Fishing out unqualified graduates in NYSC
Former Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. Mohammed Kaku Fadah, recently expressed disappointment in the number of unqualified graduates partaking in the scheme.
Fadah said a good number of corps members could not defend their educational qualifications.
He noted that these set of prospective NYSC members were mostly people who had schooled outside Nigeria and only return to partake in the mandatory one-year national service.
Similarly, a former DG of the scheme, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, had accused universities in Benin Republic of presenting unqualified persons for its one-year mandatory national service – and revealed that the corps had begun investigations into activities of universities involved in the fraudulent practice.
The NYSC chief said they were investigating some of the so-called graduates, many of whom can not write or spell any word in English. Unfortunately, nothing was heard on the outcome of such investigation.
Founded in 1973, NYSC is still grappling with issues of relevance and its core mandate decades after. It has been a subject of contentious debates whether it should be scrapped or not.
Its primary mandate of fostering unity, if it has made any impact, has become more apparent in lumping mostly unwilling youths together in various locations they often loathe.
Nigeria is the seventh most populous nation in the world – from an estimated 42.5 million people in 1960; its population has grown to over 200 million in 2022. According to the United Nations’ projections, by 2050, the country will be populated by 399 million people and that is not good news for the country’s education sector, where severe cuts in financial allocation have done more damage than good.
The situation has resulted in the unwieldy rise of illegal tertiary institutions in the country, with most of them claiming affiliation to established universities in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada – even Ghana and the Republic of Benin.
It is not a surprise when the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, announced that it had constituted a 16-man committee to screen over 40,000 degrees said to have been obtained from Nigerian students who studied in foreign institutions.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, while inaugurating the committee, said the screening was necessary to detect cases of fake foreign degrees obtained, particularly from sub-standard institutions in Africa and beyond.
According to a preliminary assessment by the government, about 40,000 Nigerians were either holding such certificates or currently studying in various tertiary institutions abroad, with the education ministry revealing that it had already identified certificates from questionable institutions.
Two years ago, NYSC had informed the National Universities Commission (NUC) of the presence of corps members who displayed “glaring lack of academic ability and intelligence level expected of genuine Nigerian graduates, which were consistently exhibited by some students from one of the state universities in the east.
According to the agency, the corps members exhibited signs of incompetence and low intelligence level, which range from inability to complete registration formats correctly to not being able to teach pupils at the nursery school level.
To uncover how the three ‘illiterate’ graduates were cleared to serve in the compulsory one-year programme, the NUC set up a panel, comprising NYSC officials, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the Department of State Services (DSS).
The mandate of the panel was to investigate the report with a view to identifying the culprits, including others similarly mobilised and their collaborators, and ensuring sanctions accordingly.
It was reported that one of the illiterate graduates –a lady – could hardly write Roman figures from one to 10 in words, just as she could not write three states and their capitals. Also, she failed to name three countries that share a border with Nigeria.
King’s College, Lagos, rejected the second person after it was discovered that she was “grossly incompetent to perform her duties.” A further test on her by the Lagos State NYSC secretariat revealed that though a graduate of Electricals/Electronics, she did not pass any of the science subjects at the senior secondary school level.
The third person, posted to Abuja, was rejected by a secondary school because of his inability to read and write. Having been rejected by two employers, he had to be reposted by Abuja NYSC to a bakery, pending the final determination of his case by the NYSC.
Between 2018 and 2020, about 20 persons were arrested for being in possession of forged certificates, presentation of fake certificates and forgery of the signature of ministry officials.
The large number of public and private universities in Nigeria have not translated to easy access to university education. Some stakeholders in the sector believe this is due to low carrying capacity of the universities. They noted that 96 per cent of the candidates who sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) chose universities as their preferred institutions; 1.69 per cent chose colleges of education, while 1.9 percent settled for polytechnics as their preferred institutions.
It is not a surprise then, when the NUC released a list of 58 illegal universities in Nigeria. The Commission accused the institutions of operating without being licensed and therefore, shut them down for violating national minimum standard for education. The Commission also said eight universities were undergoing investigation for illegally running degree programmes.
The Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN) is also worried about NYSC products.
Erstwhile National Youth Service Corps Coordinator in Kano State, Ladan Baba, said eight foreign-trained graduates were denied registration for inability to defend their degrees.
He said some of the graduates were also blocked online from registering for the exercise due to failure to defend their degrees as foreign students.
“More worrisome is the fact that some of them did not undergo any academic pursuits but obtained certificates through illegal means with allegations that some did so in Kano and environs.
“Series of confessions were extracted from them and these will hopefully assist us in carrying out further investigations.”
An education consultant, Dr Tomike Olajide, alleged that some personnel of higher institutions’ often employed back-door operations to sneak some ‘students’ into NYSC call-up list. The absence of a reliable database, corrupt government officials and dishonest tertiary institutions’ personnel have contributed to the menace of fake graduates parading as corps members.
On his part, a lecturer at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Dr Boniface Ajuluchukwu, said the NYSC should sanction institutions found presenting unqualified graduates for the scheme.
He tasked the agency on the need to eliminate all forms of sharp practices, including detecting illegal corps members and prosecuting them accordingly.
An educationist, Dr Tony Odemudia, said graduates with fake certificates should be arrested and prosecuted.
Former DG NYSC, Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim recalled that during the 2019 Batch ‘C’ registration, “over 20,000 foreign-trained Nigerians uploaded their results online. However, during the physical verification exercise, just 3,420 showed up, having been forewarned that anyone caught with fake certificate would be prosecuted.”
Prof Rufus Okojie of Abia State University, said in recent times, there has been an upsurge in the number of graduates who cannot defend their degree certificates. “Some of them can barely read, write or speak English, which is Nigeria’s official language,” he said.
A public analyst, Dickson Udo, alleged that there are cases of persons who ‘bought’ their degrees without passing through academic rigour.”
According to him, “some of these persons have equally confessed that their data are not in the database of such institutions. Such certificates and transcripts are allegedly paid for, and they cost between N300, 000 and N500, 000.”
He said to curb this, Nigerian Consulates in countries of study should authenticate academic certificates before being accepted for national service, while institutions found culpable in the sale of degree certificates should be blacklisted.
He said the NUC and NYSC must work together to help the country in producing quality graduates.
Udo said there is need for school managers and other stakeholders in the sector to rise to the occasion and nip the problem in the bud.
Fadah advised students, parents and guardians to always carry out background checks on educational institutions both at home and abroad, to avoid falling prey to operators of fake institutions or getting admitted to non-accredited institutions.
According to him, “fake certificates destroy the fabric of the country and we cannot fold our hands and allow youths destroy themselves and the system.”