There was mild drama at the weekend during an official visit of the Science, Technology and Innovations Minister, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, to the Projects Developments Institute (PRODA), Enugu, as the Overseeing Director General (ODG)/Chief Executive of the institute resisted efforts of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions (ASURI) to give his guest a rousing welcome.
The Union had planned a solidarity rally, in collaboration with other in-house unions at PRODA to welcome the Minister, following what they described as on-going repositioning of the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (FMSTI), as evidenced by the addition of “Innovations” to its name.
However, the ODG, Dr. Fabian Okonkwo, insisted that the unions would not be allowed to welcome his guest and supervising minister.
According to the President and Secretary General of ASURI, Dr. Nnamdi Onunka, and Dr. Theophilus Ndubuaku, respectively, who both led the welcome party, the reason the ODG was piqued by the presence of ASURI was because it scuttled the plan by agents of the suspended Governing Board which has been influencing the ODG in victimizing members of staff.
All efforts by the ODG to get the police and Ministry officials to disperse ASURI and NASU members and their supporters from the gate of PRODA failed after the police and the Special Adviser (Technical) to the Hon. Minister confirmed that the unions meant well as their banners and placards displayed welcome and commendation messages to the guest.
After his efforts to disperse the unions failed, he mobilized PRODA security personnel and some staff of the union who are 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 Chief Security Officer shunned all entreaties by the police and DSS officials, who were invited by the unions, to open the gate and allow access to the union leaders.
Reacting to the development, Dr. Onunka said the main aim of the welcome rally by ASURI and NASU was to scare away the stooges of the suspended Chairman and Overseeing DG from holding their planned protest.
“That was why the union wrote to the police and DSS inviting them to be present as the union welcomes the Minister.”
The cat-and-mouse relationship between the Chief Executive and the union started shortly after his appointment last December, with ASURI petitioning the National Assembly over acts of harassment, intimidation and victimization of its by Dr. Okonkwo.
Reacting to the development, Dr. Ndubuaku said he was not surprised that the ODG behaved that way even after the verdict of the National Assembly. He blamed the matter on the system that will not respond promptly until something goes very wrong.
“How can a man who the National Assembly has probed, declared unfit for the office and recommended for removal still be allowed to remain in office many months after?”
The ASURI Scribe said if the union members were determined to enter the premises after welcoming the Minister, the gate and fence would not be difficult to scale but that as a respectable union, they would report the incident to the security agencies, the Ministry and NASS and patiently wait for the day of reckoning for Dr. Okonkwo.