The outgoing Vice-Chancellor of Osun State University, Prof. Labode Popoola has advised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC to probe earnings and spendings in Universities.
The University Don made the recommendation in an interview with IYABO LAWAL where he deplores the rot in Nigeria’s Universities.
Below is an excerpt from the interview:
There is this tendency to clamp down on students’ union activities for years, how important do you think student leadership is to the smooth running of the university?
The reality is that boys will always be boys just like girls will always be girls. Unfortunately, student unionism the way we knew it is not the way it is now. They are involved in external politics. As a matter of fact, many of them see it as a springboard to join the larger society in politics. So, they like to play the hero even when there is no reason to do that.
That is why we engaged them in leadership training. If we had just succumbed to the quest for student union leadership, probably we would have ended up with the same problems other universities ended up with. But like I said, we engaged them for three years, by bringing in experienced resource persons to train them. We first got the constitution of the student union ready.
We did that by allowing them to think out the constitution and we went through it together before adopting it. Then, we gave them the free hand to elect their leaders, which they did without rancour. But there’s one thing we also did. We put in the constitution that anyone that would emerge as president must be at the verge of having a first class. The first president was from electrical engineering, who was clearly a first class student. So, it was not a question of an all-comers affair. The best among them were selected.
Talking about corruption, some human rights groups have called on anti-graft agencies to beam their searchlight on universities, alleging deep rot in the system. What do you think about this call?
Corruption in Nigerian universities is huge and I’m saying this boldly because I know. I was a ‘customer’ at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). I make bold to say that never in my life have I ever given or taken bribes. That’s the simplest form of corruption. I’ve never done that and yet, petitions were written against me by people who are corrupt, who were doing it and I blocked the leakages. Infuriated, they wrote petitions against me, first to the council of the university, and then to EFCC.
The commission investigated me for six months. I was expecting an outcome but there was nothing. The vindication eventually came when they decided to sue EFCC because the anti-graft agency did not indict me.
These are corrupt people, who were sleazing the system. Because I resisted them, they went all the way, but as God would have it, they went to court and the high court threw out the case. It was only then I knew what transpired in EFCC. The agency told the court that it investigated me and found nothing and refused to be used as an instrument against a Nigerian citizen.
Back to your question, there is corruption in the nation’s ivory tower. People who were depending on the system illegally but because there’s resistance against their atrocities, they fought back so that I could be removed.
When I resumed, a professor came to my office and brought a document for me to sign, saying the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) should be shared among some professors and people, and I asked why that should happen. They said here, we share 25 per cent of IGR and I asked if they don’t receive salaries. They told me that they worked for it. I asked them how they worked for it. I refused to sign it and you can imagine what such people would feel about me. So, I can say of this university that there was corruption and there is corruption in the university system in Nigeria.
The EFCC and councils should beam searchlights on the university system. Our unions always complain about poor funding. But the question is: what have we done with the little we have received? Since I got here, at least I have got over N3 billion from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), which is a government agency.
Yes, it’s true that the government cannot fund education enough. But there are some universities that got more than that, particularly federal universities. We should ask, the society should ask: what have we used this money for? I can account for every kobo that came in during this tenure.
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