The head of Project Development Institute (PRODA) is scheduled to appear on Monday before the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) over allegations of mismanagement of resources at the Enugu-based research institute.
The ICPC invitation, which was addressed to the office of the Director-General of the institute, created confusion on who between the immediate past Director-General, Charles Agulanna, and the incumbent Acting DG, Edwin Oriaku, is to appear before the anti-graft agency.
Investigations by PREMIUM TIMES revealed Mr Agulanna, who had once appeared before ICPC over similar issues, completed his term as the DG on January 1 and handed over to Mr Oriaku, who until then was the Director of the Department of Engineering and Research Development Production. Mr Oriaku was also the most senior officer in the institute.
However, ICPC, in its letter dated January 8 and signed by its Director, Special Investigations, Frank Nanakumo, failed to specify the individual it wanted to question.
The letter, which is entitled; Investigation Activities/Request for Documents, reads in part; “The Director-General would recall that the Commission is investigating a case of alleged violation of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 in the course of which documents were retrieved by the Commission.
“In furtherance of the investigation and pursuant to Section 28 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act. 2000, you are requested to appear before the undersigned at the Commission’s headquarters, Abuja on Monday, 21st of January, 2019 at 1000 hours, for interview.”
But based on the content and tone of the letter, PREMIUM TIMES gathered from sources at the agency that the Acting DG had notified the former helmsman of the invitation, but the latter declined to go, saying the letter was addressed to the office and not his person.
Meanwhile, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the Acting DG, Mr Oriaku, said he will appear before the ICPC team on Monday.
“Since it is the office that was invited by the ICPC I shall be there on Monday to honour the invitation. I plan to explain the situation that warranted my presence and we will await the agency’s decision whether there will be further clarifications or not,” he said.
While Premium Times could not verify the individual or organisation that wrote the petition against the agency’s management to the ICPC, the newspaper confirmed a series of letters of complaint written against the administration of Mr. Agulanna by the leadership of some staff unions in the institute under the umbrella of the Joint Union of PRODA.
The joint union comprises the institute’s chapters of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes (ASURI) and the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN).
Some of the letters, copies of which were made available to PREMIUM TIMES, accused Mr Agulanna of corrupt practices, poor performance and maladministration. They urged the government to urgently effect a leadership change at the institute.
One of such letters, dated September 21, 2018, and addressed to the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, reads in part; “It is with a great sense of duty and responsibility that our unions have decided to throw some light on the inadequacies to our research institution, and the abysmal performance of the institute’s current DG/CEO, Engr. Dr. Charles Nkem Agulanna and entire management team. They have not only performed far below expectation, but have brought more damnation and retrogression to the institute, and research and development in the country. Ostensibly, the past six and a half years in the institute could be labelled as a wasted era in our lifespan.”
When our correspondent spoke to Mr Agulanna, he agreed he was once summoned by ICPC but denied knowledge of the new invitation. He said since he had handed over the management of the institute to the most senior official, he was already on his annual leave.
On his part, the Chairman of the institute’s Governing Board, Daniel Onjeh, said he was yet to be informed of the invitation by ICPC but confirmed the workers’ complaints against the administration of Mr Agulanna and his efforts to settle the matters amicably.
Mr Onjeh, who was an All Progressives Congress senatorial candidate in Benue in 2015, told PREMIUM TIMES that his board was yet to meet this year and that as soon as it does, all contradictions will be resolved.
“I just said I should quickly respond to your question on the ICPC invitation. I am not yet aware but on the allegations of corruption and others by the workers, it is an internal crisis that my board met on ground and we are trying to resolve it. You would know that our board was just constituted in 2017.”
Also speaking on the matter, the Special Adviser to the Minister of Science and Technology on Technical Matters, Ibiam Oguejofor, said only the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry could give definite answers on the issues affecting the administration of the institute.
The minister, Mr Onu, had shortly upon his assumption of office announced that through the institute, Nigeria would by 2018 be able to produce pencils and in turn provide jobs for about 140,000 young Nigerians.
The workers are lamenting that in spite of the budgetary allocations and releases to the institute by the federal government, the institute has not fared better under its current leadership. They are calling for a probe of the management and a change in the leadership.