An end seems not to be in sight in the crisis at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos State, as a demoted officer, Chima Igwe, who was asked to refund salaries he collected for 18 years, has been made a director.
A memo purportedly signed by the Acting Director of Human Resource Management, L.A. Enwerem, dated July 14, 2022, ordered that he should also be paid the salary of a director.
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission is currently prosecuting Igwe before the Lagos State Special Offences Court, Ikeja, for giving false information to his employers.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), had ordered the ICPC to charge the officer to court after the anti-graft agency discovered that he earned salaries with a phantom PhD for 18 years.
He had claimed he got the certificate from the Universite D’ Abomey Calavi, Benin Republic, in 2001 and based on that had got undeserved promotions and salaries.
After the controversies generated by the scandal, Igwe returned to the Benin varsity and was formally awarded a PhD in 2020.
Igwe, a former acting director-general, was demoted by the former FIIRO board led by Alhaji Ibrahim Gwarzo, after the academic fraud became public knowledge.
The board also ordered him to refund the salaries he earned fraudulently.
The board’s decisions did not go down well with a former Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, who favoured Igwe to head the organisation and wrote the President several times to demand his confirmation as substantive DG.
Onu later dissolved the board and installed some acolytes, who overruled some of the decisions of the former board.
The new board Chairman, Alhaji Magaji Gambo, had rued Igwe’s trial, saying it would not affect the agency’s dealings with him.
Sources at FIIRO told our correspondent that the demoted officer had been attending management meetings and acting as a director.
Our correspondent sighted a memo dated August 12, 2022, and purportedly signed by Igwe in his capacity as the Director of Chemical, Fibre and Environmental Technology Department.
The human resources director, Enwerem, in his memo, titled, ‘Reinstatement on position and salary,’ and addressed to the Senior Administrative Officer, ordered that Igwe’s salary as director be restored.
The memo read, “I write to draw your attention to the report of the ministerial committee on FIIRO and the resolution of the Governing Board, dated March 1, 2022, as well as the affirmation of the management committee at a meeting held on June 22, 2022.
“Please, you are hereby directed to reinstate Dr Igwe to his position as Director (CFET) on the nominal roll as well as his salary on IPPIS platform, status quo ante. This is for your strict and immediate compliance and implementation.”
A senior official of the institute stated that the board was only doing the bidding of the former minister.
He said, “There is no basis for his reinstatement. A letter was sent to him (Igwe) in 2021 for his demotion because of the fake certificate he presented.
“The present board itself was instituted by Ogbonnaya Onu and they are simply doing his bidding. It is this same interest that made Onu dissolve the former board because they refused his demands. The staff members of the institute reject the reinstatement of Chima Igwe.
“There is a presidential directive given through the report of the Head of Service that he (Igwe) should go back to being a Chief Research Officer.”
The Joint Action Committee, consisting of all the labour unions in the institute, in a letter to the new Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Adeleke Mamora, demanded the return of Igwe to his position as Chief Research Officer.
The letter, dated July 19, 2022, was signed by the Chairperson of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Education Institutions, Florence Ogunleye; Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions, Zeberu Elakhame; the Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Universities’ Teaching Hospitals Research Institutes and Associated Institutions, Togunde Mumeen.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, and the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari, were copied.
The group said, “To the shock of all staff and well-meaning watchers all over the world, the present Mogaji-led board, in an office notice signed by a deputy director reinstated Igwe to the position of Director, in contravention of the directive of Mr President (Annex VIII).
“The action of the board is against the law of equity and natural justice, as a good number of researchers have been denied promotion and stagnated for several years over lack of PhD; and the action has demoralised the staff immediately.
“We hereby appeal to you to use your good offices to mitigate the above stated matters threatening the progress and survival of the institute, as stakeholders all over the world are watching with keen interest.
“Direct that Dr C.C. Igwe should revert to the post of Chief Research Officer: a post commensurate to his qualification and post-doctoral graduation experience as he continues to face his prosecution at the Special Offences Court by the ICPC in Ikeja, Lagos.”
Enwerem, when contacted by our correspondent on Monday, said he was not obliged to give any information regarding the institute.
The current Director-General, Jummai Tutuwa, said she was not aware of the matter.
She said, “I am not aware of anything because none of the directors briefed me on it. The first management meeting that we had, I just saw him formally introducing himself as Dr Chima Igwe, that is all.”
The board Chairman, Gambo, ended the call after our correspondent introduced herself as a PUNCH journalist.
Our reporter called back 17 times and sent two text messages, but he did not respond.
The spokesperson for the Head of Service of the Federation, Abdulganiyu Aminu, said he was not aware of the reinstatement.
The overseeing minister, Mamora, said he was in a meeting and could not respond immediately.