LASU SET TO APPOINT SERVING ROGUE PROFESSOR, PROFESSOR EMERITUS

Despite being involved in age falsification in order to extend his retirement date, the management of Lagos State University (LASU) is set to appoint a former executive secretary of the Nigerian University Commission (NUC), Peter Okebukola, as an emeritus professor, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

In April 2019, PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported how Mr Okebukola, a professor of science education, used three different birth dates interchangeably to manipulate the system several times during his career.

Documents obtained by this newspaper show that Mr Okebukola has three different birth dates in the records of the university – February 17, 1949; February 17, 1948; and February 17, 1951.

Falsification of age

When employed by the institution, Mr Okebukola , who is generally regarded as the academic mentor of the incumbent vice-chancellor of the university, Olanrewaju Fagbohun, used February 17, 1949 but later presented two other birth dates – February 17, 1948 and February 17, 1951, at different times in the course of his 35-year career at the university.

While the institution noticed these discrepancies as early as 2014, he was, however, condoned. He was not sanctioned let alone dismissed as provided by university rule for the condition of service of senior staff.

On October 2, 2014, Olayinka Amuni – the then deputy registrar (who is now the substantive registrar of the university) – raised the irregularities in Mr Okebukola’s birth dates to the registrar of the university.

Mr Amuni explained that the professor ,who was employed in 1984 , with the birth date of February 17, 1949, was due for mandatory retirement on February 17, 2014, the day he turned 65.

“Professor P.A.O Okebukola was granted approval for three hundred and thirty-six (336) days deferred leave which should be utilised as terminal leave preparatory to final retirement from the service of the university,” he wrote in the letter with reference number LASU/ASE/REG/002.

Asides the deputy registrar noting the irregularities, the university’s Academic Staff Establishment, the division of the university that oversees matters of staff recruitment, promotion, discipline and welfare, flagged the discrepancies in Mr Okebukola’s birth dates after he applied for sabbatical leave in July 2014, and declined approval for the leave.

Following the push back by the Academic Staff Establishment, the former NUC boss in a letter dated December 5, 2015 eventually notified LASU management that he was prepared to retire from the service of the university.

But he again came up with another letter on January 18, 2016 withdrawing his notice of retirement. This came five months before the then Lagos governor Akinwunmi Ambode, signed the amendment to the LASU law, which extended the retirement age from 65 to 70 in May 2016.

The swift approval by the VC, Mr Fagbohun, who then said Mr Okebukola should proceed on sabbatical from February 2016 to February 2017 after withdrawing his retirement letter, was again countered by the deputy registrar, Mr Amuni , who noted that the VC’s approval of Mr Okebukola’s request to withdraw his notice of retirement was out of tune with the university’s law. Mr Amuni said this in a letter dated February 9, 2016.

 

He also described the approval of Mr Okebukola’s application to go on sabbatical leave and his continued stay at the university as “anomalies.”

Mr Amuni, who was in charge of Academic Staff Establishment division, argued in the letter addressed to the registrar at the time that the subsisting policy of the university under which the sabbatical leave was approved was that “an academic staff who is sixty-five (65) years old shall compulsorily retire on age grounds.”

“In view of the law enacted by the Lagos State House of Assembly establishing the contributory Pension Scheme for Employees in the Public Service of Lagos State and for connected purpose, Professor Okebukola ought to have retired statutorily by the 17th February, 2014 on the strength of the first date of birth he presented i.e 17th February, 1949,” he wrote.

“In the view of the above background information/irregularities observed, vis-a-vis the positions of regulations, the Registrar may wish to recommend to the vice-chancellor that to redress the anomalies, Professor Okebukola’s sabbatical leave be terminated forthwith and; his letter seeking to withdraw his earlier retirement be discountenanced”, the deputy registrar pointed out then.

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LASU lied to protect Okebukola

When contacted, Mr Fagbohun and Mr Okebukola both ignored PREMIUM TIMES’ request for comment.

 

Also, the institution’s spokesperson, Ademola Adekoya, rather than address issues raised by this newspaper said, the university management had decided not to comment on the issue.

The university later released a statement claiming it relied on the date of birth forwarded to it by Mr Okebukola’s former employer, Oyo State College of Education, when he was employed by the university.

Peter Okebukola, a former executive secretary of the Nigerian University Commission (NUC). [PHOTO CREDIT: The Guardian Nigeria]

“Professor Peter Okebukola joined the service of Lagos State University transferring his service from the then Oyo State College of Education, Ilesa and the date of birth on his Record of Service forwarded to the University by his former employer is 17th February, 1951. The University is bound to stand by that date because the Record of Service is the officially recognized record of his past service.

“The affirmation of the Date of Birth of Professor Okebukola in the Record of Service forwarded to the University by the Oyo State College of Education, Ilesa confirmed the assertion by Professor Okebukola that he was born on 17th February,1951,” the management of the university stated.

But official documents obtained from the university showed the school management was aware of Mr Okebukola’s multiple birth dates.

LASU VC, Olanrewaju Fagbohun

The documents also revealed that the university vice-chancellor, Mr Fagbohun, was not only aware of calls by the university’s Academic Staff Establishment division for Mr Okebukola to retire having exceeded his statutory retirement age but also actively prevented the division from ordering him to retire.

Despite the integrity shadow cast over his career by the falsification of his age, the management of the university appointed Mr Okebukola a distinguished professor, during its 21st convocation ceremony in 2017.

Professor emeritus

On August 24, 2020 – the university’s department of Science and Technology Education nominated Mr Okebukola for the emeritus status because of “his outstanding contribution to the university in general and his extensive research and publication.”

He was said to have mentored both academic and non-academics within and outside the university, documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES revealed.

 

Moreover, the Dean of Faculty of Education, Olatunde Owolabi, in a letter dated September 1, 2020, communicated the nomination of Mr Okebukola by the Faculty of Education ‘s Appointment and Promotion Committee to the vice chancellor.

The faculty said the former NUC boss met the requirements of the university condition of service for senior staff and as such was nominated by the department as provided by section K of the university rule which states that “the candidate must have successfully supervised the PhD Thesis of at least five (5) candidates; he must have produced at least a student who had attained Professorial cadre”

“He must enjoy the overwhelming support from his department; as an ambassador of the University, such candidate should consistently attract funds or grants from which the younger generations would benefit; a certain percentage of the funds which the Emeritus Professor attracted should be given as Honorarium to the Emeritus Professor; he must be a team player and be good at conflict resolution; he must be someone highly respected and with high dignity; scoring template should be developed to accommodate the above criteria; attendance at Senate meetings should not be made mandatory for the Emeritus Professor”.

The rule did not explicitly state that nomination should be for retired professors as is the case in most universities around the world.

The norm, however, is that the meritorious honour is awarded to retired and outstanding professors who thoroughly served the system.

But Mr Okebukola is still a serving professor at the university, a situation which prominent academics who spoke to this newspaper found strange.

On the ground of age accepted currently by the university, Mr Okebukola will retire in February 2021.

For instance, at Cornell University in the U.S., an emeritus professor is only given to a member of the professorial staff who retires after ten years full-time equivalency in the rank of a university professor, professor, or associate professor and who has rendered distinguished and meritorious service to the University.

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At the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, it is an honorary title, recognising distinguished academic service of fully retired Professors. Also at the Washington University in U.S., Professor Emeritus must be a professor who had already retired from the system and the promotion is a lifelong appointment.

A senior lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Kehinde Ayoola, said emeritus professorship is not meant to be dispensed for ‘joke.’

“Based on the record, the feat is meant for old professors who have retired from the system. It is to appreciate their contribution to scholarship. I have not seen any situation where someone in the system is honoured with such.

In OAU ,for instance, Wole Soyinka is the only Emeritus in the university’s Faculty of Art. That shows the importance of the promotion. There has never been a case where a serving lecturer is even recommended.

A retired professor, Toye Olorode, told PREMIUM TIMES that LASU’s decision to announce Mr Okebukola as an emeritus professor was ‘watery’.

“The recommendation is watery and should not even be considered. It is for a retired professor who has been found to have genuinely served the department recommending him for such. It is not an honorary degree but a meritorious appointment on retired professors who genuinely worth it.”

“One cannot be recommended when someone is still serving the system let alone be honoured. The system should frown at such development and should not be condoned except such fellow truly deserve it.”

In addition, the vice-chancellor of Technical University, Ibadan, Ayobami Salami, said Mr Okebukola’s nomination is “abnormal”.

“No. It cannot be. It will be abnormal for any department or institution to recommend a serving professor for an emeritus position. The honour is strictly meant for senior staff who retired serving institution. Except one has retired, the appointment is not given. So, it is very abnormal for any of such to occur if the nominee is still in the system. It is used to honour those who are retired already”.

LASU seems bent on conferring the award on Mr Okebukola as the registrar of the school, Mr Amuni, on September 22, 2020, wrote to the university senate on behalf of the vice-chancellor, pleading that Mr Okebukola’s appointment be considered.

When contacted, the spokesperson of the institution, Ademola Adekoya, first denied our report but when confronted with details of the planned appointment, said he could not confirm nor deny such promotion because he is not aware of the development

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