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Friday, July 19, 2024

Furore over Suspension of PRODA acting DG

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There was a drama at the Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu as workers loyal to the new overseeing Director General, Dr Fabian Okonkwo, barred workers associating with the national leadership of Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions – ASURI from entry the Institute on Saturday to welcome, Minister of Science Technology and Innovation, Dr Ogbonnaya Onuh.

The workers had earlier before the arrival of the Minister engaged themselves in a shouting match which nearly resulted in fist scuffle save for the intervention of the policemen drafted to the gate.

Trouble had started when the Ag DG efforts to disperse the union members who came to welcome the Minister failed, he allegedly mobilized PRODA security personnel and some staff of the union who were said to be antagonistic to ASURI and NASU to lock the gate of the institute immediately after the Minister drove in to ensure that the branch and National leadership did not enter to receive the Minister.

The union members had stormed the venue with protest banners in company of the Secretary General of ASURI, Dr. Theophilus Ndubuaku, but the acting DG restrained them.

The workers were said to have embarked on strike action since six months to protest the suspension of the former Director General and Chief Executive Officer of PRODA, Dr C.N Agulanna for alleged corruption, and appointed, Dr Okonkwo to act pending the outcome of investigation.

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The workers were said to have been contesting the appointment of Dr Okonkwo, when actually he was the head of a department that was fingered in N40 million project fraud, insisting that he should equally be suspended.

It was gathered that based on the petitions the union wrote, the lower chamber of the National Assembly, after it’s investigation called for the immediate suspension of the acting DG for alleged gross violation of the provisions of the Public Procurement Act.

The House said Dr. Okonkwo and all principal Staff of the Institute involved in the illegal payment of Contractors be referred to the relevant government anti-graft Agencies for investigation and prosecution.

The house was said to have white adopting a report of the House Committee on Public Procurement, accused the acting DG of abusing the provisions of the public procurement, while the Head of Accounts, Mr. Patrick Nebuwa, should also be suspended with immediate effect and handed over to relevant government anti-graft agencies for immediate investigation and prosecution.

But since the house made its recommendations, three months after the acting DG, was still holding sway and calling the short.

Mr. Nebuwa in the house report which our correspondent obtained on Sunday, was to be suspended for allegedly conniving with the Acting Director General to make illegal payment and reactivate account with Zenith Bank Plc in total disregard to Mr. President’s directive on Treasury Single Account (TSA) and without approval from the Accountant General’s Office.

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The House also asked the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Presidency to sanction the governing Board of the Institute for interfering in the executive functions of the institute by directing the Acting Director General to re-activate the account with Zenith Bank Plc in gross violation of Mr. President’s order on Treasury Single Account (TSA) as well as their directive to the Acting Director General to cancel and re-award contracts that have been completed by contractors.

Other recommendations approved by the House include: that “all the contracts that were awarded by the Acting Director-General of Project Development Institute (PRODA) Enugu, Engr. Fabian Okonkwo, remains nullified and all monies paid to Companies that were awarded contracts illegally, should be recovered by relevant government anti-graft Agencies immediately, also recommend freezing of accounts of those companies that were paid illegally.

“The Acting Director-General Engr. Fabian Okonkwo should be suspended with immediate effect and handed over to the relevant government anti-graft Agencies for investigation in line with the provisions of Sections 53 and 58 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.”

It however asked the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) to conduct a Post Procurement Audit of the Project Development Institute (PRODA) Enugu, from 2015 to date and report back to the Committee.

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