Controversy has trailed the alleged planned reappointment of Folarin Gbadebo-Smith as the Director General of Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) Ibadan, Oyo State.
The workers of the institute are accusing Mr Gbadebo-Smith of “administrative incompetence, fraud, and low research output” in the past four years.
They protested on the streets of Ibadan on Tuesday.
This newspaper obtained a 10 page petition of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) addressed to the governing council of the institute on March 19.
The petition was signed by the Chairman of Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions, Muyiwa Babatimehin; Chairman, Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals and Research Institutions, Mathew Olagunju; and Chairman, Non-Academic Staff Union, Theophilus Tubi.
The unions, according to the petition, alleged that since the beginning of the tenure of Mr Gbadebo-Smith’s administration in 2016, “several research reports were ready for publication but not published, thereby risking their relevance, timeliness, and usefulness to the public”.
“In particular, less than 10 per cent have been published with policy briefs not extracted from any. Indeed, in the last one year, there have been over 40 unpublished individual research outputs and more than 10 unpublished,” the petition read.
“This is a monumental waste of government resources and also denying government and Nigerians at large valuable information that could have informed policy prescriptions.”
The unions also accused the Director-General of non-adherence to laid down rules as regards staff management and deployment.
“The Management of NISER under the leadership of Dr Folarin Gbadebo-Smith has for the past three years failed in their duty to conduct annual promotion exercise as and when due.
“This has consequences on the payment of promotion arrears. There are many staff still being owed promotion arrears.
“The 2018 promotion exercise witnessed some unprecedented twists especially for researchers moving to the Professorial Cadre (Associate Professor and Research Professors). The extant practise was for the Departmental Promotion Committees to meet and make recommendations to the Institute-wide Personnel Committee who verifies the submission of the various Departmental Committees after which the papers are sent for external review.
“The twist in the 2018 promotion exercise was the truncating of the process after the recommendations of the different Departmental Personnel Committee(s) as the Director-General single-handedly constituted a non-statutory committee to review the already concluded aspect of the promotion exercise.
“The recommendations of the ‘tailored’ committee culminated in the non-promotion of any research staff to the Professorial Cadre to date. The effect of this disruption in the promotion process of 2018 is still with us to date.”
NISER is a public research institute located in Ibadan, with a mission to provide information on economic and social ideas that will be pivotal to the nation’s development.
Its products and activities include publications of conference proceedings and research findings, organising of training workshops, and seminars.
The institute is divided into three departments: Economic Policy Research Department; Social and Governance Policy Research Department, and Surveillance and Forecasting Department.
It is headed by a director-general and has six zonal offices and liaison offices in Lagos and Abuja.
The unions also accused Mr Gbadebo-Smith of a “deliberate refusal to use the official quarters used by his predecessors and instead preferred a hotel whenever he visits Ibadan”.
“The DG was more of a part-time Chief Executive who was hardly around to attend to pressing issues of the Institute and rules by proxy from his base in Lagos, where he actively runs his other private business concerns
“The incompetence of Dr Gbadebo-Smith also resonates in his non-prioritisation of research activities in favour of contract components. While it may be true that the infrastructure in NISER is dilapidated, there has not been equivalent show of value for money released by the government.
“It should be noted that the releases of the 2019 research activities did not in any way reflect in the expenditure analysis of the 2019 Capital Development Fund
“The 2019 Capital Development Report also showed several spurious and unverifiable research activities used to siphon money from the Institute. Few among such activities include; N20 million purportedly for the Monitoring and Evaluation of ERGP Project; N10 Million 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, and N85,000,000 purportedly for N-Power Project.
“This is in addition to other spurious and unverifiable research activities purportedly conducted by the Institute. The procurement process of the Institute is bedevilled with cases of contract splitting and non-adherence to due process. A few cases that will be referenced here include; the purchase of Prado SUV at a combined cost of N56,175,000.00 but which was split into various components to evade reaching the N50 million Tenders Board’s limit.
“Also very worrisome about the procurement of the Prado Jeep is the fact that the vehicle has not been seen anywhere around Ibadan since it was procured. The DG has continued to maintain his personal car with the resources of the institute and in recent times used chartered vehicles to come to Ibadan.”
The workers also sent the petition to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).
The spokesperson of the anti corruption agency, Azuka Ogugua, did not respond to our calls and text messages, seeking information about the actions taken by the ICPC on the allegations against the NISER DG.
Protest over planned reappointment
As the unions await the investigation into the matter, activities were grounded in the institute on Tuesday as workers protested against an alleged plan to return Mr Gbadebo-Smith for a second term.
His current term expires on May 27.
Mr Muyiwa, who spoke on the unions’ behalf, told journalists that the DG’s tenure “suffered academic and administrative incompetence as seen in four years of low research output, poor staff welfare, non-conversion of qualified staff and refusal to promote some non-research staff”.
Meanwhile, when contacted about the allegations levelled against him, Mr Gbadebo-Smith said “he is not interested in speaking with the press” on the allegations.
He said this was because an investigative panel has been set up by the Minister of State for National Planning on “controversies generated by promotion, research and publication inadequacies at the institute”.
Prompted further for comments, he said “both the panel and the minister had told him not to grant press interviews on the allegations until the panel’s report is released”.
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