Contract splitting fraud in University of Nigeria Nsukka

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Professor Bartho Okolo

Professor Bartho Okolo

SaharaReporters is in possession of documents which demonstrate that the tenure of Professor Bartho Okolo as Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria since 1999 has witnessed large scale manipulation in the award of university contracts.

These frauds usually involve multiple splitting of contracts perpetrated by the Vice Chancellor without regard to the financial regulations of the University and the various laws governing the expenditure of public funds in Nigeria.
With the promotion of accountability in mind, some of these regulations have established rules that limit the size of contracts that Chief Executive Officers can award without reference to a higher authority.

At the University of Nigeria, in order to get around this, Professor Okolo resorted to splitting contracts into several parts. This practice is explicitly illegal, and is a very serious crime under both the University of Nigeria Financial Regulations and the Nigerian Public Procurement Act of 2007.  Nigerians would recall that Chief Bode George, a former National Vice Chairman of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, was jailed specifically for this practice.
This fraud by Professor Bartho Okolo was brought to the attention of the Governing Council of the University at its 221st Meeting held on September 16 and 17, 2010.  Although the Council, according to the minutes of the said meeting expressed shock at such fraudulent contract splitting, it opted to abet this fraud by keeping mute (attachment 2). The Chairman of the Council, Professor S.O. Igwe, led some other council members in pleading this position.

The obvious reason for the failure of the Governing Council to do its job by applying the laws of the land to a fraudulent Vice Chancellor is that the Council has been compromised. The collusion of the University Council in this fraud is not surprising especially given the fact that Professor Igwe, who was the academic face of the General Abacha one million man march several years ago, is well known for his fraudulent antecedents. Specifically, he was himself the champion of similar contract splitting practices when he was the Vice Chancellor of Abia State University in Uturu.  In this regard, it would be recalled that a January 29, 2000 Government White Paper in the Report of the Visitation Panel to Abia State University Uturu from 1989 to 1999 (attachment 3) noted as follows:
The Panel observed that the former Vice Chancellor Prof S O Igwe devised means of manipulating the Internal Tenders Board by splitting contracts so that the contract sum will fall within the limit allowed the Vice Chancellor through the Internal Tenders Board by the Financial Regulation of the University.  
The Report then went on to state:
The Panel recommends that the former Vice Chancellor Prof S O Igwe be reprimanded for flouting the University Financial Regulations by splitting contracts to make the contract sum fall within the limits allowed the Vice Chancellor and Internal Tenders Committee under his Chairmanship (pp.19-20).
The Government White Paper succinctly summarized the fraudulent credentials of Professor Igwe thus:
Government notes these findings No. 14 to 23 on the former Vice Chancellor Prof. S O Igwe and views with dismay, these and other findings on the former Vice Chancellor, and his tenure particularly the following in which he is found culpable: (a) Mal-administration of justice (b) Over pricing of contracts (c) Various financial irregularities (d) Over employment of labour (e) Abuse of office (f) Gross misconduct (g) Deceit of the State Administration, and (h) Lack of vision and reason in staff welfare matters. Government very vehemently condemns these actions confirmed by the Panel perpetrated under Prof. S O Igwe. Government therefore hereby directs that the former Vice Chancellor, Prof S O Igwe be terminated from the date he voluntarily retired from Office (pp. 25-6 of the Report which is attached as 3).
After this, Professor Igwe shed his skin and got an appointment as the Vice Chancellor of the University of the Gambia. Once his real personality became known to the Gambian Government, they immediately dispensed of his services  
The fact that such a character can slip through the numerous national controls and checks and be appointed Pro Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of one of the oldest universities in Nigeria must be of concern to all who are interested in the development of the educational sector in the country.


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