Parade of fake certificates – Thisday

The authorities should ensure that those who hold positions of trust have relevant credentials

Workers at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), Lagos, recently staged a protest against the acting Director-General of the Institute, Chima Igwe. The workers who asked Igwe to produce his PhD certificate lamented that the controversy surrounding the academic record of their boss was destroying the name and reputation of FIIRO. A PhD is the minimum qualification for the position. Igwe reportedly did not get his PhD from the Universite d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin Republic in 2001 as he claims because he is yet to defend his thesis. The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) has waded into the controversy.

While we call on the authorities to speed up its investigation into what has become pervasive in every sector, it is quite worrisome that many top decision makers in our public services may have conned their way into critical positions without the qualifications they claim. The greater challenge is that this fraud is pervasive in all sectors and across different strata of our society. From seeking admission to applying for jobs, the list of those who parade forged certificates and fake degrees in Nigeria today is long and disturbing. This menace is aided by the absence of a reliable database, corrupt government officials and dishonest tertiary institutions’ personnel. There are so many criminals who parade chains of degrees in medicine, who put the lives of Nigerians at risk on a daily basis and there are others who teach in our universities even without possessing a genuine first degree.

Last year, Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC) revealed that about 100 fake professors were uncovered in our institutions of higher learning in the course of a screening exercise. The outcome of the verification exercise showed that out of 11,996 certificates verified by the commission, according to Rasheed, 721 certificates were found to have been forged. Among a recent batch of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members, 95 fake graduates were discovered, 60 of them from Nigerian universities. But it has been discovered that most of the fake certificates in the system are from foreign universities and since there is hardly any due diligence, many are never detected.

The challenge of fake certificates is not limited to job applicants; it has spread to the National Assembly and even the Judiciary Service commission. In fact, it would seem that making dubious claims, including faking credentials, seems to be the route to power in the country today.  A serving senator recently had his election nullified by both High Court and Appeal Court over fake certificate. Hundreds of other political leaders make dubious academic claims that are never verified.

What makes the situation more worrisome is the manner in which fraudsters now con their way into critical institutions with these credentials. According to verifiable documents from the ICPC, six government agencies to wit: National Security Defence Corps, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigerian Correctional Service, Pension Transition Arrangement Department, Federal Fire Service and National Identity Management Commission are said to have cases of persons gaining employment with fake credentials. In the police, armed forces, academia, ministries and government agencies and of course politics, fake credentials are now paraded by many for jobs they are not qualified to undertake.

There is hardly any professional field today where these fraudsters have not invaded. We call on the regulatory authorities, including of professional bodies, to put in place measures that will checkmate the antics of these fraudsters. We also call on the authorities to put in place mechanism to ensure that those who hold positions of trust possess the credentials they claim.

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