From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Protest on Tuesday hit one of the prestigious institutes, serving a national think-tank in Nigeria, Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), Olororo, Ojoo, Ibadan, Oyo State.
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the three in-house unions of NISER organised the protest on allegations of incompetence and financial recklessness that they levelled against the Director-General of the institute, Dr. Folarin Gbadebo-Smith.
The three in-house unions are Academic Staff Union of Research Institute (ASURI), Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAL), and Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU).
A press release issued during the protest was signed by the trio of NASU chairman, Tubi Theophilus, who doubles as the JAC chairman; Chairman of SSAUTHRIAI, Matthew Olagunju; and Chairman of ASURI, Babatimehin Muyiwa.
When contacted on phone, Dr. Folarin Gbadebo-Smith said the allegations against him did not start on Tuesday and that the Minister of State, National Planning had constituted a panel on the matter. He said both the panel and the Supervising Minister had told him not to grant press interview on the allegations and that the panel’s report would shed light on the matter. But he was quick to say the whole palaver bordered on the fact that some people within the institute did not want his appointment, which would elapse this month, to be renewed for another period of four years.
The workers in NISER alleged that Gbadebo-Smith is a dentist by profession and possesses no research degree (Ph.D) that could have qualified him as a socio-economic researcher, adding that his appointment was clearly in contravention of the Conditions of Service for Federal Research and Development Agencies, Institutes and Colleges.
The second allegation was hinged on the grounds that the tenure of Gbadebo-Smith has witnessed abysmal low research output, poor staff welfare, non-promotion of qualified staff, no conference sponsorship and capacity training for staff, no strategic plan document, non-adherence to extant rules as regards staff management and deployment, truancy from duty post, and conflict of interest “by the continued running of personal businesses (NGO) to the detriment of NISER.”
The third allegation bordered on financial infractions and embezzlement of public funds. They alleged further that less than 40 per cent of total capital releases were used for research to the advantage of contracts that are never completed and that two research outputs were printed out of over 50 completed research studies.
Chairman of ASURI, Babatimehin Muyiwa, who read the press statement on behalf of the three in-house unions, alleged that there were many spurious research activities that were merely used to siphon public money and “which never passed through NISER’s quality control process.”
He mentioned N20million purportedly for the monitoring and evaluation of ERGP project, N10million purportedly for payment for DTA and transportation in respect of unspecified official trip, N40,752,110.15 purportedly for consultancy payment in respect of modelling for NISER, N85million purportedly for N-Power Project for states, and so on.
“It is on the basis of the foregoing that the JAC resolved that the continued retention of Dr. Gbadebo-Smith as the DG-NISER will be a great disservice to the institute and by extension the nation as a whole.”