The Director-General of Projects Development Institute, Enugu, Dr Charles Agulanna, with the backing of the Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, has remained in office despite being suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari, SaharaReporters has gathered.

President Buhari had on October 9 approved the recommendation of Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, for the suspension of Agulanna over acts of gross misconduct including contract-splitting, misappropriation of funds, prolonged absence from duty without leave, nepotism and insubordination, among others.

Ogbonnaya Onu

Formerly known as Research and Production Department of the old Eastern Region, the institute was the manufacturing engine room for the prosecution of the civil war under the defunct Biafra Republic.

After the civil war, it was renamed PRODA and enlisted as one of the 17 agencies under the Ministry of Science and Technology. 

The institute pioneered the first made-in-Nigeria ‘car’, branded PRODA. The low-cost prototype was taken on a roadshow across the country.

“However, in view of the peculiarity of the fact that prima-facie case has been made against the PRODA DG in this case, as well as the need to ensure that the investigation process is fair, independent and thorough, Your Excellency is invited to consider and approve the following measures. 

“The immediate suspension of the Director General of Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu. 

“The immediate commencement of the Independent Investigation proposed by my office in compliance with Circular Ref No, SGF/OP/I.S.3/T/163 of 19th May, 2020.

“The most senior Director should oversee the affairs of the agency as Acting DG/CEO, pending the conclusion of the investigation,” the recommendation to the President read. 

Sources at the institute told SaharaReporters that the minister rejected the directive of the President and asked the suspended DG not to handover to any senior official. 

Not satisfied, Onu constituted another panel to investigate Agulanna against President Buhari’s directive that only the SGF can constitute such committee.

“The Minister for Science and Technology after failing in his attempt to dismiss the board’s recommendations and upon getting the news of Mr President’s approval of the DG’s suspension, immediately constituted a committee of investigation on the subject which’s yet to be inaugurated. 

“Because in the minister’s early memo which the SGF disregarded, he claimed his office was going to carry out investigation, when it’s clear in a circular dated May 19, 2020 that the only role the ministry has is to take a position on the Board’s recommendation and communicate same to the final arbiter (the SGF).

“A member of the said minister’s committee is an embattled National Secretary of ASURI and also from the same village with the DG, whom him the DG has used over time to suppress unionists in the institute. This man was under investigation by the EFCC and ICPC and has been indicted over allegations of corruption and the union is currently factionalized at national level because of total lack of confidence in him,” a source told SaharaReporters.

The source also accused Senator Uche Ekwunife and Hon. Beni Lar, both chairmen of the National Assembly Committee on Science and Technology of pressurising the SGF to disregard the President’s directive.

SaharaReporters recall that the board of PRODA at the end of its recent quarterly meeting held on June 21 through June 25, 2020, recommended the suspension of the Agulanna.

This was after the establishment of a case against him following a query on March 2, 2020. 

The meeting was chaired by board chairman, Daniel Onjeh.

Agulanna was indicted for alleged misappropriation of funds, prolonged absence from duty without leave, nepotism, corruption and insubordination.

He was also accused of suppression of vital information, sabotage, among others.

The suspension of the DG for six months was in line with Chapter 3, Section 4 and Subsection 030406, of the Public Service Rules.

It is also in compliance with the circular issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation with Ref. No: SGF/OP/I.S.3/T/163 and dated May 19.

The board’s Establishments Committee was directed to investigate the allegations against Agulanna and to submit its report within six months.

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