The Ambrose Alli University (AAU) Special Intervention Team set up by the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to advance the government’s vision to reposition the institution to meet global standards, has unraveled a N2bn tax fraud and other corrupt practices by the management and staff of the University.
The team headed by the Managing Director of Schlumberger Nigeria Ltd, Mr. Andrew Olotu, while presenting its interim report to the Governor at the Government House in Benin City, alleged massive certificate and transcript racketeering and other nefarious acts in the institution, calling for the urgent intervention of the government.
Presenting the report on behalf of other members of the team, Mr. Austin Osakue, noted that “over N2 billion was owed the Edo State Government from the tax that was never paid to the state government. AAU receives more salaries compared to UNIBEN staff and they never pay taxes.
“All the Internally Generated Revenues (IGRs) and school fees collected were not accounted for and all the money entered private pockets instead of the school purse. We have been able to check this excess and now are able to collect N32 million in taxes for the Edo State Government.
“One of the biggest problems in AAU is overhead spending on diesel. Following the bad electricity situation in Ekpoma, the staff of the institution are cashing in on the situation to steal money from the treasury.”
The team revealed that the issue of certificates and transcripts is a big business in AAU and has caused the University a bad image, adding, “Students who graduated from 2019 to 2021 have not collected their certificates as there are people who collect money from students for this cause.”
They further noted, “The SIT paid a loan of N330 million collected to pay salaries in 2021 and another N20 million which was meant for the purchase of special vehicles. Students pay heavily for projects. We have paid the April salaries of staff.
“Government has said the University should key into the Contributory Pension Scheme and the staff of the institution refused to key in and continued with the normal pension. We have invited PFA and have made presentations. We are working to see how to get the workers into the scheme.”
Also speaking, Mr. Omobude Agho, a representative of civil society organizations in Edo State, commended the team for a great job, urging the governor to ensure the immediate investigation and prosecution of those involved in the fraud in the state-owned varsity.
He noted that the University is for Edo people and not for a particular ethnic group, hailing the governor’s commitment to repositioning the school to meet global standards.
Agho said, “I want to appreciate the SIT for the report and thank you for all the troubles you have gone through and appreciate you for the victory achieved so far.
“The last time I led Edo civil society organizations to Ekpoma, they were trying to hide some of these things you mentioned, but they didn’t know that we were on ground two days before the meeting and went around to observe them.”
He added, “We observed that there is this ethnic right of ownership of AAU. Some people think it’s a gift presented to them by the late Ambrose Alli so that they can use it to sustain themselves.
“That is not correct. The University belongs to Edo people and not to certain people. It’s our property and should be owned by all of us. This should be explained by His Excellency himself, letting the people know that the University is for Edo people.”
Governor Obaseki, while receiving the report, commended the team for their service to the State, noting, “The greatest legacy for late Prof. Ambrose Alli is to restore this University back to its glory days and that of his dreams. He never made the University to be an ethnic university but a state university and positioned it as such. The University belongs to the Edo people. It’s Edo State University and the investment is for taxpayers of Edo State.”
“As a government, we have the political will as we are taking a major transformation in our education sector and can do so with our University. We need to clean up the system, preparing it for our children coming in.”
Obaseki added, “Your reports show that there is a criminal aspect in your investigation submitted so far. We don’t have to wait for a full report. That is why I invited the security agencies to commence action and investigation on the criminal aspect of your findings today.”