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Court Remands Ex-FIIRO DG Over Alleged Certificate Fraud

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Justice Sherifat Solebo of an Ikeja Special Offences Court has remanded Chima Igwe, a former Director-General of the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, over alleged certificate fraud.
Solebo held that Igwe should be kept at the Kirikiri Correctional Centre pending the perfection of the bail she granted him in the sum of N500,000 and two sureties in like sum.

Igwe pleaded not guilty to a three-count charge of giving a document with false information, using office to proffer unfair advantage and making false statement to a public officer.

The charges were proffered against the former Director General of FIIRO by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission.

According to ICPC counsel, Mr Henry Emore, Igwe committed the offences in Lagos sometime in December 2002.

The ICPC alleges that Igwe, while being a public officer with FIIRO, knowingly gave, with intent to deceive, an attestation letter signifying completion of a PhD programme from the University of Abomey-Calavi, Republic of Benin, to the organisation.

That he conferred unfair advantage upon himself through the presentation of attestation letter which enabled him to gain many promotions at FIIRO and rise through the ranks to the directorate cadre.

That sometime in January 2020, Igwe made a false statement to detective Andrew Osove, an investigating officer with the ICPC.

That he falsely told Osove that he completed his PhD programme at UAC, Republic of Benin, in 2001, when, indeed, he knew that such a statement was untrue at that particular time,” ICPC said.

The alleged offences contravene Sections 17(1)(c), 19 and 25(1)(b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act.

Igwe’s counsel, Mr E.O. Ekong, via a bail application dated September 27 and supported by an 18-paragraph affidavit asked the court to grant him bail in liberal terms.

In a short ruling, Solebo granted Igwe bail in the sum of N500,000 with two sureties in like sum.

The two sureties must reside in Lagos and should be employed with evidence of income with the address of the sureties verified by the court.

The judge further ruled that the defendant should be remanded at the Nigeria Correctional Centre pending the perfection of bail.
This case was consequently adjourned till 21, 22, 23 and 24 February 2022 at 9 a.m. for trial,” the judge held.

The crisis at FIIRO started after the immediate past DG of the institute, Prof. Gloria Elemo, left office in April 2019.

Igwe’s appointment as acting DG was opposed by the governing board after the PhD with which he gained promotions for over 18 years became a subject of investigation by the ICPC.
The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, however, overruled the board, insisting that he should be the acting DG.

After investigations by the ICPC confirmed that the PHD, which he claimed he obtained at the Universite D’Abomey Calavi, Benin Republic, in 2001, was found not to be true, he was removed and demoted to the position he held more than 18 years ago.

That decision pitted the board against the minister, who began moves to reinstate Igwe, including writing the President, President Muhammadu Buhari to confirm Igwe as the substantive DG.

The minister also had face-offs with the then board Chairman, Alhaji Ibrahim Gwarzo, who insisted that Igwe deserved prosecution and not reinstatement for the alleged fraud.

The President, in a letter dated September 7, 2021, rejected Onu’s request to confirm Igwe and ordered the ICPC to prosecute him for “giving false information to his employers”.

The minister later dissolved the FIIRO board and others, saying they had served out their tenure.

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