Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, has ordered the Governing Board of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), to reinstate the agency’s suspended acting Director General, Dr. Chima Igwe.
The Board led by Alhaji Ibrahim Gwarzo, had suspended Igwe in February when protests rocked the institute over his doctorate degree and directed the Director of Production, Analytical and Laboratory Management, Dr. Agnes Asagbra, to take over.
Igwe was alleged not to have the doctorate degree he claimed to have obtained from Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, Republic of Benin. The Governing Board had asked him to produce his doctorate degree certificate to prove his claim that he possessed it.
An official notice to workers then by the Director of Human Resources and Administration, Mrs. O.A. Akinfire, revealed that Dr. Asagbara would oversee the activities of the institute until a substantive director-general and chief executive officer was appointed.
Daily Sun gathered that following Dr. Igwe’s presentation of the original doctorate degree certificate from the Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, duly issued on February 14, 2020 and signed by the university’s Director, Prof. Joel Tossa and Vice Registrar, Prof. Djimon Marcel Zannuo, which the Ministry of Science and Technology has verified through the Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Onu has written the FIIRO Governing Board to reinstate Igwe to his position as acting DG.
The minister’s letter said since Igwe’s doctorate degree had been proved authentic, the board should lift his suspension and consequently re-instate him to his position prior to February 2020.
It was gathered that the doctorate degree certificate issued Igwe, entitled: “Attestation de Diplome de Doctorat” (meaning “Doctorate degree Certificate” in English), was issued for “Chemical Composition and Atimicrobial Properties of Essential Oils of Some Aromatic Plants from South West Nigeria.”
With the minister’s directive, the FIIRO Governing Board is expected to sit and recall Igwe, who graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, with a first class degree and obtained a master’s degree from the University of Lagos before proceeding to Republic of Benin for his Ph.D in 2001.
After the completion of the doctorate degree, the Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, gave Igwe a letter entitled “attestation” dated March 12, 2019 and signed by Prof Valentin D. Wotto.
The letter written in French translates to English thus: “The undersigned, certifies that, Mr. Igwe Chima Cartney of Nigerian nationality and holder of a Master of Science Degree from the University of Lagos, was enrolled in thesis at the Chemistry Department of the Faculty of Science and Technology under the serial number 3007500. Igwe undertook the following course. 1st year of thesis: 1998-1999; 2nd year of thesis: 1999-2000; 3rd year of thesis: 2000-2001. This certificate is issued to him to serve and assert what is right. Made in Abomey-Calvi, March 12, 2019 -The Deputy Director/EDSEA.”
Another letter entitled “attestation” dated July 3, 2002 and signed by Prof. Mansuor Muodachirou confirmed that Igwe had completed the doctorate degree programme.
The letter written in French translates to English thus: “I, Prof. Mansur Moudachirou, President of the Sectoral Scientific Committee for Science and Technology of the University of Abomey-Calvi and Director of the laboratories of pharmacognosy and essential oils, attests that Mr. Chima C. Igwe completed his doctoral studies in our university. In witness whereof the presented certificate is issued to him -Prof. Mansur Moudachirou.”
The doctorate degree certificate issued to Igwe on February 14, 2020 is a confirmation of his successful completion of the academic programme. Written in French, it states, in Engligh: “The doctorate degree certificate is issued to Igwe Chima Cartney. Born on 26 September 1961 at Akanu-Item (Nigeria). He was registered in the university with serial number 3007500 and was found successful in his research in Chemistry Applications. Title of his thesis: Chemical composition and antimicrobial properties of essential oils of some aromatic plants in South West Nigeria. Doctorate Degree certificate issued on February 14, 2000.”
After the retirement of former DG of FIIRO, the mantle of leadership fell on Igwe, who was the most senior director, in acting capacity. Sources revealed that as soon as this happened, a powerful group instigated by some directors from a certain section of the country wrote petitions alleging that his PhD was not authentic. The allegation caused the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to institute an investigation.
The government agency first cleared Dr. Igwe of wrongdoing, but later started another round of investigation when his transducers alleged that he was parading an “attestation” letter instead of doctorate degree certificate.
Daily Sun gathered that the controversy over Igwe’s PhD is as a result of the misapplication of the word “attestation” from French to English.
Clarifying the issue, a French language expert, Femi Akinbowale, said “attestation” in French means “certificate.”
According to him, although the word “attestation” has the same spelling in French and English, it is pronounced differently and means different things generally in the two languages. He said while “attestation” means “certificate” in French, it means “evidence of proof” in English.
He challenged those in doubt to use their Google search engine and check the meaning of ‘attestation’ in French.
“Attestation de Diplome de Doctorat’ means ‘Doctorate Degree Certificate’ or ‘Doctorate Diploma Certificate’ in English. Those making issues out of this over certificate from a French speaking country are just mischief makers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Civil Society Groups in Nigeria had described the suspension and purported demotion of Igwe as gross abuse of power, and an attempt by some desperate politicians to hijack the administration of the Institute for selfish gains.
In a statement by its Convener, Emmanuel Ayodeji, the coalition said the law was clear about the functions of the governing council, insisting that “among the many functions listed there, none empowers the council to even oversee the daily running of the affairs of the Institute, as being witnessed under the current board.”
The group accused the governing board of conspiring with some directors of the Institute to execute a self-serving mission.
It demanded the immediate dissolution of the governing board of FIIRO, by President Muhammadu Buhari for allegedly taking actions that undermine the progress of the administration.