at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos, have shut down
operations and vowed not to resume work until the acting director-general,
Chima Igwe, is suspended for parading a phantom PhD.
It was learnt that the union leaders had on Friday
seized the official car of the DG, as they demonstrated on the premises.
carried placards with inscriptions such as, ‘Acting DG must step aside for fair
investigation’ and ‘FIIRO staff demand application of public service rule on
Igwe was appointed the acting
DG of FIIRO in May 2019, shortly after the expiration of the tenure of Prof.
The governing board of the
institute had initially opposed the appointment because there was no PhD
certificate in Igwe’s file.
The board had recommended that
since the matter was being investigated by the Independent Corrupt Practices
and other related offences Commission, the next most senior officer should be
But the Minister of Science
and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, rejected the board’s advice and insisted that
Igwe should be made the acting DG.
The PhD issue was still being
investigated by the ICPC when our correspondent reported that Igwe did not
obtain the degree in 2001 from the Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin Republic,
as he claimed.
The Deputy Director of the
Doctoral School of Pure and Applied Sciences of the institution, Prof. Valentin
Wotto; the Director of the Postgraduate School, Prof. Joel Tossa; and Igwe’s
supervisor, Prof. Mansour Mudachirou, all stated that he had yet to defend his
They also denied that the attestation letter Igwe had been parading
was proof of his graduation.
workers started the protest last Thursday, which was suspended after the
Chairman of the governing board, Alhaji Ibrahim Gwarzo, promised to take a
decision on the matter.
It was learnt that Gwarzo
asked to be given till 2pm on Friday.
However, by Friday, the
chairman was said to have claimed that he could not unilaterally take a
decision as the board members were not available.
The workers subsequently went
on the rampage.
The three labour unions in the
institute – the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals,
Research Institutes and Associated Institutions; the Academic Staff Union of
Research Institutions; and the Non-Academic Staff Union – were involved in the
The Secretary of the
SSAUTHRIAI, Oladeji Agbetokun, said the integrity of FIIRO was being
jeopardised with the way the authorities were handling Igwe’s matter.
“The integrity of this community matters a lot. We sell research products and
research outcomes and if people have problems with our integrity, then it means
there is nothing we are selling.
“According to public service
rules, if a public officer is under investigation, such a person should step
aside pending the conclusion of the investigation so that there will be no
interference or influence. So, for the past one year, that was supposed to have
been done. Because the service rule applies to all of us, it should also apply
The Chairman of the SSAUTHRAI,
Togunde Mumeen, said some people had been playing the ethnic card to distract
attention from Igwe’s contentious PhD.
He insisted that all the union
leaders wanted was the suspension of Igwe for a fair investigation.
“We had a gentleman’s
agreement with the board chairman on Thursday that by Friday afternoon, he
would have consulted with all the board members and by 2pm they would tell us
their decision. Unfortunately, when we came back on Friday, we could not find
him and the entire staff members of the institute were agitated,” he added.
However, a worker, who did not
want to be identified, said the board chairman was around but claimed that he
could not act alone.
The Chairman of NASU, Florence
Ogunleye, said her group had written several letters to the management of the
institute to amicably resolve the issue, adding that none of the letters were
acknowledged by Igwe.
She noted that the acting DG
had also been avoiding meetings with the NASU.
Ogunleye said Igwe had been
unjustifiably promoted above his seniors in the institute when he had nothing
to prove his PhD.
“They should do the needful in
the matter,” she added.
It was learnt that during the Thursday protest, Igwe
was forced to react to the scandal.
A union leader was said to
have insisted that he speak and quell the controversy.
The union leader said, “He
came out and thanked everybody. Then he started listing where he had his first
and second degrees. He insisted that he had finished the PhD, but he would not
bring out his certificate until others brought out theirs.
“The question is, who are the
others? What does he mean by others? Is he saying there are other people in the
same class with him?”