VC tackles ex-minister over alleged $50,000 bribe

Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Professor Babatunde Alabi

Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Prof Babatunde Alabi, on Tuesday narrated how he was offered a bribe to influence the award of contracts to former Minister of State for Education, Mr. Kenneth Gbagi.

Gbagi had told the visitation panel to the school that a “top official’’, ostensibly referring to Alabi, collected $50,000 (N8m) as bribe in his presence from a company, Skygrade, owned by him to execute a project in the institution.

But Alabi, while addressing journalists at the institution in Ugbomro, Delta State, described the bribe allegedly offered him as a trap.

The VC, who presented various documents to prove that Skygrade was owned by the ex-minister, alleged that Gbagi “threw’’ the money on his laps to influence the N317m library project in the six-year-old institution.

He alleged, “When wicked people want to destroy you, they set a trap for you. Gbagi called me when he heard I was in Abuja asking me to come and know his house. Then he was still the minister of state for education.

“As the minister overseeing the ministry, there was no reason why I should suspect anything. When we got there, he was upstairs and he was told I was around.

“He (Gbagi) walked down holding a small bag and threw it on my laps. He asked me to open it, but I directed my son to open and see the contents. The minister then told me he wanted me to influence the library contract and give it to Skygrade, owned by him.”

Alabi, who is billed to retire next month, said the reason he did not return the money to Gbagi immediately was that he wanted more witnesses to know what went on between him and the minister in Abuja.

He added, “I came back and asked my Secretary to count the money. The money was then returned to him (Gbagi) through his wife, Evelyn. I wanted more witnesses. That was when I also called my Director of Works and asked him to be careful because this project can send one to jail.”

However, Gbagi said, “I could not have given him (VC) a bribe as a Minister of State for Education on behalf of Skygrade Construction Company because I had resigned as the chairman of the company as required by the constitution then, but I am aware that he (the VC) collected the money.”

There was a messy battle involving the institution’s dissolved Governing Council, the VC and Gbagi.

At a point, Alabi was purportedly suspended by the university council, which had earlier been dissolved by a Federal Government directive days before their action.

The government further directed the reversion of the installed Registrar, Evelyn, wife of Gbagi, to the former position of the Deputy Registrar and set up a panel to probe the cause of the crisis in the only petroleum varsity in the country.

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