12 universities to undergo financial probe

The Federal Ministry of Education has inaugurated a seven-person committee to probe the use of grants for 'take-off' projects in 12 universities established between 2011 and 2013 – three of which are under investigation by the national Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The committee was inaugurated earlier this month in Abuja.

The take-off grants were paid to the universities through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund to enable the institutions to meet operational recurrent expenditure and capital expenditure towards the implementation of various take-off projects.

According to Education Minister Mallam Adamu Adamu, the audit was a result of complaints and petitions from stakeholders and clients, including the vice-chancellors of the 12 universities and campus-based unions and community leaders. The probe, he said, would rebuild trust in the university system.

The 12 universities under scrutiny are universities established by the federal government under former president Goodluck Jonathan between 2011 and 2013. They include Lokoja, Lafia, Kashere, Wukari, Dutsin-Ma, Dutse, Ndufu-Alike, Oye-Ekiti, Otuoke, Birnin Kebbi, Gusau and Gashua.

Three of the universities – Kashere, Dutsin-Ma and Otuoke – are currently under investigation by the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Speaking on Nigerian Television Authority news, Adamu said the ministry’s probe would not only sort out financial problems but would address funding and infrastructure challenges because the government would gain a clearer understanding of what the universities need and would be able to fund them accordingly.

Sectors of the Nigerian university system have since late last year faced allegations of financial impropriety from various quarters, including the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the National Association of Nigerian Students, both of which have called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate and bring the culprits to book.

The federal government is taking various measures to curtail corruption in the Nigerian universities' system. Some of these measures include the quarterly submission of financial reports to the ministry and the establishment of committees to probe finances entering and leaving universities.

The federal government also scrapped a special intervention fund given to universities for research, scholarship abroad and laboratory equipment as the government opined that the intervention funds had become a target for financial misappropriation and corruption among some universities and their management.

Although the measures introduced by the federal government arguably work against university autonomy, National Universities Commission Executive Secretary Professor Abubakar Rasheed said at the inauguration that the commission and the federal ministry needed to confront the flood of corruption allegations, engage with vice-chancellors squarely on the issues as well as put in place measures to curb corrupt practices.

Former vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Olufemi Bamiro, will head the new committee which has 12 weeks to probe all 12 universities and make recommendations.

Bamiro said the probe would identify the major issues confronting the university system and help the growth and development of universities in the country.

He said the probe would restore the confidence of the federal government, stakeholders and public in the university system.