The Governing Board of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi has submitted a report on the crisis rocking the agency over the controversial doctoral degree of the acting Director-General, Chima Igwe.
The PUNCH correspondent learnt from sources that the board members, who were agitated by the crisis in the institute, held a meeting with the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, in Abuja on Tuesday.
They reportedly demanded urgent action from Onu, who promised to look into the report and get back to them.
This is just as the Non-Academic Staff Union declared an indefinite strike over the crisis, saying its members would not resume work until the matter was resolved.
Igwe, 57, is in the eye of the storm more than 18 years after claiming to have bagged a doctorate from the Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin Republic, without a certificate to show for it.
He had been promoted several times based on the claim, which became contentious after he was appointed the acting director-general in May 2019.
Several ultimatums given to him by the governing board to produce the certificate ended without any result, as the matter also became a subject of an investigation by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission.
The board had objected to his appointment because of the issue, but the minister rejected their recommendation.
After the ICPC delayed in releasing the outcome of its investigation, The PUNCH correspondent visited the university and was informed that Igwe had yet to complete his studies.
The ICPC later cleared Igwe, saying he duly obtained the certificate.
When the school, in another interview, denied giving any government agency such information, the anti-graft agency said it had reopened an investigation into the matter.
Since last Thursday, workers at FIIRO had started a protest led by their labour leaders to call for the suspension of Igwe in accordance with extant public service rules.
The protesters also accused Onu of shielding Igwe, as the latter was reported to have been frequenting the ministry’s office in Abuja since the crisis started.
Our correspondent learnt that the governing board held a three-hour meeting with Onu on Tuesday to make him see reasons to act urgently.
A board member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Onu promised to call for a management meeting.
He said, “We related our experiences to him and everything that had been happening. Because he was also worried, he listened to us.
“We then gave him a written report with all the attachments. We thought we could handle it on our own, but it is obvious the case is beyond us and apprehension is increasing.
“We gave him our recommendations and he promised to look at them and get back. He said he would call a management meeting and a decision would be made on what we had written and discussed.”
The source said the board was worried that things were degenerating at the institute, adding that only a prompt decision could rescue the situation.
Asked why the governing board could not make a decision on its own, the source said, “We want our decisions to be accepted in Abuja without any sabotage.”
The PUNCH learnt from the board member that the authorities were resisting suggestions that the police be deployed in the institute to quell the ongoing protest action of workers.
The board chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Gwarzo, declined comment when contacted to confirm the meeting.
He, however, said steps were being taken to resolve the matter “as soon as possible”.
Our correspondent obtained a document signed by the General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, criticising Igwe’s refusal to respond to a letter requesting an audience with him over workers’ grievances, including the issue.
Adeyemi berated the FIIRO management for lacking “courtesy.”
“Therefore, by a copy of this letter, the branch committee of NASU has the approval of the union headquarters to embark on an indefinite strike until the management yields to our request for a union/management meeting,” the letter, dated January 20, 2020, said.