FIIRO removes Igwe, appoints new acting DG

The Governing Board of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, Lagos, has removed embattled acting Director-General of the institute, Mr Chima Igwe.

It was learnt that the Director of Production, Analytical and Laboratory Management, Dr Agnes Asagbra, was appointed to take over from him.

An official notice to the workers on Tuesday, written by the Director of Human Resources and Administration, Mrs. O.A. Akinfire, revealed that the appointment took immediate effect.

“She is to oversee the activities of the institute pending the appointment of a substantive director-general and chief executive officer.

“Please accord her all necessary support towards the achievement of the mandates of the institute,” the memo added.

Asagbra had initially been recommended by the governing board to the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, after the controversy surrounding the doctorate of Igwe surfaced in 2019.

But the minister rejected the recommendation and asked that the 57-year-old be appointed.

Igwe, who for 18 years claimed to have bagged a PhD from Universite d’Abomey Calavi, Benin Republic, took  office as acting DG in May 2019.

According to FIIRO law, no officer can rise above the level of a principal research officer without a PhD.

It was later discovered that he had been using an attestation letter in place of a certificate for his appraisals and evaluations.

A series of investigations by our correspondent revealed that he had yet to complete the programme.

The revelation led to protests by FIIRO workers, who demanded Igwe’s suspension.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, in a statement on Monday, also indicted Igwe, saying he had yet to complete the programme.

The ICPC said it had communicated its findings to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Following the report, the FIIRO governing board was said to have asked Igwe to step down.

The new acting Director-General, Asagbra, was served a letter of appointment and asked to resume office.

A copy of the letter, obtained by PUNCH Metro and dated Monday, February 10, was signed by the Chairman of the FIIRO Governing Board, Alhaji Ibrahim Gwarzo.

Gwarzo, in a telephone conversation with our correspondent, confirmed the development.

He said, “The board, in response to the communication from the ministry, took the necessary step by having the next most senior person take over the institute.

“We asked the former acting DG to await further instructions pending the outcome of an extra-ordinary meeting of the board.”

The Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions, Togunde Mumeen, said the workers would end their protest on Wednesday in deference to the new acting DG.

He noted that peace was gradually returning to the institute.

Our correspondent gathered that the news of the ICPC indictment on Monday sparked jubilation on the premises of the institute.

A band of drummers and singers were said to have been hired, as workers waved palm fronds and leaves to celebrate the news.

The palm fronds and leaves were later dumped on the doorstep of Igwe’s office.

The Chairman of the Non-Academic Staff Union, Florence Ogunleye, said the action of the workers was a mark of rejection of Igwe, adding that he damaged the reputation of FIIRO.

She commended the FIIRO board of directors and the NASU national secretary for “supporting the struggle.”

“Igwe kept a lie for over 18 years and with his position, he subjugated others; some people had to leave the system in frustration.

“People like him should be punished and prosecuted for Nigerians to know that dishonesty does not pay. And his backers should be exposed and punished as well,” she added.

The Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions, Zubair Elakhame, commended the board chairman for the appointment of the new acting director-general.

He said the workers were pleased that their agitation yielded results.

“We are, however, waiting for the board chairman to officially address us so we can know this is finally over,” he said.

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