Fraud in Ivory Towers: How millions went into private pockets at Federal University Lokoja
Vice-Chancellor Miri fingered in corruption allegation
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Evidence has shown monumental fraud, corruption, abuse of office and violation of procurement processes at the Federal University, Lokoja, Kogi State.
Documents obtained by The ICIR reveal that the Federal University, one of the 12 established by the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, former president of Nigeria, has a history of corruption but the underhand dealings became more glaring under the watch of Angela Freeman Miri, the current Vice-Chancellor of the University.
Miri, a former Commissioner of Health and Education in Plateau State was among 13 Vice-Chancellors appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in February 2016 in what was a breach of the Universities Miscellaneous Act 2003 which vested powers to appoint and remove vice-chancellors in the Governing Council.
THE ICIR investigations show that the 60-year-old Vice-Chancellor, a professor of English and Literary Studies has been fingered in a number of infractions relating to financial misappropriation, fraudulent practices, violation of procurement process and other abuses of offices.
The 2017 Auditor-General Annual Report and other documents obtained during this investigation show the malfeasance under the Vice-Chancellor and her predecessor.
Professor Miri did not respond to calls and messages to her phone to answer questions on all the allegations against her. She told this reporter that she was in a meeting during the first time she was called. But she never answered subsequent calls again.
On August 3, at about 3:20 pm, an SMS asking her for a response to the allegations was sent to her phone, she did not respond while calls to her phone were not answered.
A message was sent to her on August 14 seeking an audience with her to speak to the allegations, there was no response. The message was sent at about 6:03 pm.
Another text message was sent to her on August 23, there was no response and calls to her line were not picked.
Revelations from Auditor General’s Annual Report
The 2017 Auditor-General Annual Report indicates that a culture of corruption is deeply ingrained in the university. According to the report, authorities of the university failed to remit N61.9 million, being the 25 percent of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) for 2015 and 2016 into the Federal Government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund account.
The non-remittance of the fund was contrary to the Ministry of Finance Circular BO/RVE/12235/259/VII/201 issued on November 11, 2011, which directed that all Federal agencies and parastatals should limit their annual budgetary expenditure from IGR to not more than 75 percent of their gross, the report said.
In 2015 and 2016, the university generated N247,722, 407.81 as its IGR, but 25 percent of the money which is N62 million was not accounted for.
The report said the explanation offered for the non-remittance of the money by the university’s management was not satisfactory and demanded that the Vice-Chancellor remit the amount to the government treasury.
The university also did not remit N10.19 million being the money realised from contract registration, tender fees, auction sales, sales of assets and rent for the year 2015 and 2016. The amount is regarded as independent revenue, the report said.
Also, the report reveals that another N4,551,787 was paid into two private accounts from the university’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The team of auditors that examined the university’s e-payment schedule with reference number FUL/VC/FIN01A showed that the amount was paid into accounts of two staff of the university.
The sum of N454,610 was transferred into the Heritage bank account number 1000493514 of a staff whose name The ICIR found out to be Emmanuel Ojo Emmanuel and another sum of N4,097,177 was transferred to another Atanye Syrenius Elogun with Heritage bank account number 1000493349.
Emmanuel and Elogun are university staff in the Bursary Department deputizing for the Cheif Bursar. The report says the purpose of the transfer done on January 12, 2016, was not explained but noted that it violated Financial Regulation 713 which states that “personal money shall in no circumstance be paid into a government bank account, nor shall any public money be paid into a private bank account.”
The regulation further says that “an officer who pays public money into a private account is deemed to have done so with fraudulent intention.”
Elogun, who at the time was an Accountant at the Faculty of Science, confirmed the payment of the money into his account. But he said it was the decision of the management which he did not have any power to resist, saying “this was clearly a management decision.”
“The money was paid for so many things and that money was used for those things that they were meant for,” he said without stating exactly what the money was used for.
“When we got a new Vice-Chancellor, she said she was not interested that such money should not be paid to us, that I should give her the report of what happened which I did,” he adds.
Though he disclosed that the balance of the money was transferred into the government Treasury Single Account (TSA), he said the auditors never invited him to hear him out.
“The outstanding of N3.7million was transferred to the TSA but I don’t know why this case is coming up now and I have all the evidence.”
Elogun said since he didn’t spend the money, he didn’t see the payment into his account, though a violation of the government’s financial regulation was an indictment against him.
So no matter what, I’m not afraid of anything, he said.
On his part, Emmanuel Ojo Emmanuel, who was at the time the Faculty Accountant at the Faculty of Art and Social Sciences said the money paid into his account was the imprest for the Faculty.
On why it was paid into his private account, he explained that it was the creation of TSA by the then new administration of President Buhari that made the university authorities to mop up all the institution’s funds with commercial banks. He maintains that the balance of the money about N200,000 was paid back into TSA.
“When they started the TSA, you know the government was operating commercial bank accounts among which the Faculty Account was among. Immediately the issue of TSA came up in September 2015, they mopped up all the money that has to do with commercial banks and that was the money meant for imprest to run the faculty,” Emmanuel said.
“The management took the decision to fund the Faculty through our accounts, through the Faculty Accountants. The money that was paid into my account, I have all the documents. When the new management came in 2016, the remaining part of the money, I think it was about N230,000. The said money was paid into the TSA account. Until now, I have the receipts.”
He also said that the auditors from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation who vetted the university’s spending did not invite him. “They didn’t call us for verification.”
Also, on September 15, 2015, according to the report, a sum of N5,040,444 was withdrawn from the university’s Post-UTME fees First Bank account with account number 2018447343. This was a payment without a voucher and supporting documentation, the report says, adding “the purpose, as well as the ultimate beneficiary of this withdrawal, was not clear.”
The university’s response was neither satisfactory, the report further indicated.
In 2015 and 2016, the report uncovered N50,350,728.48 paid to some staff of the university as professional allowance, high-risk allowance, library allowance, pen in-lieu allowance. But it adds that these allowances were neither approved nor regularized by the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, the only government agency that is responsible for the approval and regularization of salaries and allowances of public officers. In 2015, it was N21,560,448.36 that was paid and N28, 790, 280.12 in 2016.
But that was not all the report uncovered ̶ a sum of N657,274, 384.51 was paid to staff of the university as student’s ratio allowance, earned allowance, excess workload, and responsibility allowance.
The Auditor General’s report explained that these allowances were already consolidated in the staff salary, adding that the payment contravenes the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission’s circular with reference number SWC/S/04/S.100/11/403 dated January 18, 2007, which stated that the items consolidated with the basic salary are transport allowance, meal subsidy, utility allowance, leave grant, journal allowance, research allowance, excess workload allowance, furniture allowance, industrial supervision allowance, hazard allowance, field trip allowance, postgraduate supervision allowance as well as domestic servant allowance.
The Vice-Chancellor was required to recover the sum of N707,625,076.99 wrongly paid as allowances from beneficiary staff members and remit it to the government account with evidence of payment.
Money paid into VC’s personal accounts in violation of procurement processes
The ICIR investigation indicates that the Vice-Chancellor was barely one week in office when she was paid the statutory Relocation Allowance and First 28 days Allowance. Specifically, the amount, N1, 544,870 was paid into her Diamond bank account on March 3, 2016.
But within a space of six months, Professor Miri was paid over N35.8 million directly into her private bank accounts- the payments were not her salaries.
For the rental of the Vice Chancellor’s official residence, a sum of N6 million was paid on March 23, 2016, N1,703,460 on April 6, 2016, and N7million on May 9, 2016, into her Zenith Bank account number 1005119456. The money was paid as five years’ house rent.
The payments were done in clear violation of the Federal Treasury Circular with Reference No TRY/A2&B2/2009OAGF/CAD/026/V dated March 24, 2009, which states that “all Accounting Officers and Officers controlling expenditure are to ensure that all local procurement of stores and services costing above N200,000 shall be made only through the award of contracts.
An official of the university with the Bursary Department who did not want to be named because he may be victimized says there’s a committee of the university that ought to do procurement for the services.
He revealed that the Vice-Chancellor vetoed the payment into her private accounts, adding that Professor Miri already collects N320,977.50 as a rent allowance in her salary.
On May 17, 2016, the university management paid the sums of N4.8 million and N749,460 on May 24, 2016, totalling N5,249,460 into her Diamond bank account 0011525942 for the renovation of the house rented as the Vice Chancellor’s official residence.
This payment was flagged by the 2017 Annual Auditor General report. While the report described it as a violation of Federal Treasury Circular with Reference No TRY/A2&B2/2009OAGF/CAD/026/V dated March 24, 2009, which states that “all Accounting Officers and Officers controlling expenditure are to ensure that all local procurement of stores and services costing above N200,000 shall be made only through the award of contracts, it said management’s override of internal controls was an indication of fraud.
“Response from the university was not satisfactory,” the report says.
The Vice-Chancellor is required to refund the sum of N5,249,460 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund with evidence of remittance forwarded to my office for confirmation, it adds. But as of the time of filing this report, it was not clear if the sum was refunded to the government coffer.
Diversion of rental and renovation payments
Investigations by The ICIR revealed that the amount paid into Professor Miri’s account as rental payment for her official residence was not fully utilized for the purpose. Rather, parts of it were diverted into other private accounts.
Only the sum of N5.6million was paid by the Vice-Chancellor to the property owner, Hadid Nigeria Limited, Lokoja. The payment was done through a transfer from her Zenith Bank account number 1005119456 to the Hadid’s Skye Bank account bearing Mahmud Bala Ibrahim on April 18, 2016. While the payment of the money into her private account violates the Procurement Act, the eventual transfer of N5.6million into the property owner’s account is another violation.
The university management ought to make the payment, says Joseph Folorunsho, chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the Federal University, Lokoja.
Further investigations show that the balance of the money was further diverted into other private accounts. On June 6, 2016, N5million was transferred into an account with Diamond Bank belonging to Dommam Freeman Miri, the Vice Chancellor’s son. On June 22, another N1.5 was transferred to Domman again, while N1.2million was transferred to a particular Muhammed Biu’s GTB account on October 5, 2016.
Meanwhile, after the payment of N5,249,4608 as a fund for the renovation of her rented official residence which was flagged by the Auditor General’s report, evidence revealed that N4.7million was taken from the money through a cheque withdrawal on May 20, 2016.
Our fight against corruption is not holistic- ASUU chairperson
Dr Joseph Folorunsho, chairperson of the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU) at the university believes that the Federal Government’s war against corruption is not holistic.
This, Folorunsho says, is the reason the VC has not been questioned and prosecuted despite glaring evidence.
“The Vice-Chancellor ought to have been in jail since 2018 if the present government does not harbor corruption,” the ASUU chairperson said.
He laments that anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC and ICPC have all been petitioned to investigate Professor Miri on all the violations of due process and allegations of fraud but nothing has been done.
“The violations of the procurement process by the VC are true. For example, the money for the renovation of her house, there was supposed to be a committee, a contractor,” he told The ICIR in an interview.
“Again, for her house rent, what she presented and was paid into her account which is contrary to the Procurement Act was above N7million and actually the rent was N5.6million for the two years. That’s the first contravention of the law. Number two, it is not supposed to be paid into her private account but there is evidence that the money was paid into her account. That was why she was able to remove the N5.6 million for the landlord.”
“We have all the evidence to show that,” Folorunsho added.
He confirmed that the union was aware of the red flag issued by the Auditor General Office 2017 annual report against payment of money into the VC’s private account.
“Yes, we are aware that the Auditor General Annual report 2017 questioned the payment of the money into her private account.”
“Even there are TETfund projects in our school that our internal auditor queried but still went through.”
The ASUU chief corroborates that corruption has been going on in the university even before the appointment of the current VC.
“You know in our society people don’t go to the equity market with clean hands. People use sentiments over issues that are supposed to be on merit and justice. I can’t affirm or refute the fact that even as a grown-up Nigerian of my age, it is something that you cannot rule out.”
On the payment into private accounts of two staff of the university’s Bursary Department, Folorunsho said they should be queried. “Those people should be queried and called to book,” he says.
“If there is an indictment against me, there should be a procedure, because he who alleges must prove. If you say there is this indictment on Ojo for example, you call him and interrogate him. You can be sure such money may be diverted money and a percentage would be given to such a person at the end of the day.”