By Simeon OSAJIE
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ambrose Alli University, (AAU), Ekpoma chapter has described the interim report by the University’s Special Intervention Team (SIT) as fake, sham and is meant to mislead the public.
Recall while presenting an interim report on 11th of May 2023 to Governor Godwin Obaseki, a member of the SIT, Mr. Austin Osakue had announced the unravelling of a N2 billion tax fraud, massive certificate and transcript racketeering and other nefarious acts by the authorities and staff of the state owned tertiary institution.
In a statement jointly issued in Ekpoma over the weekend by Dr. Cyril Oziegbe Onogbosele and Dr. Willams Odion, chairman and Secretary respectively, insisted that the report, in its entirety, is a direct admittance of failure in the administration of the university in the past two years and a confirmation of the position of the union earlier canvassed that the SIT, as constituted, lacked the adequate knowledge, exposure and experience in university administration to manage and administer a university in the 21st century.
Both Onogbosele and Odion marinated that the damning allegation of a N2 billion tax fraud is a ploy by the SIT to win itself more into the mind or heart of Governor Obaseki so as to maintain its grip on the administration of the university and a desperate attempt to cover up for its on-going malfeasance.
Besides, the union viewed the interim report of the SIT as political, deceptive, uninformed, misleading, mischievous and a grand ploy to deceive the public and Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, the visitor to the university, in particular, to believe that the school is experiencing the purported “government’s vision of repositioning the institution to meet global standards”.
“Are the lecturers in charge of tax collection for the government? Who are the government appointees responsible for tax collection and remittance? Why were they not named? It is not true that the staff unions in the university resisted the university authorities in payment of tax? In fact, professors in AAU, Ekpoma pay one of the highest tax as much as N78,000 per month. Considering the serious criminal nature of tax evasion or fraud, why have they not been arrested and charged to court?” they queried.
The AAU ASUU leadership said that what is obtainable in the school is that taxes are deducted at source of payment of salaries, noting that as such, there is no escape route for any staff because the tax due against each member of staff must be deducted by the authorities before effecting the payment of salaries.
With an estimated annual internally generated revenue of over N5.5 billion exclusive of government subvention, the unionists explained that the huge amount is never accounted for as it goes into the private accounts of some top officials of the university, adding that the Staff Audit exercise authorized by the Omokhodion-led Council even found cases of unknown staff and falsification of records in the files of both academic and non-teaching staff just as efforts to discipline the culprits were curiously crippled by certain government officials
They expressed their surprise that the report is also silent on the immense sums of money being collected by the members of the SIT under the guise of seating, travelling and other bogus allowances.
Going further, they added: “The SIT should avail the Visitor to the university and the public the total amount of money it spent for allowances and activities in its two years in the university. What is the total amount of internally generated revenue, including school fees in the university during the period under review? Has SIT attracted any fund outside the university for the infrastructural development of the university during the period under review?
“They should publish this report to assist in the appreciation of the so-called achievements of SIT, particularly for being able to offset “the loan of N330 million collected to pay salaries in 2021 and another N20 million which was meant for the purchase of special vehicles.”
As a way forward, the unionists called for the stemming of undue government interference in the day-to-day administration of the institution so as to allow the Governing Council, the free hand to run, manage and administer the school in strict compliance with the rules and regulations as well as the law of the university.
Onogbosele and Odion want a marching order to be given to the Governing Council to deal with all outstanding problems in the university in a time-frame of six months and a restoration of the annual state budgetary allocation and the monthly subvention.