Posted on Jan 28, 2020
Representatives of the Ministry of Science and Technology have met with workers at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, Lagos, asking them to end the ongoing protest against the acting FIIRO Director-General, Chima Igwe.
Those reported to have been sent from Abuja to the FIIRO Lagos office included the ministry’s directors of human resources and legal, the Senior Special Assistant to the Minister on Technical Matters and a Senior Special Adviser to the Minister of State.
The delegation was reported to have insisted that the workers’ demand for the suspension of Igwe would not be granted because his case was still under investigation.
This is just as a group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, wrote the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), seeking the sack of Igwe.
The anti-corruption group also gave the governing board of the institute 14 days to act or face legal action. Igwe is in the eye of the storm more than 18 years after claiming to have bagged a doctorate from the Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin Republic, without a certificate to show for it.
He had been promoted several times based on the claim, which became contentious after he was appointed the acting director-general in May 2019.
Several ultimatums given to him by the governing board to produce the certificate ended without any result, as the matter also became a subject of investigation by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission.
After the ICPC delayed in releasing the outcome of its investigation, The PUNCH visited the university and was informed that Igwe had yet to complete his studies.
The ICPC later cleared Igwe, saying he duly obtained the certificate.
When the school, in another interview, denied giving any government agency such information, the anti-graft agency said it had reopened investigation into the matter.
On Thursday, January 16, workers at FIIRO started a protest led by officials of the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI).
The protest entered day eight on Monday with the workers calling for the suspension of Igwe based on extant public service rules.
A source noted that ministry officials from Abuja first held a meeting with the management staff as Igwe was also brought in.
“We told them that we did not have a problem with Igwe as a person and we were ready to work with him if he could produce his certificate. We told him we all had our certificates and he should show his own. When he responded, he said his attestation letter was authentic and no matter the investigation carried out, he would be vindicated.
“One of the directors then challenged him that an attestation letter could not be the same as a certificate. From that meeting, I think the ministry is behind him. The Abuja officials told us that since he had sworn to an affidavit that he was still processing his certificate, we should believe him. For 18 years?” the source said.
HEDA, in its petition asked the FIIRO board to sack Igwe.
"We follow up the investigations by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission; but we are surprised to discover that the ICPC appears to have abandoned the investigation," the group’s chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, said.
He demanded that the immediate past DG of the institute, Prof. Gloria Elemo, should be reported for disciplinary action for alleged violation of the extant rule “guiding her handing over of power as DG at the expiration of her tenure.”
"The allegations leveled against the acting director-general, Mr Igwe, is such that is within the definition of serious misconduct as defined in the Federal Government Civil Service Rules in Rule 030401 which defines serious misconduct as a specific act of very serious wrongdoing and improper behavior which is inimical to the image of the service and which can be investigated and if proved, may lead to dismissal," he added.
HEDA also cited Chapter 3 Section 4, 030402 (a-w) indicating the acts which constituted serious misconduct.
Suraju said Igwe violated Rule 030402 (a) falsification of records and (b) suppression of records.
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Science and Technology, Abulganiyu Aminu, said he would call back our correspondent to react.
He had yet to do so as of the time of filing this report.