Ex-PRODA board chairman wants FG to investigate institute’s school pencil project

Agency report

Mr Daniel Onjeh, the immediate former Chairman of the Governing Board, Project Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, has called on the Federal Government to investigate the institute’s school pencil project.

Onjeh made the appeal at a news conference on Tuesday in Abuja, while allegeding financial misappropriation at PRODA, a parastatal under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

He noted that the PRODA school pencil project, which was to create 4,500 jobs for Nigerians, was yet to take off since 2020.

“It is 2022 now, and the project has not employed even one additional staff, besides, all the equipment and machines used on the project are imported from China.

“Whereas PRODA is a research and development institute that is expected to utilise local raw materials for the innovation, design and construction of its tools and equipment,’’ he said.

The former PRODA board chairman identified impunity and disrespect for presidential directives as a major setback to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration

While saying he had written an open letter to Buhari on the issue of impunity among some government officials, Onjeh said there was need to address the menace.

He explained that he adopted the use of an open letter to get his message across to Buhari because he wanted to be certain that it got to him directly without distortion.

“I am writing this letter to you as a pure act of patriotism; hence, I am ready to face any consequence that this well intentioned action may bring upon me.

“My only interest is to uphold your integrity, and to ensure that the Nigerian public is no longer short-changed by the practices of the corrupt cabal,’’ he said.

Onjeh commended the Federal Government for the opportunity to serve as chairman of the governing board of PRODA from 2018 to 2021.

He, however, said that time was of the essence if the federal government must take decisive actions to address what he had identified as the cause of the under-performance of successive federal budgets.

“Hence, the open letter seems to be my best option to draw your attention to this salient message.

“Serving as PRODA Chairman enabled me to experience the intrigues, challenges and acts of sabotage that undermine public service delivery in Nigeria.

“It also made me to realise the frightening depth to which the cankerworm of corruption has eaten into the very soul of our nation,’’ he said.

Onjeh, who said he was speaking in defence of Buhari’s integrity, added that the arrest and detention of corrupt individuals and the clamp-down on corrupt organisations was a necessary complementary approach to fighting corruption in the country.

He added that this,  however, should not be seen as the effective solution to nipping corruption in the bud in the country.

“Even if we jail one million Nigerians for corruption today, it would still not solve the problem, as corruption is a deeply entrenched systemic problem which can only be effectively tackled from its roots,’’ he said.

Onjeh therefore advised that a more systematic approach that would tackle corruption from its roots and quash all the corruption cartels in Nigeria’s public and private sectors, be adopted to waging the war against corruption in the country.

This, he said, was because the arrest and detention of individual corrupt persons does not significantly affect the operation of the corruption syndicates and cartels.

He noted that government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were the final points of implementation of its policies and programmes, saying that their failure to perform in line with set targets will certainly rub-off on the administration.

“There is no gainsay that I am one of the millions of Nigerians that ardently believe in your capacity, disposition and commitment to redeeming Nigeria through credible, honest and patriotic leadership.

“But the abysmal performance of some of your trusted appointees sometimes leaves some of us, your devoted supporters, short of words in assuaging the worries and fears of the teeming Nigerian masses that are looking up to your leadership.

“I must admit that it was a very difficult decision for me to bare my thoughts to you on this matter, being that I am a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a stakeholder in your administration,’’ he stressed.

The ex-PRODA board chairman said this was especially because his honest intention may be misconstrued by others as a subtle attack on government.

Onjeh said he would however be unfair to the president and his administration, if he failed to speak up on identified issues of sabotage being perpetrated by a few government appointees.

“Because in spite of the much effort you are making, the results are not commensurate with your targets, as a result of the wanton acts of sabotage being perpetrated by a few of your appointees.

“Consequently, many Nigerians are grumbling; and in the end, it is the leadership that bears the brunt of the people’s plights,’’Onjeh who was also a former National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) President said.

He recommended that the use of backdoor tactics to dissolve and reconstitute the governing boards of agencies under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation should be discouraged.

He added that the unlawful removal of the duly appointed over seeing Director-General of PRODA, Dr Fabian Okonkwo, should also be discouraged and promptly reversed to avoid setting a bad precedence for others.

He further appealed to the federal government to urgently organise a retreat for all Board Members of Federal Ministries and Parastatals, to fully make them aware of their duties, functions and powers.

He added that this was critical to make them alive to their onerous tasks of ensuring checks and balances in the administration of the various ministries and parastatals under which they were serving.

Onjeh also advised that high-powered committee be urgently constituted to launch a full-scale investigation into the financial mismanagement at PRODA and other parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

This, he said, should detail the involvement of members of the National Assembly, adding that the high-powered committee’s report should serve as the basis for further investigation by the EFCC, ICPC and other anti-graft agencies.

“I strongly believe that the implementation of the aforementioned recommendations would go a long way to further demonstrate your administration’s commitment to upholding due process and the rule of law,’’ he said. (NAN)

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