FIIRO DG did not complete PhD, says ICPC

The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission has concluded investigation into the controversial doctorate of the acting Director-General of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, Chima Igwe.

The spokesperson for the agency, Rasheedat Okoduwa, on Sunday said Igwe had yet to complete his academic programme.

Okoduwa noted that the agency had already communicated its findings to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The latest report of the ICPC corroborated investigations conducted by our correspondent months earlier.

FIIRO has been in crisis for several weeks, with the workers protesting alleged preferential treatment of Igwe, who for 18 years could not produce a certificate to support his claim to a PhD.

Igwe, who claimed to have bagged the PhD from the Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin Republic, had got several promotions based on an attestation letter indicating he attended the school.

He was appointed the acting director-general in May 2019 despite objections by the governing board, which recommended that the next most senior officer should be appointed because of the controversy surrounding the degree.

The ICPC was still investigating the case when our correspondent travelled to Benin Republic and was told by the authorities that the 57-year-old had yet to complete the programme.

Despite this, the ICPC in September 2019 cleared Igwe and said he duly obtained the PhD from the varsity.

The Director of the School of Postgraduate, Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, Prof. Joel Tossa, in another interview, denied telling any Nigerian agency that Igwe had completed the programme.

The ICPC, in a statement, said it had reopened the case, citing public complaints.

Workers at FIIRO then started a protest, calling for the suspension of Igwe based on extant public service rules.

Efforts by senior ministry officials, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, and operatives of the Department of State Services to end the protest, were abortive.

Some policemen deployed in the institute were reported to have brutalised some of the protesters.

It was gathered that the Senate Committee on Science and Technology summoned Igwe to Abuja last week over the crisis.

A member representing Jigawa North East, Senator Ibrahim Hadejia, said the embattled DG brought his first and second degree certificates and claimed to have paid CFA 260,000 (N157,582) for the processing of his PhD certificate.

According to the former deputy governor, the ministry had asked that Igwe be confirmed the substantive DG after the first clearance by the ICPC.

Hadejia, in a post on his Instagram page with photos of the meeting, wondered how Igwe, who claimed to have first class in Chemistry from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and a master’s degree from the University of Lagos, Akoka, would go to Benin Republic for his PhD.

He said, “A PUNCH Newspaper investigation, however, unearthed another angle as they had communication from the Beninoise university clarifying that attendance was different from graduation and that Dr Igwe was yet to present and defend his thesis which was a necessary component of a doctorate.

“The committee is writing to the ICPC and the ministry to get their perspective since the staff at the institute are still restless and the working atmosphere is tense. I for one can’t imagine why a first class graduate from UNN with a master’s from UNILAG will opt for a Beninoise institution to crown his academic exploits.”

PUNCH Metro learnt that workers at FIIRO were in celebration mood last Thursday and Friday as news filtered in that the ICPC had concluded its investigation.

Our correspondent obtained videos of the workers singing and dancing to drum beats as they bade Igwe farewell.

The ICPC spokeswoman, Okoduwa, confirmed the development on Sunday.

She noted in a statement that the commission faced difficulty with language barrier and ambiguity in translation of documents in the first investigation.

Okoduwa said, “In the course of its further investigation, the ambiguity and confusing language translation issue again reared its head when the institution (Universite d’ Abomey Calavi), in its letter to the Nigerian Mission in Benin dated January 22, 2020, which stated as translated that ‘…Mr Chima Carthney Igwe has completed his three-year doctoral programme’, yet the same correspondence further stated that Mr Igwe had not publicly defended his doctoral thesis and the institution was giving him a chance, at his request, to re-register and update his research results in the current 2019-2020 academic year.

“It stands to reason therefore that if the PhD programme was concluded, there would have been no need to request re-registration by Mr Igwe.

“Although it was confirmed that Mr Igwe did the required three years for the programme from 1999 to 2002 and wrote a thesis, the commission is firmly of the opinion that he cannot be said to have been awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree since he is yet to complete the process of defence of his thesis in the 18 years after he is said to have finished the course work.

“By global standards, the successful defence of a thesis is a compulsory condition for the award of a PhD.

“Therefore, in line with its avowed commitment of discharging its duties with professionalism and responsibility, the commission has since communicated its most recent findings and position to the relevant authorities for necessary action.”

A senior member of the FIIRO governing board commended PUNCH for following through with the case.

“The battle was fought and won by PUNCH. PUNCH started it and other media houses joined. That is how to do it. Your persistence, tenacity and insight coupled with professionalism, has seen to the end of this issue,” the official, who did not want to be identified,  said.

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