An Osun State High Court sitting in Osogbo on Thursday discharged and acquit the former Acting Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Professor Anthony Elujoba of abuse of office and financial misappropriation.
The court also discharged and acquit the former Acting Bursar of the university, Mrs Josephine Akeredolu on allegations of fraud and conspiracy levelled against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The duo was arraigned by the anti-graft agency in 2017 before an Ede High court on seven counts of conspiracy, stealing, paying of earned and productivity allowance of N1.4 bn to staffers of the university without authority’s approval, illegal payment of furniture allowance, abuse of office and conversion of money belonging to the university.
The prosecution team led by Mr M. S. Usman called three witnesses and tendered exhibit to prove it case.
However, the first defendant, represented by Mr Abiodun Olabanpe and Mr Segun Akeredolu, who represented the second defendant entered a no-case submission.
In his judgement, Justice Wasiu Akanbi said the prosecution failed to prove the case of illegal payment of furniture allowance beyond a reasonable doubt. He said the evidence of prosecution witness two(PW2), as well as the letter of appointment of the Acting Vice-Chancellor, tendered before the court showed that the first defendants have right to fringe benefits attached to the office.
He added that PW2 and PW 3 contradicted themselves on whether the first defendant can be paid furniture allowance pro-rata, moreover, the judge added, the university, the owner of the money did not complain of any missing money or fraud against the accused person.
On the payment of earned allowances and productivity bonuses, the court held that “considering the circumstances leading to the payment, which is the peak of the life-threatening crisis and in line with PW2 statement that it was not unusual for Vice-Chancellors to approve such allowances and bonuses and later get authority approval retrospectively.
Moreover, neither the Obafemi Awolowo University nor the Federal Ministry of Education complain of any missing fund and the university’s Governing Council. I believe that such payment cannot be said to be a gratification, especially when the university is owing to its staffers about 50 months allowances and only a few months was paid”.
After the judgement, the school’s union leaders, including, Dr Niyi Sumonu of Congress of University Academics (CONUA) and Ademola Oketunde of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) described the judgement as a victory of truth over false and both declared the entire process as persecution of a man who sought the best for the university community.
Sumonu commended the judge for the dexterity and depth of his judgement, saying he has proved that the court is always the last hope for the common man.