Disquiet has enveloped Nigeria’s foremost research institute, the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), following a plot to deny the most senior director the position of Director-General, as tradition demands.
Following the retirement of the immediate past DG of FIIRO, Prof. (Mrs.) G.N Elemo, the mantle of leadership was expected to fall on Dr. Chima Igwe of the Chemical, Fibre, and Environmental Technology Department, the most senior director at the institute appointed in 2010. However, a campaign of calumny has been mounted against Dr. Igwe, who is the only director not from the South West.
From the management structure, FIIRO has 11 directors. At present one director (Dr. Igwe) is from South East and the other 10 are from the South West. The 10 directors from South West are Dr. Mrs. O.B. Oluwole (Food technology); DR A.K. Lawal (Biotechnology); Dr.Mrs A.E. Asagbra (Production, Analytical & Lab Management); Mrs O.A Akinfere (Human Resources Management); Mr J.O Oderinde (Finance and supply); Dr. (Mrs) B.O Oyedoyin (Planning, Technology Transfer and Information Management); Dr. W.B Asiru (Project Development Department); Mr. Segun Omotade (Procurement department); Mr Dele Oyeku (Extension and linkage); and Mrs O.O Layode (Directorate, Special Duties Abuja).
Daily Sun gathered that government regulation states that at the point of retirement of the head of any government agency/parastatal, the leadership should be given to the most senior director on acting capacity, if there is no substantive appointee to take over.
In the case of FIIRO, as the immediate past DG exited, Dr. Igwe was to assume the headship of the institute on acting capacity first and become the substantive DG later. He was appointed acting DG, but a group of staff started a campaign of character assassination against him, not only to deny him the opportunity of aspiring to serve as a substantive FIIRO DG, but also to cause his forcefully exit from service. His exit would ensure an all-South West management structure.
Sources revealed that those against Igwe first alleged that he got his PhD from a Benin Republic university not recognised by the Nigerian government. The matter was referred to Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC), which replied that the school in question was recognised by Nigeria.
Dr. Igwe had graduated from the University of Nigeria Nsukka in 1988 with First Class honours degree. He obtained his master’s degree from the University of Lagos in 1990 with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.46 and obtained his PhD in 2002 from the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin Republic.
It was gathered that with the failure of the first attack, with NUC confirmation that the university was recognised, the group raised another issue, saying the letter of attestation Dr. Igwe submitted was forged. Letters the authorities wrote to the Nigerian embassy in Benin and to the school for authentication of the document got replies that the documents were genuine, it was gathered.
At present, the group is alleging that Dr. Igwe did not complete the PhD programme, whose certificate the school had already confirmed. However, sources revealed that the Federal Ministry of Education had already confirmed the authenticity of the PhD certificate, following an enquiry by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology.
When the matter first came up, Dr. Igwe was removed as the acting DG of FIIRO and member of FIIRO Management. He was asked to go and collect his Original PhD degree certificate from his university in Benin Republic. He collected the certificate and submitted to both the Governing Board of FIIRO and the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, which necessitated his reinstated as the Ag. DG/CEO, FIIRO, it was gathered.
Not relenting in the campaign against Igwe, to deny him confirmation as substantive DG, the group is using the FIIRO Trade Union leadership, to organise protest as well as mounting a media campaign using a Lagos-based newspaper.
According to a source, “this group and their sponsors have chosen to malign, scandalise, harass and destroy the reputation of Dr. Chima Igwe in order to achieve their purpose using a media house in Lagos to sustain a campaign of calumny.”
Sources at FIIRO revealed that the issue is not about Dr. Igwe’s certificate but the fact that some people do not want a non-South westerner to take over the mantle of leadership in a South West-dominated management team.
Dr. Igwe is a well-published scientist with over a 100 publications in Peer Reviewed Journals, monographs, scientific magazines, books, book contributions, etc. He has to his credit nine numbers of patents and belongs to so many professional bodies, most of which he is a Fellow!
At FIIRO, the first indigenous Director/CEO was Dr. Akinrele (South West extraction), who was succeeded by Dr. Koleoso (South West). Dr. Koleoso was succeeded by Professor S.A Odunfa, who handed over to Dr. Olatunji (both of South West extraction).
Dr. Olatunji at the expiration of his two tenures as the Director General (DG) handed over Dr. Mrs. S.O. Akinola, who handed over to the immediate past DG, Professor Elemo, who though not of South West extraction but married to a man of South West.