Public Officers And Certificate Scandals
By AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH
In this report, AHURAKA YUSUF ISAH writes that instead of the gale of certificate scandals which rocked the polity when democracy began in 1999 to abate, it’s rather increasing and causing downfall of top officials of government while others survive.
Since the birth of the present democratic dispensation in 1999, two certificates serving as part of requirements to hold position of public trust or otherwise called elective posts have largely been fraught with forgeries, leading to disgrace or public opprobrium of some persons in the country.
The two certificates usually at the center stage of controversy are the academic certificate or the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge or exemption certificate issued to a graduate that passed through the scheme or the one above maximum service year of 30 years of age as at the time of graduation.
However, the minimum requirement for any elective office in Nigeria has been an evidence of educational qualification of Secondary School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent. For instance, Section131 (d) of the 1999 Constitution provides that; ‘’ A person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.
Sections 177 (d); 142(2), 187(2); 65(2) (a) and 106(c) prescribe same for governors, vice president, deputy-governors, National Assembly and state Assembly members respectively.
Section 2 (1) of the NYSC Act mandates all Nigerians who earn degrees or higher national diplomas from tertiary institutions in Nigerian and abroad (effective 1972/73 session) to participate in the scheme. Those exempted by the law are those who graduated after their 30th birthday, persons with national honours and individuals who serve in the military and intelligence organizations.
Despite these provisions of our laws, many have rather observed them in breach; just as such defiance or abhorrence has led to their fall from totem height to shame.
Nigeria, especially the National Assembly and the executive arm of government are replete with non-exhaustive tale-like examples of certificate scandals.
Speaker Salisu Buhari:
On June 3, 1999, Salisu Buhari was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. Barely 6 weeks later, ‘’The News Magazine’’ published a cover story on the July 19, 1999 revealing that Salisu Buhari is seven years younger than the age he claimed, and that he didn’t attend the University of Toronto in Canada not to talk of graduating with a degree in Business Administration in 1990 from the institution as claimed by him.
Worse still, the University of Toronto, when asked, denied Salisu Buhari attending the university. The management said they couldn’t find any record relating to the name Salisu Buhari. Carlo Villanueva, an official of the Institution said: “Regarding your request for confirmation of degree for Mr. Ibrahim Salisu Buhari. We have searched our records and could not find anybody with the name you are inquiring with
Also, Salisu Buhari claimed that he did his national youth service at Standard Construction, Kano. This was proven to be a big lie as records at the NYSC secretariat in Abuja could not produce his name among the 1991 corps members who served in the scheme.
Blockaded in every way, Salisu Buhari had no way of escaping the consequences of lying and forgery. After several open denial of the allegations, and threats to sue The News Magazine, Salisu Buhari on Thursday, July 23, 1999, broke down in tears as he formally resigned following revelations of his commission of forgery and perjury. He admitted declaring false age and forging certificate. He said in tears: “I apologize to you. I apologize to the nation. I apologize to my family and friends for all the distress I have caused them. I was misled in error by zeal to serve the nation, I hope the nation will forgive me and give me the opportunity to serve again.” He then resigned and walked into the shadows.
He was convicted for certificate forgery and sentenced to two years in prison with an option of fine. He paid the fine and was later pardoned by President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Senate President Evan(s) Enwerem:
Chief Evan(s) Enwerem from Imo East senatorial district emerged the Nigeria’s first Senate president in the Fourth Republic on June 3, 1999. Enwerem beat his staunch rival, Senator Chuba Okadigbo to the Senate presidency. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo reportedly backed Enwerem for the position against Okadigbo. With the support of Obasanjo’s allies in the Senate, Enwerem defeated Okadigbo with 66 votes to Okadigbo’s 43 votes. However, Enwerem did not hold the post for a long time. Shortly after his assumption of office, a Senate Committee was set up to investigate Enwerem for allegations of corruption, academic certificate forgery. The allegations against Enwerem alleged that he falsified his name, and caused a controversy as to whether Enwerem’s actual real name was Evan or Evans. He was eventually removed from office on November 18, 1999, in an ouster spearheaded by allies of Chuba Okadigbo.
Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu:
In 1999, one Dr. Waliu Balogun had written a petition against Tinubu that he did not attend Chicago State University as indicated in his INEC form 001 filled when he contested the Lagos State governorship poll and that he also lied in the affidavit he attached to the INEC form, in which he declared that he lost his university degree certificate while he was in exile between 1994 and 1998.
Balogun’s litany of complaints included accusation that Tinubu’s claim of attending Government College, Ibadan, was false; and that he lied in the INEC Form about his age – that he was born in 1952 as against the 1954 he filled in the documents at the Chicago University. Tinubu was also accused of not participating in the compulsory one-year NYSC exercise.
Generating a lot of furore, Tinubu was forced to present the original copy of his certificate while he dismissed the allegations as “baseless, wicked and unfortunate.”
Notwithstanding, that year, a firebrand lawyer and human rights activist, late Gani Fawehinmi, went to court to compel the Inspector-General of Police to investigate Tinubu. Fawehinmi did not live long enough to finish the lawsuit.
In 2013, however, one Dr. Dominic Adegbola filed an unsuccessful application seeking to reopen the suit. Tinubu survived the onslaught.
Governor Gabriel Suswam:
The former two-time Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam was accused of forging his West African School Certificate (WASC), which he used to gain admission to the University of Lagos to study Law.
Ahead of the 2007 governorship poll in Benue, Suswam submitted the certificate to INEC as prerequisite to contest in the election.
No sooner had he did that than it was alleged that his original certificate showed that he passed five subjects, excluding Mathematics and English, which are mandatory for admission into a Nigerian university.
His accusers said Suswam wrote to WAEC in 2005 claiming that his certificate was missing, attaching photocopies of the missing certificate, a police report and an affidavit of loss of certificate to the letter.
A PDP aspirant and opponent of Suswam, Terver Kakih, took the matter to court claiming that WAEC issued the Suswam a new certificate that indicated he passed English and Mathematics, raising suspicions it might have been forged.
The case literally dragged from that point until Suswam completed his tenure as governor with the examination body standing by the certificate it issued him.
The lawsuit moved from the High Court to the Supreme Court and in 2014, the apex court cleared Suswam of any wrongdoing.
In 2011, according to an online medium, Nigerianvillagesquare.com, the US Securities and Exchange Commission had sent a request to the City University of New York’s Graduate School asking to know if the then Director-General of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke, had a PhD. The response of the school’s Director of Student Services and Senior Registrar of CUNY’s Graduate School, Vincent De Luca, was startling.
The statement of the school in its website quoted De Luca as saying, “On January 18, 2011, I caused a search to be conducted of our student records (including graduation records) at The Graduate Center, at the request of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, to determine if Ms. Ndi Okereke–Onyiuke was ever enrolled in the PhD programme in Business and if she received a PhD in Business at The Graduate Centre.
“A thorough search of our electronic and paper files for the names, Ndi Leche Okereke, Ndi Okereke, Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke and Ndi Lechi Okereke–Onyiuke was conducted. No record was found that Ms. Ndi Okereke–Onyiuke ever enrolled in the PhD programme in Business or received a PhD in Business at The Graduate Centre.”
That the former NSE boss earned a first class honours degree in Business Administration, Computer Science and Economics, from Baruch College of the City College of the City, University of New York in 1975, is also said to be contestable – as the institution was said to be non-existent at least in the US, according to SaharaReporters.
The “Amazon” of the NSE still has all the academic records glowingly displayed on Bloomberg’s Executive Profile for big guns. She has also yet to counter the rebuttal of the CUNY’s Graduate School; and no law enforcement agency in Nigeria is known to have looked into her issue.
Hon. Christian Abah:
This month, the Supreme Court ended the dreams of Christian Abah of enjoying the privilege of making laws for the country.
Abah, a member of the House of Representatives representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadigbo Federal Constituency of Benue State, was kicked out of the legislative chamber.
He was earlier given the boot by a Federal High Court in Abuja in 2016 for submitting a forged certificate of academic qualification to INEC.
The court had ordered INEC to issue fresh certificate of return to Abah’s first runner-up in the PDP’s primary held in 2014, Hassan Saleh.
The apex court affirmed that he had forged the Ordinary National Diploma certificate purportedly issued to him in 1985 by the Federal Polytechnic, Mubi, Adamawa State.
“It is a must, to take the lead, righting the wrong in our society if and when the opportunity presents itself as in this appeal. Allowing criminality and certificate forgery to continue to percolate into the streams, waters and oceans of our national polity will only mean that our waters are and will remain dangerously contaminated.
“The purification efforts must start now and be sustained as we seek, as a nation, to now change from our old culture of reckless impunity. The Nigerian Constitution is supreme. It desires that no one who has ever presented a forged certificate to INEC should contest election into the Nigerian National Assembly. This is clear and sacrosanct,” the apex court declared.
Mrs Kemi Adeosun:
On September 14, 2018, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, eventually resigned from the administration of President Buhari over allegation that she forged her NYSC exemption certificate. Allegations were rife that the former finance minister, who did not participate in the one-year national youth service, forged an Exemption Certificate several years after her graduation.
The certificate, which is dated September 2009, was reportedly signed by an NYSC Director-General, Yusuf Bomoi, who already left the scheme in January 2009.
In November 2015, Adeosun was appointed as Minister of Finance under President Muhammadu Buhari after she had been cleared by the Department of State Services and by the Senate.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has accepted the resignation of Kemi Adeosun as minister of finance. In a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, on September 14, 2018, the President thanked the minister for her services to the nation and wished her well in her future pursuits.
Buhari also approved that the Minister of State Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, should oversee the ministry immediately.
The statement reads “President Muhammadu Buhari Friday accepted the resignation of the Hon. Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun. The President thanked the Minister for her services to the nation and wished her well in her future pursuits.”
Minister Adebayo Shittu:
Barely a week after Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun’s resignation, it was reported that the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, failed to participate in the NYSC scheme despite graduating from the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) at age 25.
Employers are mandated by law to always request NYSC certificate of national service from employees as part of the conditions for hiring. Shittu, born on March 23, 1953, studied law at Ife, graduating in 1978. He proceeded to the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, qualifying as a lawyer in 1979.
Having earned a bachelor’s degree at the age of 25, Section 2 of the NYSC Act expects Shittu to have participated in the year-long national service.
The minister who was elected member of the Oyo state House of Assembly shortly after he was called to bar however said he believed that having been elected lawmaker, he needed not participate in the national service.
He said he deliberatively skipped the NYSC scheme because he was convinced that his membership of the state assembly was itself a “service”. But NYSC has replied him that membership of House of Assembly is not a substitute for youth corps service. He is still a serving minister and no action has been taken against him.
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) had stated in a petition sent to the chairman of the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on the Legality and Activities of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, that Okoi Obono-Obla, who is a senior special assistant to President Buhari and the chairman of the Special Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, allegedly forged the certificate he used to gain admission into University of Jos.
According to HURIWA, the credentials of Ofem Okoi Ofem, who changed his name to Okoi Obono-Obla gained admission into the University of Jos with a suspected fake WASCE result. The said Okoi Obono-Obla (Ofem Okoi Ofem), sat for May/June 1982 (Examination Registration No. 09403/247) at Mary Knoll College, Ogoja, where he obtained the following results: English Language- C6, Literature in English- Absent, Bible Knowledge- C4, Government- A1, Economics- C5, Mathematics- F9, Chemistry- F9, and Biology- F9. “This result can be easily verified on WAEC result portal by obtaining a PIN card at the cost of N700.00.
“Okoi Obono-Obla (Ofem Okoi Ofem), took JAMB in 1982 and was given admission into the Faculty of Law, University of Jos where he presented a statement of result allegedly obtained from Mary Knoll College, which details are as follows: English Language- C6, Literature in English- C6, Bible Knowledge- C4, Government- A1, Economics- C5, Mathematics- F9, Chemistry- F9 and Biology- F9. ” The group stated that whereas the genuine WAEC result has listed the result for Literature as ABSENT, but the result which forms the basis on which Okoi Obono-Obla (Ofem Okoi Ofem) was offered admission to study Law at the university claims that he obtained C6 in Literature. HURIWA then alleged it is probably a forgery. Secondly, that at the time of his admission, Obono-Obla (Ofem Okoi Ofem), did not possess a minimum of a credit pass in Literature, a compulsory requirement to study Law. “And thirdly, that Obono-Obla (Ofem Okoi Ofem) did not also possess a minimum of 5 credit passes, a compulsory requirement to gain admission into a university in Nigeria.
Mr Obono-Obla has said that some people were after him for daring to investigate and expose assets hidden abroad by some powerful people in the National Assembly. According to him, he is not under any pressure to resign as the issue is currently in court.
“The matter is in the Federal High Court, Abuja. It was filed since June 2018 and the House of Representatives Committee was duly served but they ignored the matter and went ahead to procure false witnesses to give evidence behind me,” Obono-Obla said.