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By Happiness Ewere & Peace Efe

Allegations of corruption, nepotism and inefficiency have earmarked the administration of Professor Orumwense which calls for probing. Mention must be made, that the allegations of corruption and embezzlement against the erstwhile Vice Chancellor dates back to his tenure as the Rector of Edo State Polytechnic, situated at Usen. Where he allegedly embezzled over #125million.

With regards to his tenure while he was the Vice-Chancellor of Uniben, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was reported to have carried out investigations of massive corruption allegations leveled against him. It was also reported that he was arrested at the Ugbowo campus of the University twice, but was later released on bail after appeal from eminent individuals in the state. FOI Counsel Team states that one of such occasion was to allow him preside over the convocation ceremony of the University.

The last is yet to be heard on corruption allegations against Prof. Orumwense as a group of concerned Uniben students issued a press release alleging that the former vice-chancellor was involved in nepotism, fraud, illegal appointments and defrauding of students.  The group called upon the EFCC, ICPC and the Ministry of Education to conduct necessary investigations. Till date, none of the institutions have commenced investigation and or prosecution.

Report from some students revealed that the introduction of a fee tagged “departmental fee” by the Orumwense administration is another academic scam ever. This fee varied across various levels, ranging from over #2000 to #6000. Payment was tied to the collection of a student’s course registration form, without which the form would be unaccepted and late payment brought about increase in the fee. The question that arose was the relevance of the fee amidst continual power outage, water shortage and deteriorating hostels and lecture theatres. The students have however, heaved a sigh of relief, as payment of the said fee has been suspended by the extant vice-chancellor, Prof Mrs Salami.

Another dust raising issue was the humongous severance package given to the former Vice Chancellor. The package was pursuant to a proposal by the erstwhile Vice Chancellor. The package was said to include the following; (i) Sabbatical as well as accumulated leave arising from the period of five (5) years as the Vice-Chancellor (ii) Provision of an official Hilux van for security escort. (iii) Severance gratuity at a payable rate of 300 per cent of annual basic salary. (iv)Annual terminal basic salary. (v) Annual rent subsidy. (vii) Annual entertainment allowance. (viii) Annual salary of entitled domestic staff but not exceeding four (4). (ix) Payment of electricity bills.  (x) Payment of telephone bills. (xi) To retain your security outfit after your exit. (xii) To leave with the furniture items in the vice-chancellor’s lodge. It was approved by the acting Chairman on behalf of the Council and ratified by the Council itself.  The former ASSU chairman, Uniben chapter, Professor Julius Iyasere described the severance package as repulsive and obscene.

The dust was yet to settle, when another allegation surfaced against the former VC’s family with respect to #92million fraud. This time the scandal appears to be between the brother in-law of the erstwhile VC and the VC spouse.

The allegation stems from the payment for a contact executed by Mr Ashien for the University of Benin, involving the supply of computers to the ICT unit and chairs to the University Library amongst others and the contract sum was paid to the VC’s wife and she refused to relinquish.

As it is often said, “there is no smoke without a fire. With the number of allegations that have surfaced and may still surface against the administration of the erstwhile Vice Chancellor, Professor F.F.O Orumwense, when are the anti-corruption agencies going to swing into action and do the needful in view of the anticorruption stance of the current government?  FOI Counsel Advice that Code of Conduct Bureau is the most appropriate anti-corruption agency to audit the ethical status of the University.

FOI Counsel has recommended that the CCB and NUC should come together to ensure that VC’s declare their assets and also that the assets declared are verified pre and post appointment and added that there should be a Unit dedicated for VCs because of massive corruption that has engulfed the office flowing directly from TETFund pond. We state very clearly that declaration of assets among other codes of conduct is a strong pillar for a responsible and accountable public service. Remember, the code focuses on discipline, moderation, contentment, and professionalism among other principles for public service without which there is iniquity as in this under review.

Freedom of Information (FOI) Counsel is an organization that was created in 2013 to promote awareness of human right and improve access to public information through advocacy, research and litigation.

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