[INVESTIGATION]: STUDENTS UNION AND THE TORRENTS OF UNANSWERED QUESTIONS; STRAIGHTENING THE EDGES FOR THE TONGUE-TIED ELECTED MEMBERS

By Damilare Ajiboye

As regards politics, embracing silence at a time when the murmurs of the electorates have put to doubt the transparent activities of the Students Union principal members is sheer irresponsibility. True, after clipping the feathers of the Union for close to three years by the Prof. Olayinka-led University Senate, the Union is still in its embryo stage, trying simultaneously to awaken the aluta spirit in students and to avoid the fall of the management’s continuous dangling gavel of a renewed suspension, but keeping mum about the Union’s activities is just another of a thousand ways to have a questionable administration. It is a matter of black or white reasoning; when genuine information becomes scarce, rumours of shady dealings establishes itself in the minds of the electorates yearning for replies to unanswered questions.

To some members of the Students Union Executive Council [SEC], the reason some of its activities are not known to the electorates is partly due to the delay by the Students Representative Council [SRC] in ratifying the budget of the Public Relations Officer of the Union.

To some members of the SRC, the SRC, though with powers of its own, is like a child in the gathering of elders- often times, he is meant to be seen but not heard; as it is, the SEC takes all the glory for the activities of the Union regardless of what arm of government carried it out.

While this piece is not exhaustive of all the activities of the Union since inauguration, it provides unbiased clarification on pertinent questions begging for answers, and leaves the readers, as rational beings, to make up their minds on how best to handle the situation at hand.

On the SRC Annual Parliamentary Pilgrimage to Abuja

It is true that the Students Representative Council [SRC] is planning a visit to the National Assembly Chambers in the capital city of Nigeria at the cost of 968,500 naira. It is also true that the House approved the sum of 128,000 naira for a pre-visit to the National Assembly by three of its members. The purpose of this pre-visit is to make the proper visit a thing of ease for the SRC.

It was also discovered that when the SRC was presented with the proposal of visiting both parliamentary Houses in Oyo state and Abuja, it turned down the proposal to visit the Oyo state House of Assembly at a lower cost, and opted for the National Assembly. This decision, according to the House was hinged on the need to cut expenses.

Speaking with the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Oluwaferanmi Omitoyin, on the rationale behind the visit, he stated that there are three things a legislative body works by- the Constitution, Custom and Tradition, and that the SRC’s visit to the National Assembly is only a matter of upholding Custom. He further stated that there are endless possibilities the Students of the University of Ibadan stand to gain because the SRC will not just be visiting the National Assembly, but will ensure it seeks for funding for the Union through its visit.

Making clarifications on the 968,500 naira earmarked for the visit, Rt. Hon. Oluwaferanmi stated that the funds that will be used for the visit will not be drawn from the Students Union’s purse. The House will seek for external sponsors to fund its visit to the National Assembly. According to him, it is a good initiative for you to source for funds to go on a visit where you will actually get more funds for the Union.

On 100,000 Naira Exam Packages for 108 SRC Members

It is true that the Students Representative Council has approved the sum of 100, 000 naira for examination packages for a total of 108 SRC members.

A quick elementary arithmetic reveals that each member would be entitled to nothing less than nine hundred and twenty five naira for the exam package. However, when some members of the SRC were contacted for the content of the exam package, it was revealed that they got five sachets of Cocopops [50 naira each] and eight sachets of small Dano Milk [30 naira each], all valued at four hundred and ninety naira only.

When contacted on why each member was entitled to nine hundred and twenty five naira worth of exam package but got something worth of four hundred and ninety naira, the Speaker explained that the 100, 000 naira approved was meant to serve the SRC members for all the exams that would be written during the administration. Hence, there is a need to prudently spend half of the money and keep the remaining half for subsequent examinations that would be written during the administration.

It is also true that the SRC approved the sum of 120,000 naira for examination package through the executive council for the generality of the students. This approved sum, the President of the Union, Mr. Akeju Olusegun, confirmed was used to purchase cartons of spaghetti for 1200 students at 100 naira per piece.

On why the SRC approved the sum of 120,000 naira for examination package for the generality of Students through the executive, but approved 100, 000 for the SRC members consisting of just 108 members, Rt. Hon Oluwaferanmi simply stated that there is no way a properly planned initiative would not supersede what was planned in a rush. What was brought was what was approved. The exam package for SRC members has been planned ahead of time.

On the SRC’s 59,000 Naira Feeding Allowance

It is true that the SRC allocates to itself the sum of 59,000 naira for feeding in every sitting. This amount is to serve a total of 108 members.

Aside the first SRC meeting where members were inaugurated, there has not been a sitting with all 108 members present. Details of the content of the meal still remains scanty.

The Members of the welfare committee of the SRC retains the discretion in determining how much or what quantity of meal should be made available from the 59,000 naira feeding allowance.

It is expected that the honourable House will make available to the UCJ a breakdown of how this money is spent in every sitting.

Often times, the SRC sitting lasts for more than ten hours.

On the House Secretary and the 1.9 Million Naira Lavished On Students Union Buses

It is true that a total of 1.9 million naira [1,923,595] had been approved for the office of the House Secretary since December 17, 2019.

First, at the Students’ Representative Council meeting that was held on the 25th of January, 2020, a total sum of 840, 070 naira was approved for the office of the House Secretary, this is inclusive of the 4840 naira pre-budget sum collected by the House Secretary, Mr Richard Olajide. Also, at the parliamentary meeting that held on March 7, 2020, an additional sum of 1, 083, 525 naira was approved for the same office.

It is important however to state that not all the money approved was meant to be spent on the two Students Union buses. Of the 840, 070 naira approved, a total of 387,700 naira was expended on the two buses alone. Likewise, from the 1, 083, 525 naira approved on March 7, 2020, so far a total of 233, 500 naira has been expended on the buses.

This money is different from what has been spent, and what is being proposed to be spent on fuelling the two buses.

For both January and February, 45, 225 naira and 55, 500 naira were spent respectively on fuelling the two buses. While 350, 000 naira has been approved for fuelling for the rest of the administration at 50, 000 naira per month.

Asides these, as part of the approved 1.9 million naira, a total of 147, 200 naira was set apart to be used for the purchase of Synthetic oil [ 72, 000 naira], Emergency needs and Washing [ 100, 000 naira] purchase of Jack and Wheel spanner [ 24,000 naira] and purchase of two fire extinguisher valued at 12, 000 naira each.

The rest of the money is to go into the renovation of the eight toilet seats in the Students Union Building.

The sum of 190,190 naira was also approved for the organisation of the Kunle Adepeju day which was handled by the office of the House Secretary.

As pertaining to the office of the House Secretary and programmes carried out by the holder, the total sum of 2.1 million naira has been approved [2,113,785].

On the Students Union Gulping Three Million Naira in Two Months And Nine Days

In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that the students union had gulped a total 3.4 million naira [3,468,559] between December 17, 2019 and February 26, 2020.

Upon swearing in of the principal members, the opening balance of the Union account was a total of 4.4 million naira [4,428,019.23]. Aside this, there was an income of 220, 200 naira collected as rent from shop owners within the Student Union building, and the sum of 40,000 naira realised from the lease of the Students Union event centre. All these bring the total opening balance to 4.6 million naira [4,688,219.23].

Documents retrieved from the office of the Treasurer show that the Union opened the account with a pre-budget sum of 759, 495 naira approved by the SRC. Of this pre-budget sum, the office of the president got a sum of 95,500 naira, office of General Secretary, a sum of 151,750 naira, office of House Secretary, a sum of 4,840 naira, office of Treasurer got 97,700 naira and the office of the Vice President got 359,300 naira.

After this, a budget of 1.9 million naira [1,993,640] was approved for the SU Executive Council. The Students Representative Council also approved a sum of 1.9 million naira [1,938,778] for itself. Of this, a total of 923,509 naira has been disbursed to the SRC. The Speaker of the House however confirmed that not more than 650, 000 naira has been spent so far by the House.

With bank charges and taxes pegged at 6,437.66 naira, the balance, as at February, 26 2020, is 1.2 million naira [1,213,022.57].

On the Students Union Dangling Hopes for More Money from the Management

Between the swearing in of the Students Union principal members headed by Mr Akeju Olusegun on December 17, 2019 and February 26, 2020, a total of 3 million naira [3,468,559] had been expended on what the administration best describes as Students oriented projects and programmes, or things needed to keep the administration running.

As at the last sitting on March 7, the total money left in the students union purse, according to the Union’s Treasurer, is 1.2 million naira [1,213,022.57].

Considering that tentatively, the Akeju led administration is to terminate by September, 2020, one wonders how the administration would survive the economic trolls of the coming months.

In response to question posed to Mr. Akeju on why so much money was spent in so little time, he stated that the money needed to be spent to resuscitate the Union that has been dead for more than two years. He however further claimed that all money that has been expended whether on buying of things or organising events from the start of the administration can be accounted for through the offices of the House Secretary and the Treasurer.

On how the Union would survive the coming months with a little above one million naira, Mr. Akeju stated that asides sourcing for funds from external sponsors, the Union is still expecting the money collected on its behalf by the University management during the two academic sessions the union was suspended. This, he estimated to be between seven million naira and fifteen million naira. He also stated that the University management is still indebted to the Union for the money realised from leasing out the Students’ Union event centre culminating to about 592,000 naira, and the Union’s forty percent entitlement to the Union’s Marcopolo bus sold by the University management also totalling about 590,000 naira.

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