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Yerima’s $1m donation tears US varsity apart

Posted by By Sun News Publishing on 2008/03/30 | Views: 998 |

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Yerima’s $1m donation tears US varsity apart


Former governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Sani Ahmad Buka Yerima has spurned a huge controversy in the United States on account of an alleged $1 million donation to a California based private University.

Former governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Sani Ahmad Buka Yerima has spurned a huge controversy in the United States on account of an alleged $1 million donation to a California based private University.

The amount, which the ex-governor however says was exaggerated, is now rocking the institution - American Heritage University - to its foundations. The former governor, now a Senator, is said to have made a similar donation of about $100,000 to an Indian University between 2003 and 2005.

Sources told pointblanknews.com that President of the University, former Dean of Law at the University of Benin, Nigeria, Professor Tony Ogiamen, did not operate on the same pedestal with the other members of the University Senate concerning the actual amount of money that was given to the University by the ex-governor. According to impeccable sources, Yerima may have donated as much as $1 Million in form of endowment towards providing long distance education to the academically disadvantaged Zamfara State.

While it could not have been out of place for a University to source funds from private and governmental entities, the purported secrecy surrounding the link between Yerima and Professor Ogiamen may have contributed to the curiosity of concerned persons on how much the University received. Also, some officials of the school want Professor Ogiemen to come clean on how many Nigerians have thus far received Honorary Doctoral awards courtesy of the University and how much accrued as financial donations from such beneficiaries.

In particular, Ogiamen, a Professor of Law and cousin to Professor Omo Omoruyi, the former Director of Organization, IBB for President, was accused of secretly conferring an Honorary Doctoral on the wife of former Nigerian dictator, Mrs. Mariam Babangida. He has flatly denied any such deal.
However, in an interview with pointblanknews.com, Yerima said: "It’s a lie. I never gave $1 Million. What I approved and which was paid through Zamfara State Ministry of Finance was $50,000.00."

Asked why he had to make such a huge donation to an American University whose budget and fortunes could be bigger than that of an economically backward State like Zamfara, he queried: "What is in $50,000? How much is $50,000? Do not forget that it was tied to a specific need and proposal: The AHU people were to provide Open University linkage to our state university and other higher institutions in the state.

Professor Ogiamen, sources said, allegedly sidelined some of his colleagues when he traveled to Nigeria to collect the money from Zamfara State.
He explains, "My meeting with governor Yerima was facilitated by Mr. Billy Nwoye and Mr. Mainasara Ilo, President of First Legendary Investments in Abuja. Three of us, including the vice-president and the Dean of the University traveled to Gusau via Abuja in 2005."
But there are some grey areas in the narration. Ogiamen confessed that he got $50,000 from Yerima and got back to the United States with $25,000.00. What happened to the balance of $25,000? He explained that the Nigerian factor viz under the table kick-backs to bank officials and payment of consultancy fees his guides took half of the money.

Notwithstanding, Ogiemen finally returned to the US and paid $23,000 to the University’s treasury. Even then, a source claimed that loans taken from some people to organize reception for Yerima in the United States and other expenses incurred on several trips to Nigeria are yet to be settled.
It was learnt that on return from Nigeria, Professor Ogiamen was confronted by some officials of the school to render financial account, backed by documents, of his trip to Nigeria and the Zamfara State project. The Professor of Law was said to have told the officials that there were no documents, as that was the common practice in Nigeria.

He was said to have also told his colleagues that he paid $6,000 to Nigerian officials; an action that sources said was against the policy of the University.
Professor Ogiamen in his response to enquiries by pointblanknews.com corroborated Yerima’s explanation. He said that he was given $50,000 as an endowment to the American Heritage University. He also said that the University did confer an Honorary Doctoral on the ex-Governor. He however denied any fraudulent practice and intentions. He said he did not hawk AHU’s degrees for pecuniary gains in Nigeria.

"I did not give any degree to Mrs. Babangida or collect any money from her." He offered further clarification: "It all began after we met with the governor in Gusau and there was a supposed gift of $50,000 (Fifty thousand dollars) to the University and it was attached to a proposal, which was for AHU to host and organize an international conference in New York on Sharia and Democracy. It was to be funded by the state government, no matter the cost. He then said that if we could organize such a conference, he would endow the university. There was no specific amount mentioned for the endowment.

"We actually had an elaborate discussion on both issues and Yerima was thrilled that we would provide him such an international stage for him to showcase the virtues of Sharia and how it can function in democratic settings. His point was that Sharia was not at variance with the basic tenet of democracy. We were also thrilled that we would be involved in such a conference in New York. We then engaged an event planner in Florida to help us with the logistics. We never got beyond this stage. After he got the honorary award, he became evasive and inaccessible. Every attempt was rebuffed and we were told he was busy preparing for his senate race.

"We spent more than $15,000 for everything including the three trips I made to Zamfara and Abuja in pursuit of the big plans the governor had in mind.
"We also spent a large sum of money to host the governor and his 14-man entourage for the honorary degree award. Even for us to get the payment was a battle. At some point, some of our officials (suggested we) forget the money and the governor so that we concentrate on more tangible things. I refused because we deserved the money no matter how little…"

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