The secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, has acted on the order to suspend the director-general of the Project Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu State, Charles Agulanna.
This is happening less than 24 hours after PREMIUM TIMES reported the disregard for President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on the suspension.
Mr Mustapha conveyed the president’s directive in a memo addressed to the minister of science and technology, Ogbonaya Onu.
The memo, which is titled; “Re: Suspension of the Director General and Stepping Aside of the Chairman, Project Development Institute (PRODA),” is referenced; SGF.6/S.19/T/211, and urged the minister to ensure compliance.
A copy of the memo dated November 5, 2020, which this newspaper obtained, reads in part; “I write to convey the approval of Mr. President as follows: the immediate suspension of engineer Dr. C.N Agulanna, director-general/CEO of the Project Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, pending conclusion of investigation;
“The immediate stepping aside of comrade Daniel Onjeh, the chairman, governing board of the Project Development Institute (PRODA), pending conclusion of investigations.”
The SGF added that the most senior director should oversee the affairs of the agency, and that his office will “immediately undertake an independent investigation in compliance with the Circular Ref No SGF/OP/I.S.3/T/163 dated May 19, 2020, and with Mr. President’s directive.”
However, the directive that the chairman of the governing board of the institute, Mr Onjeh, should step aside, is already raising dust.
A non-governmental organisation, Lygel Youths and Leadership Initiative, which had earlier petitioned the SGF on the matter, kicked against what it described as the act of illegally railroading the board chairman into the disciplinary matter.
Speaking on the phone with our reporter, the organisation’s head of operation, Lekan Oladapo, likened the matter to a case of a hunter being hunted.
He said; “This is a confirmation of our earlier allegation that the SGF was under intense pressure to change the President’s directive. There is nowhere in the 12-paragraphed letter approved by the President that the chairman should be suspended or that he should step aside for any reason whatsoever.
“Asking the chairman to step aside offends the constitutional provisions of Section 36 (2) of the 1999 Constitution. He was not given the opportunity to explain himself and no reason was given for his suspension. This very act has breached his rights under chapter 4 of the constitution and I think he should seek remedy in the court of law. The great Lord Denin affirmed that something cannot be put on nothing or else it collapses. In a democratic society even under military rule the principle of fair hearing is sacrosanct,’ he said.
Mr Onjeh declined to comment on the matter, saying it was not a case for the pages of the newspapers.
In a telephone interview with our reporter, the embattled chairman said he was just recovering from malaria and would not like to engage anyone publicly.
“I cannot say either yes or no to your enquiries. I am yet to receive any letter to that effect. So, it will be premature for me to speak on the matter,” he said.
The director of press at the office of the secretary to the government of the federation, Willie Bassey, said he was not yet briefed on the latest development.
In a telephone interview with our reporter, Mr Bassey said he could, therefore, neither confirm nor deny the information.
“I am not aware of this latest development. The last I heard was what I told you last time. Thank you very much,” he said.
This newspaper had, on Thursday, reported the refusal of the SGF to suspend the embattled DG due to what concerned parties, who are in the know of the development, described as intense pressure mounted on the SGF by interested parties.
In his response to the SGF’s memo addressed to him, Mr Buhari had, on October 9, approved the request to suspend Mr Agulanna, pending the conclusion of investigations into the allegations against him, “bordering on contract splitting, absence from duty without leave, nepotism, misappropriation of funds; insubordination and disregard for board resolutions, suppression of vital information, sabotage, and extortion of money from contractors as administrative charges.”
The SGF had also reacted to a temporary report by the institute’s governing board which noted that a prima facie case was already established against Mr Agulanna, and that he should, therefore, be suspended for six months, to avoid interference in the investigation into the cases against him.
Mr Agulanna, who had been in the saddle as the director general of the institute since 2012, has been embroiled in corruption cases in the last four years. In fact, he has frequented offices of anti-graft agencies including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) within the last three years.