Professor Boniface Egboka, UNIZIK VC
Not so long ago, the Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Professor Boniface Egboka was jolted by a volt of allegations of fraud, wanton embezzlement of school funds, sleaze, a total disregard for due process and many more. An online news portal, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (icirnigeria.org) was the first to make these allegations public. The EFCC was equally petitioned by a group of UNIZIK lecturers who felt the VC should be sanctioned.
My friends and I, acting as responsible citizens and armed with the belief that issues like this should not be allowed to be swept under the carpet took it upon ourselves to dig deeper into the alleged fraud. This essay therefore is a reflection on what was discovered to either have happened in UNIZIK or an assumption of the dynamics of power play in that institution.
From investigations carried out, it is very glaring that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Egboka may have disregarded the provisions of the law on due process by running the University and its funds as his private enterprise. According to some lecturers interviewed, this was made possible because prior to this allegations being made to stand tall, UNIZIK lecturers did not have a functional ASUU body; as was revealed, a local ASUU chapter would have put the necessary checks and balances in place to ensure that the running of the institution did not assume a shape of a “one-man-show”.
In fairness to the embattled Vice Chancellor, a lot of marvellous work is on-going in UNIZIK. The university is certainly wearing a new look-unlike what was the case in the past. About eight years ago, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka was more like one vast secondary school with clusters of horrible looking buildings scattered between the “Temp Site” and the “Perm Site”. Between the immediate past VC, Professor Ilochi Okafor and the current VC, UNIZIK has surely transformed into a citadel of learning worthy of its name. Of course, Professor Pita Ejiofor who was the Vice Chancellor before Ilochi Okafor brilliantly managed the lean resources available during his time and ran UNIZIK like a true professional.
Anyway, this segment of this essay will attempt to dwell more on the issues of ethics and morality as it involves those occupying positions of trust in our society (in this instance, the UNIZIK VC); should we always cover up illicit actions, criminal behaviour, actions unbecoming, glaring acts involving sharp practices, etc.? The part two of this essay will throw more light on the alleged massive fraud involving the Vice Chancellor, Prof Boniface Egboka-and this will be supported with facts obtained during the course of delving into the issue under discussion.
A university Professor by every known standard is deemed to be a person of high intellectual standing, a person who has been found to be of good behaviour, and an individual whose moral fibre is stout. Even though humans are known to be imperfect, feeble and gullible, a Professor is expected to exhibit a rare breed of ethical uprightness when challenged by circumstances. In view of all the undeniable facts stacked against Professor Egboka, can we truly say that his logic of ethics as a Vice Chancellor is above board? Well, it could be argued that his son in-law should not be denied the chance of working as a contractor in projects awarded by UNIZIK, but then was due process followed? Certainly, the VC exhibited a poor sense of judgement when he saw nothing wrong in awarding almost all the high-cost contracts in UNIZIK to companies owned/managed by his son in-law.
It would be a lot easier to fathom if the matter started and ended with the Vice Chancellor flagrantly “dashing” major contracts to his in-law-no! The contracts were allegedly “re-assessed” and the contract sum increased rather dramatically-even though no drama was involved. This scenario was replicated in many of the contracts awarded to the VC’s son in-law and at the end of the day, the amount involved is said to run into billions of Naira. This must be one lucky son in-law!
Interestingly, it has been alleged that news of the perceived shenanigans being championed by Professor Egboka started coming to the surface the moment a former VC of UNIZIK fell out of favour with him. When the duo were allegedly sharing and splitting contracts amongst themselves and their fronts, there was no squabble whatsoever, but the moment the former VC started feeling threatened by Egboka’s perceived giant strides, the bubble burst. The veracity of this claim remains to be supported with hard facts even though it has been observed that majority of the Professors who are opposed to the current VC are from the camp of the former VC. The same group of Professors reportedly sent a petition to the EFCC.
Even though the EFCC did acknowledge receipt of a petition detailing the alleged litany of corruption in UNIZIK under Professor Boniface Egboka, it does appear that the anti-corruption agency has gone to sleep on this matter. It will be wrong for the EFCC to allow this matter to be permanently shoved under the carpet; we must not allow cases of brazen embezzlement of public funds to be hidden from the ever prying eyes of the good public. Will it be in order to assume that a compromise of some sort has deftly crept into this ugly scenario?
The level of corruption in Nigeria is mind-boggling-it does appear that virtually everyone is sipping from this poisoned chalice one way or the other. The mentality here remains one of allowing the roulette game of horrifying corruption to continue spinning while we all hope that we get lucky at it someday.
However, administrators of institutions of higher learning must not be allowed to get away with mismanaging public funds; they are the ones charged with shaping the impressionable minds of our leaders of tomorrow. Therefore, those that encourage the rapid growth of this cancer that is fast killing our nation must be stopped. The second part of this exposure will definitely attempt to bring to the attention of the wider public the dirt that was dug up in UNIZIK.
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