Since September 2018, a senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan, Chukwuemeka Diji, has been experiencing ‘illegal’ deductions from his salary.
Diji, a PhD holder, acted as the Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering from September 2015 to July 2017 before a substantial head was appointed.
Investigation and documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES revealed that Diji complained about various controversial, financial actions by his predecessor, Ademola Dare, and successor, Leke Oluwole, both professors.
Also, efforts by the lecturer to question the deductions from his salaries have been unsuccessful.
A month prior to Diji’s resumption as departmental head, his predecessor, Dare, applied for a loan of N400,000 from the university.
The money was, however, only paid to the department’s account after Diji assumed office.
Nothing was stated about the loan in the handover note that Diji received from Dare.
Diji, knowing he did not apply for such loan, approved the transfer of the money into the account of his predecessor.
Checks by this newspaper revealed that Dare was paid the money in October 2015.
The professor, however, delayed in retiring the receipts for the money till 2017 when his successor left office. He also, reportedly, only did that after persuasion from SERVICOM, a unit saddled with monitoring and ensuring service delivery in the school.
Meanwhile, this newspaper learnt that the controversial N400,000 is now being deducted from Diji’s salary. The deductions started from September 2018.
According to Diji and evidences obtained, the sum of N25,000 was deducted monthly from September 2018 to January 2019 while it rose to N50,000 in February up to the time of filing this report.
In an interview with our correspondent, Diji said the school management did not inform him prior to the deductions.
“I learnt that the deduction was because of the salary advance obtained by Dare from an unofficial source in the bursary. No letter up till date,” he explained.
“Today the financial emasculation has been stepped up with illegal and unlawful deduction of N25,000 monthly from my salary between September 2018 – January 2019. In the current month from February 2019, the deduction has been stepped up to N50,000.”
According to Section 5 of the labour act in Nigeria, employers may, with the consent of workers, make deductions from their wages and “pay to the appropriate person any contributions to provident or pension funds or other schemes agreed to by the worker and approved by the State Authority.”
Diji claims his ordeal may be as a result of the infractions of his predecessor which he exposed during his (Diji’s) tenure.
One of these is the running of a bank account for Energy, Technology and Management (ETM) conference for the department of mechanical engineering.
He believes running the account contravenes the Treasury Single Account policy of the federal government which forbids government parastatals, ministries, departments and agencies from operating bank accounts outside the single account owned by the federal government.
The TSA is a bank account or a set of linked accounts through which the government transacts all its receipts and payments.
Under the TSA, all government payments for services and revenue collections are operated through one account known as Consolidated Revenue Fund/Treasury Single Account (CRF/TSA) domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
However, although the TSA was put in place by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, it only began to be implemented after President Muhamamdu Buhari was sworn in, in 2015.
Based on the TSA and what he believes to be fraud in the management of the ETM account, Diji asked that the account be closed.
According to Diji’s handover notes dated August, 21, 2017, which was presented to the vice-chancellor of the university., he requested the closure of the bank account after the third edition of IMEETcon in 2016.
“The third edition of the ETM conference titled IMMEETcon 2016 took place from 7th-9th, September, 2016. The conference was successfully and the standing committee of the conference presented the report of their activities to the departmental academic staff meeting on 20th December, 2016.
“The committee was requested to close the bank account which is being used for the conference from 2012 to 2016 and a proper bank statement submitted to the department. This has not been done,” Diji wrote, attaching the bank documents.
The official also wrote in the handover notes that the transactions made through the account had not been ‘transparent’.
“The previous reports of the ETM conferences of 2012 and 2014 as well as the 2016 edition are not archived in the department. The committee was requested to submit this report for proper records. This has not been done.”
Meanwhile, enquiries made by this newspaper into the account kept with Guarantee Trust Bank, revealed that the account existed between 2012 till 2017 when it was then closed.
According to a staffer of the bank who did not want his name in print, the last transaction carried out was a payment of N10, 000 made by a woman from Lagos State.
“From what I checked, the account was closed upon a request by a professor and the last transaction I can see is a woman who paid in N10,000 from Lagos.”
Seeking ICPC Probe
Also, in a letter dated April 9, 2018, Mr Diji wrote the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, (ICPC), and demanded an investigation into the ‘corrupt practices’ in the department. He also alleged that he was being victimised for revealing some of the shady activities.
He begged the commission to compel the university to probe the organisation of the ETM conference and its account since 2012- 2016.
“Since I discovered the corrupt financial dealings and leaving office on the 31st July, 2017, I have come under various acts of intimidation and harassment from my successor in office, Oluwole, who has been doing everything possible to suppress me and suppress the corrupt practices, in order to protect his friends who are the ones principally involved in the fraud,” he said.
Responding to a petition filed by the Diji, the National University Commission, in a letter with the reference number NUC/ES/96/Vol.19/474, promised that the issues ranging from the corrupt practices in the department and his harassment will be ‘escalated’ to the university authorities.
“Please, be informed that the commission has forwarded the petition to the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, for his comments on the matter. The outcome will be communicated to you as soon as we receive response from the university,” the letter read.
This reporter learnt that the embattled lecturer, in a follow-up letter, wrote to the anti-graft agency to remind it of the petition submitted in 2018 and the recent deductions from his wages in January 2019.
He also wrote the chairman of the university’s Senate, the highest decision-making body in the school, to demand justice.
More questions than answers
PREMIUM TIMES on several occasions made efforts to reach the authorities of the school and the mechanical engineering department but the claim by the two were contradictory.
While the school’s spokesperson, Tunji Oladejo, said Diji’s salary is being deducted because “he was the one who applied for the salary advance”, the head of department, Oluwole, confirmed that Diji’s predecessor, Mr Dare, applied for the salary advance of N400,000 but “the cash was paid into the complainant’s bank account”.