EXCLUSIVE: UI breaches own law, grants professor facing corruption charges sabbatical leave

The University of Ibadan (UI) has breached its own law by failing to interdict four senior academic staff members standing trial for alleged corruption.

The rule of the university requires that a member of staff facing criminal trial shall be interdicted by the university pending the determination of the court case.

The rule also stipulates that one so interdicted shall be suspended from duty and placed on half salary until the end of the court trial.

Instead, the university has granted one of the four, a professor, permission to proceed on sabbatical leave to the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, thus also briefly disrupting the trial.

The professor, Miracle Oyewola, and three of his colleagues in the Department of Mechanical Engineering were charged to court by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) for allegedly misappropriating funds meant for a conference.

Background

In 2019, this newspaper exclusively reported shady financial transactions in the third edition of the Energy Technology and Management Conference.

Amongst those accused of misdeeds are Mr Oyewola and Dare Ademola who headed the department from 2011- 2012 and 2012-2016 respectively.

In 2018, Chukwuemeka Diji, now a professor, who succeeded Mr Ademola, wrote the ICPC alledging ‘corrupt practices’ in the department.

He asked the commission to compel the university to probe the organisation of the conference and its account since 2012- 2016.

PREMIUM TIMES gathered then, through an official of Guaranteed Trust Bank, that an account for the conference’s funds existed between 2012 and 2017, two years after the Treasury Single Account policy of the federal government came into effect.

The TSA policy, which forbids any government parastatal from running a separate bank account, began in 2015.

Meanwhile, Leke Oluwole, the Head of Department when the investigation was conducted, had defended the running of the account when our reporter interviewed him.

“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,” he told this newspaper.

Although Mr Diji was later dismissed by the school authorities, an official said ICPC arraigned the lecturers in November 2019 but the process was stalled by the lockdown enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Court appearance

This newspaper reported how Messrs Oyewola, Ademola and two others appeared before a high court in Ibadan on November 5, 2020. The others are Olufemi Ajide and Rahaman Abu, both PhD holders.

The court adjourned hearing in the case to February 15, 2021, for mentioning because it was on recess at that time.

On the adjourned date, Mr Oyewola was not in court, so the court could not proceed with the case.

The defence counsel said Mr Oyewola was absent because he was on sabbatical leave.

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“The judge was really furious and said they were taking the court for granted. She also ordered ICPC to produce him on the next adjourned date (May 3),” an observer told our reporter.

Sabbatical Leave

PREMIUM TIMES later found out that Mr Oyewola had proceeded to Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) on a sabbatical leave earlier in the year.

The paid leave is granted staff who have accumulated a minimum of 12 semesters as approved by the university.

According to the school’s rule, before any application is considered for a sabbatical leave, evidence shall be served a committee that the applicant can be released from duties.

“Application for sabbatical leave shall be sent through the Head of Department, the Dean of the Faculty to the Registrar for consideration by the appropriate Appointments and Promotions Committee,” the staff information handbook states.

Breach

If the extant laws of the institution had been followed, Mr Oyewola, who is also the Director of Special Duties in the Vice-Chancellor’s office, would have been suspended from duty.

According to the staff handbook, under the interdiction section, when a member of staff has been charged with a ‘criminal’ offence, whether or not connected with the University, the Registrar may interdict the staff from duties.

“Formal notice of interdiction shall be given to the member of staff concerned in writing. The notice shall state the date from which the interdiction takes effect, and the reason(s) for such interdiction.”

An interdicted member of staff is entitled to only half of salary.

“A member of staff who is under interdiction shall be required to hand over any property of the University in his/her charge to such a person as the Head of unit shall order and such an interdicted staff shall be forbidden to carry on the duties and visit the place of work except with the express permission of the Registrar.”

When a member of staff under interdiction is found not guilty of all charges, such shall be reinstated and shall receive the balance of the salary for the whole period of the interdiction, the university’s law states.

Samuel Alade, a Lagos-based lawyer, said such laws are in place to prevent the accused from using their offices to influence court proceedings or investigation.

“It’s the normal procedure, whether the law states it or not. It should have been enforced long before. The person in question can use his office to influence things in his favour and that may not be in the interest of justice,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.

When PREMIUM TIMES reached out to the current head of the Mechanical Engineering department through whose office the application for sabbatical leave was processed, he directed our reporter to the school’s spokesperson.

The spokesperson, Olatunji Oladejo, confirmed Mr Oyewola was on sabbatical but said he was not aware of the ongoing court case.

“What if the school was not aware? I know him. The school is not aware. He was former director of social. I know that he is on sabbatical to Obafemi Awolowo University. I am just hearing about the case for the first time,” he said.

But when PREMIUM TIMES showed Mr Oladejo a letter signed by the Deputy Registrar of the institution, David Oyejiide, Mr Oladejo backtracked, saying he was only speaking for himself and not on behalf of the school.

The letter, dated December 14, 2020, was in response to a previous letter, demanding the interdiction of the four lecturers in question.

“Re: Demand for Interdiction of Professor Miracle Oyewola, Dr Ademola Dare, Dr Olufemi Ajide and Dr Rahaman Abu of Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Ibadan while standing trial for a Criminal Offence

“I write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated 8 December, 2020 on the above subject matter. Be assured that the letter will be delivered to the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council for necessary attention,” Mr Oyejide wrote.

When asked why the interdiction law was not applied on the embattled lecturers, Mr Oladejo said: “the University has its disciplinary procedure which by that letter must be ongoing.”

Multiple telephone calls, texts and emails sent to Mr Oyewola’s known addresses to seek his reaction were not responded to.

Also, the law firm representing him in court, Chief Ladosu Ladapo and Co, refused to respond to PREMIUM TIMES’s enquiries.

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