Claiming of unauthorised certificates and honours from foreign institutions by Nigerian politicians is one of the major ‘diseases’ affecting the nation’s political atmosphere.
Since the return of democracy in Nigeria, many public office holders and aspirants have been enmeshed in various scandals with academic fraud topping the list. While some are accused of altering their school certificates, some have gone as far as claiming false honours from international universities.
Although a small percentage of these cases were mere allegations without concrete evidence to nail the accused individuals, Most of them involving top political figures have turned out to be true and embarrassing.
Anti-corruption crusaders disclose that the desire to rack up excellent certificates by Nigerian political figures is largely to deceive the unsuspecting electorate into believing that the individual possesses the right education and qualification for office.
POLITICS NIGERIA beams a light on some politicians who have been caught red-handed forcefully and falsely attaching themselves to universities through either fake qualifications or certificates.
Salisu Buhari is a former Speaker of the House of Representatives who resigned after being caught for falsifying his certificate in 1999 and was even sentenced to two years in prison with an option of a fine. He paid the fine instead. He was busted in February 1999 in an investigation by TheNews magazine, that he falsified his age and also claimed to have graduated from the University of Toronto, Canada, which he never attended.
Although he first denied the allegations against him, the magazine wrote to the University of Toronto, requesting confirmation of whether Mr Buhari was an alumnus. The university disowned him, ultimately leading to his resignation and prosecution.
Later in July that same year, disgraced Buhari admitted that he falsified his certificate and was quoted as saying to TheNews that: “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 a zeal to serve the nation, I hope the nation will forgive me and give me the opportunity to serve again”.
A former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah was in 2014 exposed for lying to have acquired a Masters degree from the St. Paul’s College in the United States and for lying on oath to the Nigerian Senate, that another American ‘university’, Pacific Christian University awarded her an honorary doctorate degree in 1998.
Investigations proved otherwise as no university called Pacific Christian University exists in the USA.
Also authorities at St. Paul’s College, where Mrs. Oduah claimed she studied for Bachelor and Masters degrees, noted that they did not award her an MBA at anytime because the school does not even have a graduate school or graduate programme.
Following the national embarrassment she caused herself, Mrs. Oduah, and her associates cleaned up her biographies on the website of the Ministry of Aviation, Wikipedia and even her personal website was reviewed with no reference to St. Paul’s College.
In 2017, Sahara Reporters reported that former Senator Dino Melaye did not graduate from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
In reaction to the report, he said publicly that “to say that I did not graduate from Ahmadu Bello University is to say that I am not a senator of the federal republic of Nigeria. Aside from pursuing my masters in the school, I’m also a graduate of University of Abuja, I’m a graduate of London School of economics and political science and I am also a graduate of Harvard university…”
But Harvard University in Boston, United States, refuted the claim saying he never graduated from the institution. The school said that the former senator in 2016 only presented himself for a one-week seminar in leadership but the seminar doesn’t qualify anyone to become a Harvard alumnus.
Former Senator Ademola Adeleke was embarrassed some weeks to Osun State Governorship election in 2018. The candidate of the PDP lied that he graduated from Jacksonville State University (JSU), in Alabama, United States.
His profile on the National Assembly website stated then that he had a Diploma in Criminology from JSU and graduated in 1986. But the ICIR in a fact check report punctured Mr Adeleke’s claim. The newspaper confirmed Mr Adeleke did not get any certificate from Jacksonville State University.
The Director of Public Relations at the university, Buffy Lockette told ICIR in an email seeking confirmation that truly he enrolled at the tertiary institution, but he was not awarded any degree.
The chief press secretary of Kano State governor, Abba Anwar, told journalists on Tuesday that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje has been appointed a visiting professor at East Carolina University College of Business in America. He said the appointment letter was sent through Victor Mbarika, a lecturer of International Center for IT and Development at the school.
ECU said the letter Mr Ganduje got from a member of its faculty was unauthorised, hence, denied honouring the governor.
“It has been brought to my attention that you received a letter from a faculty member dated November 30, 2020, that appeared to offer an unpaid appointment in the “International Center for IT and Development” at East Carolina University College of Business.
“I must inform you that the letter you received from Dr. Victor Mbarika, on November 30, 2020 does not convey an authorized offer of appointment or establish any position of scholar or professor at East Carolina University (“ECU”). Only the Chancellor, myself, or another official identified in ECU’s published statement on Delegation of Contracting Authority for the Division of Academic Affairs may authorize or sign appointment letters under which faculty are employed,” the school said.
Nigerian laws, both the Criminal and Penal Codes that apply in the southern and northern parts of Nigeria frown at forgery in Sections 463 and 362 to 364 respectively with punishment of up to 14 years imprisonment with option of fine or both.
Speaking with our correspondent, Olowolafe Dunsi, an anti-corruption advocate and human right activist said failure of the government to prosecute previous offenders is encouraging new cases of forgery.
“It is sad that this is still happening in present day Nigeria just because politicians want to be respected for their affiliation with western universities. That is legally and morally wrong”.
“Why should a leader lie using an international university if they are proud of Nigeria’s educational system. We simply have folks promoting education bankruptcy and until we have a system that prosecutes forgery, this will continue to be the order of the day”