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FG retires institute’s DG, orders EFCC, ICPC to probe contract

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The Federal Government has approved that the suspended Director-General of the Projects Development Institute, Enugu, Charles Agulanna, proceed on retirement immediately, The PUNCH has learnt.

The decision was based on the recommendation of an administrative panel set up to investigate activities of the institute.

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had in 2020 approved Agulanna’s suspension based on a letter written by the governing board of the institute, dated June 25, 2020, and addressed to the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation.

The board had claimed that the institute’s contribution to the scientific and technological evolution of Nigeria, which was its core mandate, was not commensurate with the financial investments of the Federal Government over the years.

The letter was jointly signed by the board’s Chairman, Daniel Onjeh; and four members, Prof. Mohammed Mu’azu, Gabriel Akpan, Diran Ayanbeku and Ampe Fut.

In approving Agulanna’s suspension, the Federal Government set up a committee to investigate activities of the institute under his watch.

The committee has since submitted its report with the government approving all its nine recommendations which include Agunlanna’s retirement.

A source at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation confirmed the development to our correspondent on Thursday, saying the report had vindicated Onjeh and other board members.

The Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation had since directed the ministry to implement the recommendations.

The directive was contained in a letter dated January 5, 2022 and signed by the Permanent Secretary, General Services Office, Nnamdi Mbaeri, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent on Thursday.

In the letter, the government directed the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and PRODA board to implement the first recommendation that read, “The Director General of PRODA, Dr Charles Agunlanna, be directed to proceed on retirement forthwith in the public interest.”

The government also directed the Bureau of Public Procurement, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to implement the second recommendation that asked for “further review by the BPP of the procurement processes and award of contract for the construction of 3km PRODA access road and access road with side drains, and escalation to the EFCC and ICPC if required.”

Based on the report, the government also directed the acting DG, Fabian Okonkwo, to investigate the collection of administrative charges from contractors and sanction officers found culpable.

“Furthermore, the Ag DG, PRODA is to ensure all monies fraudulently collected as administrative charges are accounted for and paid into government coffers,” the letter added.

Other recommendations approved include that Mrs Ogechi Obinna and Ifeanyi be queried for failing to appear before the panel; enactment of an establishment Act for PRODA to give the agency the legal framework to enhance its functions; and that the institute should comply with Section 3210 of the Financial Regulations and render its audited financial statement for 2017 to 2020 to the AGF and AuGF respectively among other recommendations.

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