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April 12, 2021

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How UNIABUJA Vice Chancellor left KWASU with illegal retirement package

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About two months before he was to leave office, in 2019, as vice-chancellor of Kwara State University, Abdulrasheed Na’Allah, wrote to then Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, asking for a N74 million official vehicle; a vehicle he would go away with after he left office. This was despite the institution borrowing almost N400 million monthly to pay salaries, according to a panel that later probed the decision.

The N74 million vehicle was part of the N100 million severance package that the panel indicted the vice-chancellor of going away with under controversial circumstances. The professor was given a chance to defend himself before the panel. He did not.

Mr Na’Allah, a professor of Comparative Literature, who relocated to Nigeria from Western Illinois University in the U.S. to take the job, served two terms between 2009 and 2019 as the vice-chancellor of the state-owned institution.

He was later appointed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA) in 2019, the office he currently holds.

Meanwhile, findings of the panel set up by the Kwara State Government to probe the sales of the government’s assets indicted Mr Na’Allah.

Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq had in August 2020 inaugurated the panel to investigate the sales, disposal or unlawful acquisition of government properties from May 29, 1999, to May 29, 2019.

The chairman of the commission, retired Justice Olabanji Orilonishe, presented its findings in a three-volume report to the governor in December.

The report, which was exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, stated that Mr Na’Allah violated the school’s policy and procedures to achieve his aim.

Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed
Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed

The report also showed that the former governor of the state, Abdulfatah Ahmed, approved the packages for Mr Na’Allah despite his government owing tertiary institution workers seven months salary arrears.

The approval was also at a time the management of KWASU was taking a monthly loan of N400 million from Fidelity Bank to pay staff salaries, the panel found.

N74m SUV

According to the report, Mr Na’Allah left the school with a N74 million SUV, contravening due processes and the financial management policy of the institution.

The financial management policy and structure of the school stipulates that the retirement benefits of the vice-chancellor include 100 per cent of his annual consolidated salary and an official vehicle.

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However, the panel found that two months before the expiration of his tenure, the Mr Na’Allah-led management bought a Toyota Land Cruiser V8 bulletproof SUV without informing the school’s Governing Council and the State Ministry of Tertiary Education.

The report states: “The Chairman of the Governing Council of Kwara State University (KWASU) Malete, Prof Saka Nuru, two other members of the Council, Alhaji Kolawole Akanbi Yusuf and Dr (Mrs) Ike Orunmuyi, the Acting Registrar and the Bursar of the institution appeared before the Commission to testify concerning the controversial Toyota Land Cruiser V8 bulletproof SUV purchased by the institution two months before the expiration of the tenure of office of the former Vice Chancellor of the Institution, Prof. Abdulrasheed Na’Allah.”

The panel established that two months before the expiration of his second term, Mr Na’Allah wrote directly to Governor Ahmed and obtained provisional approval for the purchase of the vehicle amongst other items.

The panel said Mr Na’Allah did this without the due process of consulting and obtaining an approval from the governing council of the institution and without going through the Kwara State Ministry of Tertiary Education, the supervising ministry.

However, the approval of the governor, which was conveyed directly to the vice-chancellor, stated that it was subject to the availability of funds, the panel added.

In fact, when they got to know of the transactions, the school’s bursar, registrar and members of the governing council raised serious objections at a meeting of the governing council, unknown to them that the vehicle had already been delivered to the institution.

The panel further said that the transaction was done at a time the institution was taking a monthly loan of N400 million from Fidelity Bank to pay staff salaries, indicating the financial implications of such purchase on the school’s account.

University of Abuja main entrance [[Photo: University Website]
University of Abuja main entrance [Photo: University Website]

Severance allowance

Asides the controversial vehicle, the school officials testified that at the end of each of his two five-year tenures, Mr Na’Allah collected a severance allowance of N18 million, totalling N36 million for the two terms.

Severance allowance is the compensation or benefits an employer provides to an employee who is laid off or retired.

But there is no requirement in the Nigerian Labour Act for severance allowance as it is a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee.

According to Kingsley Ndimele, an economist, the allowance is given to bridge the gap between when the affected employer leaves the job and the time he finds a new one.

He, however, stated that it is a one-time compensation and based on a contractual agreement.

“It is usually a one-time compensation. You don’t pay a severance allowance twice. Also, we must also know that it is not a bonus. There must be an agreement before one can be entitled to a severance allowance.

“It is paid following what is in the contract between the employee and the employer. The man in question was employed by the state government and given a severance allowance of N18 million. He was reappointed and given another N18 million. That means there is a big issue,” he said.

It should be noted that Mr Na’Allah was reappointed for the second time a month before his first tenure elapsed, hence, there was no break.

Meanwhile, a top official at the state Ministry of Education who refused to be named because he was not authorised to grant press interviews, said Mr Na’Allah got those benefits as a political appointee and not a civil servant.

“He was treated like a commissioner and any other political appointees because he is not entitled to any pension. The governor then was also aware of it. In fact, they couldn’t have paid it without his approval. You know how these people (politicians) spend money.”

Kwara State University

N’Allah shuns panel

For fair hearing, the commission said it summoned Mr Na’Allah to appear before it on November 19, 2020 but he refused to appear.

According to the report, Mr Na’ Allah had written to suggest November 30, which date the commission said was acceptable and conveyed to him.

Yet, on the agreed date, he failed to appear on the excuse that he would be attending a meeting with the Chief of Staff to the President to resolve the lingering ASUU strike.

In its recommendation, the panel concluded that Mr Na’Allah’s action was a case of abuse of office that should not be condoned.

The panel said he should be compelled to return the vehicle to the institution immediately while a new vehicle with a net value of between N20 million and N30 million should be presented to him instead.

“In the event that Prof. Abdulrasheed Na’Allah opts to retain the Toyota Land Cruiser V8 SUV which he took away, he should be made to refund the excess of N50,000,000.00 (Fifty Million Naira),” the panel stated.

It also advised that henceforth, official vehicles for the use of any vice chancellor or principal officer of the university should be purchased at the beginning of a tenure and that severance allowance should be payable once in the lifetime of any retiring officer.

Our reporter contacted Mr Na’Allah for his comments but he directed PREMIUM TIMES to the school authorities.

“Speak to the Registrar, ask to see the laws, speak to the Bursar, ask for Director Works and those who purchased the vehicle. Look at how long the process took, who did what and determine through your investigations what laws were broken,” he said in response to enquiries sent.

Meanwhile, he kept mum when this paper informed him that testimonies from the officials indicted him.

He also failed to respond to enquiries about the severance allowance and state of the N74m vehicle or where it is currently.

Ex-governor speaks, school mum

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Ahmed’s spokesperson, Femi Akorede, he said the approval of the vehicle was based on information available to the former governor at that time.

He also referred our reporter to the school authorities for further enquiries.

“Have you checked the university’s provisions for severance or spoken to the university’s council which ran the institution?” Mr Akorede queried.

The institution’s Director of University Relations, Abdulrazaq Sanni, however, refused to comment on the matter.

Rather, he directed our reporter to the registrar of the school, Mohammed Shuaib, who did not respond to multiple telephone calls and enquiries sent via text.

Also, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Education, Yakubu Aliagan, declined comments.

Activist seeks implementation of panel’s report

The coordinator of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Hassan Taiwo, condemned Mr Na’Allah’s actions, which he tagged a “criminal heist.”

“This is not the first time. We have had similar situations of criminal heists in many universities. There is a celebrated case of UNIBEN for instance when more than a decade ago, a very corrupt VC whose name I cannot immediately recall allegedly spent over N60 million to organise a convocation.”

“N60 million at that time would be worth over $20 million today and this in a university lacking good hostels and decent water supply.”

He said Nigerian universities have been turned into a cesspit of corruption with such huge and controversial spendings.

“So, for us in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), the development in KWASU is a wakeup call as it shows the depth of the rot and corruption in Nigeria’s education system and why there is urgent need for the placement of all public educational establishments, be they universities, polytechnics, monotechnics or colleges of education, under the democratic control and management of elected representatives of staff and students. Only this democratic measure can ensure that certified rogues like Na’Allah do not have the opportunity of pilfering university funds without consequence.”

Mr Taiwo also called on the Kwara State Government to implement the panel’s report which, amongst other things, recommended that Mr Na’Allah returns the vehicle.

“But even this will not be enough. This is why at the same time, I call for his immediate prosecution in order to set an example for others like him,” the activist said.

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