the TSA was put in place by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, it only began to be implemented after President Muhamamdu Buhari was sworn in, in 2015.
Based on the TSA and what he believes to be fraud in the management of the ETM account, Mr Diji asked that the account be closed.
According to Mr Diji’s handover notes dated August, 21, 2017, which was presented to the vice-chancellor of the university., he requested the closure of the bank account after the third edition of IMEETcon in 2016.
“The third edition of the ETM conference titled IMMEETcon 2016 took place from 7th-9th, September, 2016. The conference was successfully and the standing committee of the conference presented the report of their activities to the departmental academic staff meeting on 20th December, 2016.
“The committee was requested to close the bank account which is being used for the conference from 2012 to 2016 and a proper bank statement submitted to the department. This has not been done,” Mr Diji wrote, attaching the bank documents.
The official also wrote in the handover notes that the transactions made through the account had not been ‘transparent’.
“The previous reports of the ETM conferences of 2012 and 2014 as well as the 2016 edition are not archived in the department. The committee was requested to submit this report for proper records. This has not been done.”
Meanwhile, enquiries made by this newspaper into the account kept with Guarantee Trust Bank, revealed that the account existed between 2012 till 2017 when it was then closed.
According a staffer of the bank who did not want his name in print, the last transaction carried out was a payment of N10, 000 made by a woman from Lagos State.
“From what I checked, the account was closed upon a request by a professor and the last transaction I can see is a woman who paid in N10,000 from Lagos.”
Seeking ICPC Probe
Also, in a letter dated April 9, 2018, Mr Diji wrote the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, (ICPC), and demanded an investigation into the ‘corrupt practices’ in the department. He also alleged that he was being victimised for revealing some of the shady activities.
He begged the commission to compel the university to probe the organisation of the ETM conference and its account since 2012- 2016.
“Since I discovered the corrupt financial dealings and leaving office on the 31st July, 2017, I have come under various acts of intimidation and harassment from my successor in office, Professor Oluwole, who has been doing everything possible to suppress me and suppress the corrupt practices, in order to protect his friends who are the ones principally involved in the fraud,” he said.
Responding to a petition filed by the Mr Diji, the National University Commission, in a letter with the reference number NUC/ES/96/Vol.19/474, promised that the issues ranging from the corrupt practices in the department and his harassment will be ‘escalated’ to the university authorities.
“Please, be informed that the commission has forwarded the petition to the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, for his comments on the matter. The outcome will be communicated to you as soon as we receive response from the university,” the letter read.
This reporter learnt that the embattled lecturer, in a follow-up letter, wrote to the anti-graft agency to remind it of the petition submitted in 2018 and the recent deductions from his wages in January 2019.
He also wrote the chairman of the university’s Senate, the highest decision-making body in the school, to demand justice.
More questions than answers
PREMIUM TIMES on several occasions made efforts to reach the authorities of the school and the mechanical engineering department but the claim by the two were contradictory.
While the school’s spokesperson, Tunji Oladejo, said Mr Diji’s salary is being deducted because “he was the one who applied for the salary advance”, the head of department, Mr Oluwole, confirmed that Mr Diji’s predecessor, Mr Dare, applied for the salary advance of N400,000 but “the cash was paid into the complainant’s bank account”.
Meanwhile, Mr Diji said his successor, Mr Oluwole, “retired the receipts to the school bursary after much pressure”.
After several promises by the school’s spokesperson to investigate the matter, Mr Oladejo told our reporter that “there is no need for any investigation”.
“I know the university system. I know Diji very well. This thing has happened to me before. If you don’t apply for a salary advance, they will not be deducting it from your salary,” Mr Oladejo said.
Repeated efforts to reach Mr Dare, the former departmental head who requested the loan, were not successful. He did not respond to calls and text messages sent to him.
However, the current head of department, Mr Oluwole, narrated his stance.
“Dr Dare got the N400,000. Dare had finished his term and needed money to run things. When the money came around November in 2015, Diji was the HOD. So, he transferred the money to Dare’s account. Dare could not retire the receipt because of some ‘errors’ by Diji. SERVICOM looked at it that , this is a big problem.”
He did not elaborate on the errors in what ordinarily should have been a simple administrative process.
The departmental head also accused Mr Diji of corrupt practices.
“He spent the money meant for buildings given to the department during his tenure. A lot of money he stole and that is what the school is asking him to pay back. There are other issues and he has cases with the disciplinary committee.”
He, however, could not provide documents to back up his claims saying the university regulation forbids it.
When asked if any disciplinary actions were taken against Mr Diji, he said;
“This VC is not decisive and all these going on and no action. Management has kept quiet for two years.”
He also reacted to the IMEETcon scandal.
“The department was running an account before the implementation of TSA. Then when the treasury single account came, we ‘migrated’ the account to the school account. SERVICOM has looked at it and they have holistically done everything.”
Mr Oluwole, while recalling the petition written against the department to the anti-graft agency, said the findings vindicated ‘them’.
“He (Diji) wrote to ICPC first concerning this. ICPC invited all the people involved and saw nothing.”
Meanwhile, the ex-departmenrtal head, Mr Dare, the SERVICOM head, Mr Woods and the legal unit of the school declined comments on the matter when this reporter reached out to them.
ICPC wades in
When this reporter contacted the Oyo/Ogun zonal commissioner for ICPC, Stephen Pimor, he explained that the commission had not released the outcome of its investigation “to any of the parties.”
The official confirmed the receipt of two petitions from the two parties; “one from Mr Diji in 2018 and another earlier in 2019.”
He noted that investigations on the first one has been concluded but it has not been passed to the national headquarters for approval and that the second one is still under investigation.
“After we pass it to the headquarters in Abuja for approval, we will let you know the outcome of our investigation,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
However, a source within the ICPC claimed the commission, while investigating the first petition, “found the school management wanting and that has delayed the release of the report till date”.
“The school is trying all it could to bury the outcome of the investigation,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the affected lecturer is demanding that the matter should not be swept under the carpet and that justice prevail.
“Ever since this started, I have been threatened to withdraw the petition with ICPC, which I will not do. They have levelled several charges against me but no evidence and document to back up.”
He further begged the school authorities to “stop defaming his personality with unverified allegations”.
“Oluwole has been saying that I stole but when the school audited my account, there was no query. At least, the university would have sanctioned me if truly these allegations are true.”