Dr. Folarin Gbadebo-Smith, Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER), has been accused of incompetence, fraud and running down the research body.
NISER, which has been in existence since 1906, was established as an autonomous institute under the presidency by the NISER Act No. 70 of 1977 (now Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2006 CAP 115) to serve as a Think Tank in the field of social and economic development for the country.
But a source within the institute told SaharaReporters that since Gbadebo-Smith, a former Chairman of Eti-Osa Local Government in Lagos, took over in 2017, the institute has become a shadow of itself.
The source said Gbadebo-Smith (pictured below with the microphone) has been running the institute with recklessness because he was hand-picked by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, who once served as his lawyer in a corruption allegation case.
“He has abandoned the primary purpose of NISER, which is to research and proffer solutions but what he does is that he says we should engage in people research, that we do not need to go to the field," said the source, who has seen many DGs at NISER.
"The research we used to go on and they used to give us N500,000 for, and we would go to the field and distribute questionnaires, he now gives us N50,000 for and says all we need is to do desk research. But desk research cannot be reliable or a substitute for field research.
“If members go for conferences, in the past NISER funded them. Now, he doesn’t fund anything; you have to pay for participation in conferences and publication of your papers so everybody is discouraged.”
The NISER website explicitly states: “One of the statutory functions of NISER is to organise seminars and conferences on problems of economic and social development in the country, whether on its account or on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and sub-national levels of government or their agencies. For this reason, the Policy Engagement Division is charged with coordinating and managing conferences and other such engagements with relevant stakeholders."
No power, no work…
Gbadebo-Smith is said to have auctioned three of the institute's big generators to “his people”, leaving the agency in darkness for long spells every day.
“The three big generators we have that service NISER, he sold all, claiming that he wants to invest in renewable energy for the agency; but if you want to go into renewables, you must first provide a substitute. The generators that were bought for N25million to 30million, they sold to their people for N700,000 each. If there is no light, nobody works at NISER. There is just one small generator that is used for the conference room and the office of the DG. As for the library and offices, if there is no light by PHCN, we all sit down idly, making small talk."
“Many members of staff now come to work only once, it is not inspiring," the source added. Last month, a member of the management resigned because he claimed at management meetings, the DG takes all the time to talk without allowing the contributions of professors who know about the place and about research.The whole place is just upside down. Please help us expose this to the media before NISER is run aground” the source added.
When SaharaReporters contacted the DG on the phone for his reaction, his personal assistant said he was unavailable and asked our correspondent to call back in two hours. When the call was made two hours later, she asked for a letter of enquiry to be sent to to the Institute for official response.