The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has expressed concern that the silence of President Muhammadu Buhari to damaging allegations of academic certificates’ forgery amongst some of his top officials is an indication that Nigeria is becoming a country of fraudsters.
To this end, HURIWA in a statement on Thursday by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, urged Buhari to purge his administration of such persons.
Besides, the pro-democracy and civil rights body, stated that such tendencies to accommodate persons with questionable academic credentials will rubbish the national policy on education which is constitutionally enshrined (section 18 (1)) which emphasizes merit and honesty at all times.
Specifically, the rights group tasked Buhari to relieve from their offices such persons like his senior Special Assistant on prosecution Mr. Obono Obla who has been clearly indicted of using fake West African Examination Certificate by the issuing authority which appeared before the Federal House of Representatives very recently.
HURIWA recalled that the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) on June 5th 2018, described as “altered and invalid” the results and certificate it allegedly issued to the Chairman, Special Presidential Investigative Panel for the Recovery of Property, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla.
HURIWA also recalled that WAEC whilst testifying before the House of Representatives ad hoc Panel investigating Mr. Obono-Obla’s alleged forgery, WAEC Registrar, represented by the Deputy Registrar, Mr. Femi Ola, said available evidence indicated that the results were “altered” and thus “invalid.”“Considering the results, particularly on what is before me, I would say what I have brought here is the authentic and genuine one; his is not because it has been altered and such alteration renders it invalid,” Mr. Ola told the panel.
“From our record, the genuine candidate is Ofem Okoi Ofem, 09403/247 of Mary Knoll College, Ogoja. The exam number and number of subjects are the same. The difference is the grade in English literature in which he claimed to have scored C6 despite being marked absent in the true, certified copy,” he added.
HURIWA recalled that when asked by the National legislators how he would qualify Obono-Obla’s results, the WAEC Registrar said it was “fake, not genuine.”
HURIWA recalled that the Chairman of the Reps Investigative Panel, Mr. Aliyu Pategi (APC, Kwara) lauded WAEC for striving to maintain its “integrity and probity.”
Quoting news reports, HURIWA stated that the House committee Chairman added that the implication was that Obono-Obla gained admission to the University of Jos with a fake WAEC result.
Also, HURIWA has asked president Buhari to sack with immediate effect the Finance Minister Mrs. Kemi Adeosun for making use of allegedly forged NYSC discharged certificate which amounted to a serious misdemeanor that should fetch her a criminal prosecution and jail if proven in the competent court of law.
“The current administration must desist from polluting the international image of Nigeria by toleration many persons of questionable academic credentials who are working in the federal government of Nigeria when there are millions of highly qualified Nigerians from diverse fields searching frantically for employments.”
“The silence of the current government to the cacophony of allegations of certificate forgery involving top rated government officials shows that the corporate image of the country is imperiled and if this silence and failure to act persists, then the rest of the world will see Nigeria as a country of certificate forgers.”
Corruption also includes such crime like forgery of academic credentials which runs contrary to section 15 (5) of the constitution which makes it obligatory that government must abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.
HURIWA disclosed that it has briefed some patriotic lawyers to head to court to secure the legal sanction of all the identified persons in government with fake certificates just as it has started drafting a bill to compel the forensic investigations of all the academic qualifications tendered by all federal government officials to weed off the holders of forged certificates and sanitize the federal government.
HURIWA reminded President Muhammadu Buhari that the Black’s law dictionary clearly identified certificate forgery as a grave criminal offence and as a specie of fraud even as the Rights group wondered why a government that makes heavy weather of its anti-corruption campaign is the same that accommodates top officials with highly questionable academic credentials.
HURIWA told President Muhammadu Buhari thus: “Both the Criminal and Penal Codes that apply in the southern and northern parts of Nigeria prohibit forgery, citing Sections 463 of the Criminal Code which provides for three years imprisonment for forgery while sections 362 to 364 of the Penal Code deal with forgery with punishment of up to 14 years imprisonment with option of fine or both.”
“It becomes life imprisonment if, amongst others, the thing forged purports to be a document which is evidence of title to public debt of Nigeria or a state, or of another country, or forges a document that purports to be a debt of Nigeria, or signature of the president or governor of a state,”.
Also, both forgery and perjury are criminal offences, the Criminal Code views perjury as an offence whether made under judicial oath, that is a court proceeding or document or not, while under the Penal Code, perjury must be an evidence given under oath or under express provision of law compelling a person to state the truth.
Forgery and perjury are both criminal offences that goes to one’s integrity and credibility. “
“It vitiates the moral and legal trust that public service demands. It calls to question a person’s qualification and competency. And we must etch new paradigms in public services by proceeding in the Courts of Law against forgers and those who lie under oath.”