Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd), the President, has ordered the arraignment of Chima Igwe, the former acting Director-General of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research in Oshodi, Lagos.
He ordered the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission to start the process of prosecuting him for 18 years of collecting salary based on a fictitious PhD.
Buhari also requested Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, to give the institute’s governing board unfettered rein.
The President instructed that the board should commence the process of appointing a substantive director general.
In 2019, when the position of DG was vacant at FIIRO after the former occupant retired, Onu appointed Igwe despite the opposition of the governing board due to his controversial doctorate, which was being investigated by the ICPC.
The ICPC, which had previously cleared Igwe, said it had been deceived and had restarted its probe. He did not complete the academic program, according to the agency.
The FIIRO board ousted him and relegated him to the position he had before to obtaining the phantom credential in 2002.
Igwe returned to the University of Benin, defended his thesis, and received a diploma dated 2020.
Onu then pressed the FIIRO board to restore him as DG, but the board Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Gwarzo, refused, claiming that the officer deserved to be prosecuted rather than rewarded for the fraud.
After several failed attempts to get the board to do his bidding, the minister levelled allegations of financial improprieties against the members, which were reportedly dismissed by the authorities.
Efforts by the board to begin the process of installing a substantive DG were frustrated by Onu, who claimed that the President was still considering Igwe for the position.
Despite not having completed their four-year term and without the permission of the President, who had exclusive authority to dissolve the board, the minister later wrote a note to the board stating that their time had ended.
However, Buhari, in a letter dated September 7, 2021, addressed to Onu, and signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Administration and Operations), Ibrahim Adamu, declined the “prayers of the Honourable Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation on the appointment of Chima Cartney Igwe as the substantive Director-General of FIIRO, Oshodi, Lagos State.”
“Directed the governing board of FIIRO to commence the process of the appointment of a substantive Director General in accordance with Section 184.108.40.206 (a) and (d) of the Conditions of Service for Federal Research and Development Agencies, Institutes and Colleges (Revised 2019).
“Directed the Honourable Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation to allow the Governing Board of FIIRO to operate freely within the ambit of the provisions of extant regulations guiding the relationship between the ministry and parastatals.
“Directed the ICPC to commence prosecution of Mr. Chima Cartney Igwe for giving false information to his employer,” the document added.
Reacting to the development, the Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Universities’ Teaching Hospitals Research Institutes and Associated Institutions, FIIRO branch, Togunde Oyekola, commended the board chairman and his team for their commitment to justice and integrity.
Oyekola urged the board to do more on productivity enhancement and staff welfare.
He also asked for transparency in the appointment of a substantive DG within the bounds of the law, public service regulations, research institution terms of service, and other existing norms.