By Adebayo Abdulrahman
Following the inauguration of a new Students’ Union administration in November 2021, UI’SU TV, a Whatsapp-based TV, was created. A short description on the bio of the TV reads: “This TV is an initiative of the Office of the PRO UI’SU, under the leadership of OMA OUR PRO.”
Immediately after it was created, executive members of the Students’ Union, especially the Public Relations Officer, Olalekan Micheal, began sharing links to connect to the TV across social media platforms.
In their messages, they revealed that the platform is a property of the Union, designed to share information and trendy issues with members of the University community. However, several months after, the platform and the modalities for running it is now a basis for questions about financial accountability and institutional order in the office of the PRO.
One sunny morning in August 2022, Kayode*, an undergraduate at the Faculty of Law, sent a message to UI’SU TV. In his message, he inquired about the rate for advertising his brand on the platform. “2k, A day; 5k, 3 days; 10k, 1 week,” the handler of the TV, directed by the PRO, told him.
Satisfied by the rate, he requested payment details. However, to his surprise, he was told to make payment into a Palmpay account owned by the PRO, Micheal Olalekan.
To independently verify this, this reporter, through separate proxies, reached out to the handler of the TV. In the first case, the reporter presented himself as a student of the institution and was told to pay the same rates as Kayode.
In another case, this reporter created a new profile and introduced himself as CryptoMunk, an undergraduate at the Federal University of Technology Akure. “Adverts: 3k, A day; 8k, 3 days; 20k, 1 week,” the handler responded.
This revealed that just like several individuals that spoke with this reporter, claimed that the TV charges a different rate for students of the institution, and payment for all adverts are made to the personal account of the Union’s PRO.
“It was weird, honestly,” Kayode explained to this reporter while expressing concern for paying into the PRO’s personal account three months after. “But I did not dwell on it (at the time) since I had more important business.”
Kayode’s description of the development as ‘weird’ is not far-fetched; it’s justified. This justification, an investigation conducted by this reporter has revealed, is because the action of the PRO runs afoul of the dictates of the constitution guiding the affairs of the Students’ Union.
According to article V section 5 (i) and (ii) of the constitution, the only official eligible to receive financial payments on behalf of the Students’ Union is the Treasurer, through the official account of the Union. “The Treasurer shall receive, and account for, all the Union’s monies derived from all sources” and “shall deposit all monies so received in the Union’s bank account on the next working day after such receipt,” the constitution states.
When contacted, the PRO argued that payment was into his personal account because the Union lacks the required knowledge to run the TV and does not finance it.
“Does the Union understand what it takes to run a TV? Does the Union finance the TV? Did I ask for anybody’s validation to start the TV?” the Union’s PRO asked rhetorically.
However, an analysis of his argument in comparison with the dictates of the constitution indicates that the PRO is breaking more than just one of the strict financial procedures guiding his office.
According to article V section 5 (iii) of the constitution, to receive payment for any activity, the Treasurer “shall jointly, with the General Secretary and the President or in his/her absence the acting President, sign cheques for withdrawal of monies within the limit prescribed by the approved budget and shall be responsible to the Executive and Council for the disbursement of the approved expenditure of the Union.”
By receiving and allocating funds for the running of the TV, which he confirmed is an official channel of the Union, the PRO has effectively contravened the law.
‘I Have Violated The Constitution…’ – OMA Confirms
When confronted with sections of the Union’s constitution and how his office has continued to show a disregard for it by receiving Union’s funds with his personal account and misappropriating funds, the PRO confirmed that he has truly violated the law.
“I have violated the constitution,” OMA told this reporter on Friday evening. He argued that he deliberately disregarded the constitution because it’s outdated. “They should review the constitution. The SRC ( Students’ Representative Council) is not there to only cut money,” he argued.
He maintained that because Whatsapp TV is an innovation, for it to work, his office must be empowered constitutionally to receive funds and allocate as it deems fit.
When asked if he had tabled the issue to the SRC, he responded negatively. “I have not informed the SRC about a need to review the constitution, though,” he said.
However, several students briefed about the PRO’s argument described it as an attempt to institutionalize the absence of financial accountability.
“To start with, he disregarded the constitution, which is a serious offense for no justifiable reason. Now, he wants the law he broke to be removed from the constitution. That tells you just one thing: he does not want to be held accountable,” one of these students, who pleaded anonymity, said.
UI SU TV OR OMA TV?
Aside from evidence-backed cases of financial irregularities in his office, this reporter gathered that the PRO has failed to distinguish himself and the office he occupies.
This became apparent after it was established that the phone number registered as UI SU TV belongs to the PRO, a development he confirmed.
“The number for UI SU TV is my second line. Most of my friends still have the number saved as mine,” OMA said.
When questioned about what will happen to the TV, a Union property, when he leaves office, he explained that his successor would continue it with a new phone number.
This plan contravenes article VI (iii) of the constitution which mandates that “every official of the Union shall take due care and give a proper account of any Union properties entrusted to his/her care and hand over the same to his/her successor by means of a well-prepared document designed for the purpose.”
By taking the phone number with him, it means his successor will have to start the process of building an audience for the TV, which currently hovers at around 5k constant viewers, from the beginning, the handler of one of the largest privately managed WhatsApp TV in the University community, who pleaded anonymity, explained to this reporter.
“They are doing it for their personal interest,” he argued. “The best and ideal thing is for the PRO to get a sim registered in the name of the association, and at the end of the tenure, the next PRO will receive it as a property of the association.
“Anything else is a strategic attempt to build their personal TV brand at the expense of the association (Union) they serve.”
Editor’s Note: A name in this story has been changed to protect the identity of our source.