Minister shields FIIRO acting DG over certificate scam?

February 3, 2020
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  • HEDA kicks, As staff protest

There are indications that the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, may be shielding the embattled acting Director-General of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Chima Igwe, who has been embroiled in Ph.D. certificate scandal in the Institute. Igwe has been in the storm of certificate scandal over the years in a claim to have obtained a doctorate (Ph.D) from the Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin Republic, but cannot present any certificate to prove he has the qualification he claimed.

FIIRO records show that Igwe received accelerated promotion on basis of the Ph.D. qualification. Invariably, Igwe received promotion faster than most of his colleagues who are directors in the Institute but, did not possess Ph.D.  However, Igwe’s Ph.D.  became controversial when he was made acting Director-General in May 2019 after the exit of the former DG.

The FIIRO Governing Board had on several instances directed Igwe to present his Ph.D certificate which he claimed, but he couldn’t; raising suspicion of false claim.  However, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), conducted investigation into the matter; and after long delay, cleared Igwe.

It was gathered that the ICPC in the report on findings of its investigation, acknowledged that Igwe actually obtained a Ph.D Certificate. However, a media investigation found that the ICPC finding was wrong. The university was said to have disclosed that Igwe is yet to complete his studies for the Ph.D certificate.

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The ICPC was also later found not to have got clarification from the university before confirming Igwe’s Ph.D status. The Commission, thereafter, said it had resumed the investigation.

This Reporter had towards the end of 2019 visited Igwe’s office at FIIRO on two occasions but couldn’t meet him.

Later a journalist in Lagos in a telephone conversation with this Reporter claimed to be the media consultant to the embattled FIIRO acting DG. He said the Minister of Science and Technology had ordered Igwe not to speak to the media, with the assurance that the minister will handle the matter from Abuja.

The self-claimed media consultant in his explanation, said that it is ethnic conflict that is going on in FIIRO. In his view, “other directors in the institute are fighting Igwe and do not want him to be promoted because he is an Igbo man.” However, he couldn’t explain why it is difficult for the acting DG to present the Ph.D certificate he claimed.

The Minister’s protection of Igwe appears to become visible when FIIRO workers went on protest, demanding the acting DG presents the certificate he claimed to have obtained. Delegation was sent the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Abuja, to intervene. Members of the delegation held meeting  with the protesting FIIRO workers, urging them to stop the protests of the false certificate claim of the acting Director-General, Chima Igwe.

It was gathered that the delegates from Abuja included the Directors of Human Resources, Director of Legal Services, Senior Special Assistant to the Minister of Science and Technology on Technical Matters and the Senior Special Adviser to the Minister of State.

The officials were said to have insisted that Igwe cannot be suspended until the conclusion of investigation into his claimed of doctorate degree.

However, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), led by Lanre Suraji, had petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari, demanding the sack of Igwe for false centrifuge claim.

The workers were gathered to have resolved to resist intimidation by the Minister, maintaining that the protest will continue.

FIIRO workers had on Thursday, January 16, 2020, commenced protest led by officials of the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI).

The Chairman of SSAUTHRIAI, Togunde Mumeen, was gathered to have insisted that the protests would not be stopped until the ministry does the right thing.

HEDA, had in the petition by the Chairman, Olanrewaju Suraju, requested FIIRO board to sack Igwe.

HEDA had protested: “We follow up the investigation by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC); but we are surprised to discover that the ICPC appears to have abandoned the investigation.”

HEDA argued that, “The allegations levelled 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 behaviour, which is inimical to the image of the service and which can be investigated and if proved, may lead to dismissal.”

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