LASU certificate racketeering allegation: Now that the truth is out
When a report into a case of certificate racketeering in Lagos State University and alleged cover-up by the current administration of the institution was published days ago by Sahara Reporter, it quite understandably generated a furore in the public space. The narrative about how a syndicate in the university sold certificates to whoever could afford it by bypassing the university’s system attracted scathing criticism of the institution particularly on social media.
For many genuine stakeholders of the university, it was a pill too bitter to swallow as the report was a strike at the heart of the academic integrity of the 40-year-old institution capable of causing a relapse into the unsavoury narrative around the university years past. It was even worse that the current administration was alleged of complicity in the matter.
And so, the illustrious vice chancellor of the university, the genial Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello was suddenly under intense public scrutiny and to some, “guilty as charged”,…. until fresh evidence emerged earlier this week.
A statement released by Benedict Okohnma, the General Manager of WealthRoot company, the forensic firm contracted by the management of the Lagos State University, LASU, to investigate allegation of certificate racketeering in the institution, dispelled allegation of institutional cover-up for the syndicates involved in the certificate racketeering and went further to specifically absolve the VC of any wrongdoing on the matter.
The statement, now widely circulated in the media, concluded that “The current management under the leadership of Professor Ibiyemi Ibilola Olatunji-Bello, mni, NPOM neither covered the matter nor shielded the alleged members of staff. The management is carrying out her obligation of the understanding between the university and WEALTHROOT and necessary support to the company and other agencies involved in the operations while the investigation is ongoing.
In light of this and other emerging facts, one is tempted to ask, “Who is the real target of the callous and malicious Sahara report? LASU as an entity or the person of the current Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Ibiyemi Olatunji-Bello?
Now that the investigator behind the case has cleared the air, has it not become obvious that there is a sinister attempt to deflate the soaring image of the incumbent vice chancellor?
Let’s even set aside this latest revelation for a moment and ask some probing questions about the Sahara report itself.
Why was the report written in a tone that suggests that the admission racketing is currently a thing in LASU? For instance, in the third paragraph, the writer wrote that “All the interested person needs are the required amount of money – which can vary depending on the department of choice – and an O-level certificate and in two to three weeks, they can count themselves as ‘LASU graduates’. Or is it when he submitted that, “the founders must be turning in their graves knowing that not only is certificate racketeering thriving in the school but that some staff members were caught and mysteriously allowed to stay on as if nothing happened.
You don’t need a degree in English to see the deliberate manipulation of tenses to present the event of 2020 (and maybe before) as happening today.
It is even more curious that the “investigative report” is suddenly surfacing in the media a whole three years after the alleged syndicates were arrested. If mischief is not intended, why now, and why the insinuation that it’s active in LASU?
How do you allege that the administration was not cooperating with the investigation when all evidence suggested otherwise? By the report itself, the writer contradicted himself when he admitted to sighting a letter written to the DSS by the Registrar, Mr. Emmanuel Fanu, dated November 2022.
I believe that nothing defines a hatchet job more than this apology of an investigative report. But what does anybody want by destroying the image of LASU all because you are targeting the VC? Is her resounding progress and soaring profile a threat to some people?
As a stakeholder in the university, I believe the current VC should be roundly celebrated by all for the transformations she has brought to the administration of the university in the last two years especially in her strive to digitize the records and processes of the institution and in the process tighten all the loopholes for manipulation and fraud that are often associated with manual processes. For example, the university has now automated students services from the point of admission to graduation hence eradicating the possibility of admission or certificate racketeering. Prevention is better than cure.
I am aware that recently, certificate on issuance has now been enhanced with special security features that not only allow direct validation but also contain source and authenticity verification. Not only that, the students’ final clearance which used to be manual has now been automated. Students’ online Clearance System now requires confirmation from about seven different units before the exams and record can issue notification of results/certificates. As it is, there is no way anyone can bypass or beat the system in its current setup because it requires input from several units of the University.
These, asides from the massive upgrade of facilities in the university, establishment of new academic programmes, strengthening of teaching and learning of entrepreneurship, uninterrupted academic calendar, and internationalization through the admission of several new foreign students have ensured that the stock of LASU has risen to unprecedented heights making it one of the most subscribed universities in Nigeria by admission seekers.
This same woman who has brought so much positive change to the university is the same that some few powerful individuals are now hellbent on discrediting.
No doubt, such hidden hands have allies in the system, fifth columnists whose bellies are their gods, willing tools in the hands of agents of destabilization. They also have their agents in the media, brown envelope journalists to whom hard-earned reputation of individuals are worth not more than a few thousand bucks. They don’t care that the lives and livelihoods of thousands of graduates of the university are at stake.
They have one target and one target only, to demystify Prof. Olatunji-Bello. Everyone that goes down in the process is simply collateral damage. After all, to them, it is war.
I believe that this is the time for all well-meaning stakeholders to rally around and support Prof. Olatunji-Bello; and protect her at all costs so that she can continue the good work she of doing undistracted.
Written by Azeez Adeyemi, an alumnus of LASU.