Following the FIIRO certificate fabrication incident, Buhari’s minister has sparked new controversy.

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After failing to install Chima Igwe, a demoted officer of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, as the agency’s Director-General, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, has announced the reformation of the agency’s governing board.

This was in response to his dissolution of the board, which he did in violation of their four-year membership term.

Stakeholders argued that the board dissolution was carried out without proper process and without the approval of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), who had exclusive authority.

In addition to FIIRO, Onu dissolved the boards of 11 other parastatals under his control, including the National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI), Nigerian Institute of Science Laboratory Technology (NISLT), Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis and Onchocerciasis (NITR), National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), National Centre For Technology Management (NACETEM), National Research Institute (NRI), and National Research Institute (NRI).

In an internal memo, Onu stated that the new governing boards would be inaugurated on Thursday, October 14, 2021.

In the document, he also stated that the President had given him permission to restructure the boards.

The agencies, according to our source, rejected the minister’s letters of dissolution dated August 5, 2021, claiming that Onu had not followed necessary process.

While stating that they had four years to serve, which would end in 2022, the chairmen also stated that only Buhari had the authority to disband them.

“The PRODA board expects your office to express Mr President’s consent that the PRODA board is disbanded or its tenure elapsed,” PRODA chairman Daniel Onjeh wrote in a letter to the ministry. Until then, I and other PRODA board members will treat your letter as a reference.”

“The exercise carried out in the course of the inauguration of boards under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology was on behalf of Mr President, and the same in the procedure of dissolution,” FIIRO Chairman Ibrahim Gwarzo said. A minister cannot appoint or disband a board based on the following.”

One of the impacted chairmen told PUNCH Metro on Sunday that the minister was causing havoc with the system.

He stated that his team had been in office for three years and five months.

“Does it mean the five months are an extra or a bonus if he says we have three years in office instead of four?”

“There are three steps to disengagement, as far as we know: Mr. President can select a board to replace an existing one. Two, Mr. President has the authority to request that the Secretary of the Federation’s Government issue disengagement letters. Three, Mr. President has the authority to dissolve the board through the SGF.
“As far as the processes go, the chain of disengagement is adequately spelled out. “However, none of this has occurred,” he stated.

Most of the agencies under Onu’s administration, according to a source, do not have substantive director generals.

Aside from FIIRO, which has a recorded history of clashes with the minister, he stated that a few agencies have accused him for meddling with their operations.

The source said, “He exhibits high-handedness over governing boards in the ministry, faults processes and ensures that no substantive DG for any of the agencies, only acting overseeing directors in all the agencies under him. In fact, a Senate committee took this up some time ago.

“Also, the minister bypasses the permanent secretary, who is the chief operating officer in the ministry; he is using an acting director and his own appointed special adviser to perpetrate this kangaroo board inauguration in a ministry where there are a number of full directors and a permanent secretary.”

Our correspondent obtained a memo by the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari, and addressed to Onu on the complaint of the NITR Governing Council.

He was asked to stop interfering with the running of the agency.

The letter, dated September 1, 2021, also directed the NITR Governing Board to commence the process of appointing a substantive director-general in line with extant rules and regulations.

A similar letter was addressed by the Chief of Staff to the President to Onu on FIIRO.

The letter, dated September 7, 2021, declined the minister’s request to confirm his candidate, Igwe, as the director-general of the institute.

It also asked Onu to allow the governing board to operate freely, and directed the board to commence the process of appointing a substantive director-general.

Stakeholders wondered how the President would in September 2021 direct the governing boards to appoint substantive heads if he (Buhari) dissolved them as insinuated by Onu in his letters of dissolutions dated August 2021.

“The minister is bitter because of ‘Igwe-gate’. He is bent on disregarding the presidential directive and selecting new board members. He is arranging a Kangaroo selection and inauguration without the backing of the Federal Government.

“The incumbent boards were appointed by the Federal Government and can only be dissolved by the same Federal Government. Deliberately, he is not using the ministry’s secretariat for the inauguration,” a source said.

The Special Adviser to the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Ibiam Oguejiofo, and the acting Director, PRPA, Irene Ijoma, whose contacts were on the letter of inauguration of the new governing boards, did not take their calls which rang out 11 times in total.

As of press time, they had yet to respond to text messages from our correspondent seeking clarification on the new governing boards.